It’s early Sunday morning and you are feeling ultra famished. The light drizzle outside has only got your hunger pangs sooooooaring. No matter what, you desperately wish to sink your teeth into super luscious, delicious, crispy Domino’s Pizzas, right away. There you go!
Nope! You don’t make a call this time. Instead, you launch your Facebook Messenger app, reach Dom, (hey! That’s Domino’s chatbot) and you simply post a pizza emoji in the form of a message. Bingo! Your order is on the way.
Yep! With technology flexing its muscles like never before, it stands to reason that businesses are trashing apps and turning to bots to serve customer requirements. Not surprisingly, bots and bots shops are mushrooming.
According to Forrester, people delete 80% of their apps after the first use, and most spend 84% of their time in only five apps each month. Businesses have come to realize that creating yet another app could prove to be an exercise in futility. So, rather than going out on a limb and spending money on developing yet another app, businesses feel safe engineering bots for messaging apps.
What are chatbots?
The explanation is hidden in the name itself. Chat and Bots – Chatting with Robots, that is, in layman terms. To give it a slight formal touch: Chatbot is a basic form of artificial intelligence software that talks with humans and answers their queries in a lifelike manner. When a customer poses a question, within a matter of minutes, a bot sifts through a reservoir of company data to derive an answer.
Fair enough. But then, how would a bot help in case a new issue pops up? In such cases, where deeper intelligence is required, the bot will direct the customer to an expert.
So, the conjecture that bots are the new apps, and that it could be the future face of customer service, going forward, is not entirely wrong.
Still confused? Okay, let gets this straight with a video example.
Here we go…
Mobile-first eCommerce retailer Spring launched Spring bot, to act as a personal shopping concierge, to customers on Facebook’s Messenger app.
To help customers begin with their clothes-buying process, Spring bot, first of all, inquires from customers on the kind of products he or she is interested in, and then comes up with an amazing array of options for them to choose from. The bot works the same way for shoes, accessories and things like that. Customers choose products by exploring the thumbnails that come with links attached.
“Customers aren’t spending their time on a sprawl of apps anymore,” spoke Spring founder Alan Tisch to Digiday. “But, there’s a high concentration of engagement on Facebook Messenger. So we created an experience to fit into the natural behavior that’s already happening on the platform.”
So, that’s how bots, living within messenger apps, have come to replace apps.
Types of chatbots
Presently, two types of Chatbots dominate the market. One functions on the basis of set rules and the other leverages an advanced version and employs machine learning.
- Chatbots based on set rules have limited brain power. It only answers to very specific commands. In short, the bot functions to what it is programmed for. Nothing more, nothing less.
- Chatbots based on machine learning are powered by artificial intelligence. You don’t have to be really precise while talking to this bot, because it’s designed to comprehend both language and commands quite effortlessly.
And the best part is, this bot keeps getting smarter as it continues communicating with people around. For your information, most of the brand bots use machine learning.
Brands are milking bots for good reasons. Online stores like Amazon.com might want to engineer a bot to help customers with their purchases. On the other hand, companies like Comcast might create a bot to deal with customer queries in a quick fashion.
Examples of chatbots:
- Weather bot: Gives you weather updates whenever you want
- Grocery bot: Helps you pick and order the best groceries
- News bot: Shares breaking news whenever it happens
- Life advice bot: You can share your problems and helps you come up with solutions as well.
- Personal finance bot: Helps you manage your money
- Scheduling bot: Helps schedule meetings
Why there’s a sudden explosion of chatbots and bot shops
If you want to build a business, the notion goes, go where people are. And, where do you think people are hanging out mostly these days? Nope, it’s not on social media. It’s on messenger apps. Facebook Messenger has 1 billion monthly active users in its pocket. Whatsapp has also got a billion monthly active users up its sleeve.
Given that people are swarming messenger apps like never before, it makes real business sense for brands to bank on bots that reside within messenger apps.
So, it comes as no surprise that Facebook Messenger has already been a home to about 11,000 chat bots and over 23,000 developers have already signed up for the platform’s bot engine.
Other reasons that work in favour of bots:
- Customers could directly communicate and transact with businesses, without having a third-party in the picture.
- You don’t have to download it. You could simply search for a bot on a messenger app and start chatting on it.
- Nope, you do not have to create an account as well, as bots will figure your identity without much hassles.
- Bots can easily be shared on messaging apps, social media and even could be recommended by other bots. Say, your friend is using an amazing bot, and you wish to have it, simply ask your friend to share it on Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
- Apps are an expensive proposition. On the other hand, bots are built within the messenger apps that are build by someone else. So, with some backend tweaks, your bot could be up and running in no time.
- If your doctor or carpenter has an app, my best guess is that you won’t be keen on installing it, considering the expense involved. However, you won’t mind chatting with their bots.
All these are good enough reasons that have led to the rise of bots and bot shops.
Kik, the most popular chat app among teenagers, with 275 million registered users, recently launched its Bot Shop. Even Facebook is launching its bot shop, shortly.
All this bullishness about bots could be attributed to a single thing: the rise of a software technology called artificial intelligence.
Chatbots powered by artificial intelligence
The chat bots run on artificial intelligence (AI). But then, what’s AI in the first place? Artificial Intelligence is intelligence demonstrated by machines.
It’s kind of a new world order where humans would interact with intelligent computers to perform tasks really efficiently. Though 2016 won’t see many efforts made in this direction, there’s no denying that its use is accelerating, specifically among the top organizations for their communication requirements.
Is bot building a costly proposition?
Absolutely not! Given that you might have already done the legwork in terms of APIs and all for powering your apps, you could simply bank on them to power your basic bots as well. Plus, bots run on text and responses. So, you don’t have to really bother about the interface part, graphics and things like that. What’s more, once a bot is built, it could simply be shipped to any platform of choice, effortlessly. It could be Slack, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, or Kik, in a matter of minutes. So, be assured, it won’t put a strain on your budget.
Further, there are a bunch of resources available on online to get you started.
Services you can bank on for bot development
Bots are proving to be the best pieces of digital real estate for businesses looking forward to connecting directly with customers. Going forward, bots might upend the way business is carried out and might as well assume the role of an all-rounder tool- enabling businesses streamline both their sales and customer service operations. However, Application Intelligence, the technology that powers bots is still in a nascent phase and needs a lot of maturing to do in the coming years. So, it’s too early to predict whether bots would replace customer service reps in the future.
Does your business own a bot? And, are your customers happy using it? Looking forward to your thoughts on the same in the comments.