At a Glance – Chatbots

The bots you already use

Although the vast majority of people will have used a chatbot, it can be difficult to understand exactly what they are and how they work. Chatbots live in apps and interact with human users through text and infographics. Since April 2016, over 34,000 bots have been developed for Facebook Messenger alone. It’s even suggested that they will replace the apps that they live in, but this is a hotly debated subject. The conversational interfaces use Artificial Intelligence to respond to users, therefore adding chatbots to the multi-layered definition of AI.

Chatbots are now used in healthcare, finance, marketing, retail, and simply for entertainment. They can help users to source bulk office supplies, as well as pick out the right outfit for a meeting. Businesses have been keen to adopt chatbots for numerous reasons. They reduce administrative workloads by handling customer queries, conduct important data analyses, and help employees to make informed decisions. In theory, chatbots make it easier for companies to interact with their customer base and thus generate ROI. As well as potentially enhancing business processes, chatbots are helping to familiarise consumers with conversational interfaces. This is especially important as advanced robots and machine learning software becomes commonplace both at work and at home.

Despite their potential usefulness, chatbots have been so readily adopted that in some cases quantity has overtaken quality. In order to be successful, it’s essential that bots offer a relevant service. Having a bot that fails to answer customer questions is worse than having no bot at all. One of the main issues with chatbots for the time being is that they struggle to understand colloquial language. However, this is something that will be overcome as natural language processing improves. And if the $700,000 investment in FinTech chatbot Cleo is anything to go by, investors are still very much riding the chatbot train.