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Chatbot, or conversational bot, is basically a form of automated service which customers may communicate with via text or voice on websites, messengers (e.g. Facebook Messenger) and other apps, or using voice assistants like Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.
There are two main types of chatbots – rule-based and AI-powered bots. In the first case, probable questions, and therefore the corresponding answers, are predefined. If a user query has not been scripted in advance, the chatbot won’t be able to assist in answering their question.
AI chatbots, on the other hand, can be trained through machine learning. Since they learn to understand natural language, a user doesn’t have to use specific commands to maintain conversation.
As mentioned above, there is a significant difference between rule-based and AI-powered chatbots.
Scripted bots operate using a hardcoded set of questions and answers, which means their skills are limited by the knowledge base. Questions beyond their set programming aren't likely answered. If a user makes a query on a covered issue, such a chatbot will answer with specific instructions.
As for chatbots powered by Artificial Intelligence, they are designed to process natural language using NLU (Natural Language Understanding) technologies. AI-based chatbots are able to learn semi-automatically, and thus become smarter with each interaction. Such automated systems require greater effort to develop, but their skills and abilities are incomparable to scripted bots.
The scope of application of chatbots is quite wide, and they have already proven their effectiveness in many different spheres. For example, they can provide quick feedback and excellent customer service. Chatbots can help your business with marketing and sales, and we can share a few demonstrative case studies to illustrate that.
In which cases should you consider using chatbots?
- Your company regularly receives direct customer requests.
- There are lots of typical recurring requests to our customer service.
- The communication is maintained through specific channels, such as messengers, a contact form on your website, your company’s social pages, etc.
If all the above is true for your company, chatbot implementation can significantly reduce your workload, while enhancing customer experience.
There are 2 factors which have a critical impact on the overall chatbot performance: the structure and the quality of the knowledge base which your chatbot uses to answer user requests. That’s why knowledge graphs have acquired such a wide application in the sphere.
The knowledge graph is a particular type of knowledge representation which stores data as edges between graph vertices. Moreover most knowledge graphs also store the database schema. Knowledge graphs have proved especially useful if you have to deal with large and complex data structures.
The Knowledge Graph usage for databots gives you two direct benefits: enhanced data integration on one hand, and improved conversations on the other hand.
It is easier to integrate new data sources, because all you need is to bring them to a particular unified format and scheme. Knowledge Graphs also provide for greater flexibility when it comes to expanding existing knowledge. That way, new data is saved directly as new edges and vertices in the graph.
It is also not a problem to link different Knowledge Graphs by either using the same vertices, or adding new edges. The feature provides for creating an advanced corporate knowledge base, which can be accessed and operated via API or voice interfaces using natural language.
The cost of the chatbot implementation may vary depending on its complexity.
The required functionality is the major factor, which affects how the chatbot is built, its infrastructure, AI capabilities, etc. By the way, you should also mind that the chatbot will most likely need updates, with more technical integrations provided from time to time. Thus it’s further support has to be taken into account when you calculate a chatbot implementation costs.
There are a number of solutions which let you build your own chatbot for free. However, such free chatbot builder software has limited functionality. The market prices for more advanced bots usually range from € 1000 to € 15000+, while monthly fees may vary between € 100 to € 5000+.
The chatbot implementation process depends on the selected service provider or chatbot building software. The best practice is to first discuss the customer’s functionality requirements with the relevant interfaces to data sources, and then take to individual content implementation. Service providers usually have some preconfigured modules available.
After the initial setup, a chatbot goes through a few QA and optimization rounds. If the chatbot builder provides a SaaS platform, after the launch customers can manage and update chatbot content, access analytical data and use other different features.
- Answering FAQs: Chatbots are a perfect solution to cope with recurrent user requests. Instead of sending customers to read FAQs on your website, automate the process using the chatbot, and simply add more typical requests to its database.
- Escalating requests to the support team: In case a query goes beyond the scope of the chatbot’s knowledge base, it can be automatically addressed to your technical support team.
- Lead generation. Chatbots communicate with customers, and tend to make more weighted decisions at different stages of the sales funnel.
- Sales automation. Integrate a chatbot into your CRM system, and it will notify your sales manager when their response is needed, thus driving sales.
- Collecting feedback: Chatbots simplify the process of collecting user feedback and thus help you to improve and possibly widen the services you provide.
- Customer behavior analysis: The user data collected at previous interaction enables chatbots to maintain more client-focused communication, offering more relevant products and best deals the customer will be most interested in.
Consider the following advantages to learn why your business needs to implement a chatbot immediately:
- Analyse user behavior: Using chatbots gives you an insightful approach to your users’ behavior, which is essential to develop your further business strategy.
- Give immediate response: Chatbots work 24/7 and can handle hundreds of customer requests at a time, both improving your customer experience and securing time for your support team to focus only on complex cases.
- Boost your sales: Access to data and automation enables chatbots to take a personal approach to each customer, thus significantly increasing your sales. Chatbots have proved extremely effective as a recommendation service, assisting your clients to choose relevant products and promote selected goods. The recent survey by Intercom provides for almost 67% sales growth for companies that use chatbots.
According to Wikipedia, Natural Language Processing (NLP), is an area of computer science and artificial intelligence concerned with the interactions between computers and human (natural) languages, in particular how to program computers to fruitfully process large amounts of natural language data.
In other words, NLP is a set of techniques which enables chatbots to basically understand users’ messages and maintain meaningful conversation. For instance, when your customer types “Hello”, the NLP signals the chatbot that a user has sent a standard greeting. The artificial intelligence of the chatbot processes the message and prepares an appropriate response, which is a return greeting and possibly an initial question, e.g. “How can I help you?”.
On an advanced level, natural language processing can even recognize the intent of a particular message. For instance, whether a user is making a statement or asking a question. Though it might seem simple, such capability is a prerequisite of successful conversations for any chatbot.
Scripted chatbots are the most plain chatbots, operating like a hierarchical decision tree. Also known as quick reply bots, they build a dialogue with a user following a sequence of predefined questions.
Menu-based chatbots are based on the same principle, and customer's choices from the predefined menu allow the bot to assist them with their query.
Keyword recognition-based chatbots use artificial intelligence to define customizable keywords for user’s messages and try to interpret their intents. However, this complex approach also has its drawbacks. In case of repetitive queries with similar keywords their efficiency may appear insufficient.
Hybrid chatbots are a mix of the above. On one hand, bots are [programmed to answer the requests using keywords. But in case of poor performance, users are left with an option to go for a chatbot menu and follow the predefined FAQs.
Contextual chatbots are way more advanced than the types mentioned above regarding the amount of data processed. They use artificial intelligence and machine learning to store previous conversations and interactions with users. The collected data helps the bots to evolve and self-improve, learning what and how users ask. So, these are not keywords, but actual messages that are analysed.
Voice-enabled chatbots are the cutting-edge technology. They process users’ speech and maintain dialogue, interpreting them as commands that prompt responses or tasks. Voice-enabled chatbots can be developed using text-to-speech (TTS) and voice recognition APIs. The most popular solutions on the market are Amazon Alexa and Siri from Apple.