Why Chatbots are the Future of Conversational Intelligence

by January 2, 2018

Hundreds of startups and technology giants put in significant investments in artificial intelligence based products last year. Talking in particular about chatbots, there have been some that have been regarded as something more than a fad and expected to have a long lifetime. For instance, Woebot has been a boon for people working round the clock with high-stress levels. It is basically a chatbot based therapist, built using a combination of natural language processing, therapeutic expertise, sense of humor and excellent writing. Furthermore, the ‘Journal of Medical Internet Research’ reports that this non-judgmental and unbiased chatbot, helps to significantly reduce depression symptoms amongst the majority of its users.

Chatbots are essentially computer programs designed to simulate human conversations. While providing a virtual talking partner, these programs create a conversation via auditory or textual methods. Major chatbots in use today are text-based programs that people can engage with on various messaging platforms like Facebook.

Bots are certainly not to be dismissed as a hype. Instead, people first need to understand that it is not the bot itself that matters because ultimately, it’s only an interface. What matters is the underlying intelligence, which is nuanced and is still evolving.

Having unbelievable potential with regards to the customer service space, chatbots are evolving to be the next big thing not only when it comes to customer retention or satisfaction but also for customer acquisition. Facebook Messenger recently announced its own bot platform which will subsequently become the homepage of the web for millions of users in the future. ‘Personalized engagement’ will benefit brands and their marketing abilities in a way that no other platform has been able to do before. Also for big organizations, it is not possible to replace legacy systems overnight. Instead, these chatbots can integrate with even decade old custom coded and on-premise applications that are still trusted to run the businesses.

Front-end chatbots lack empathy and so they’ll never be able to replace humans fully. A classic example is the buzz around chatbots in the call center industry never materializing. Whatever your needs, a chatbot will be available to you round the clock providing a person with maximum exposure and 24/7 assistance. This will improve the customer – agent relation instead of diminishing the agent value. What we are saying here is that the future of support AI is human agents working in coordination with AI assistants. The technology aspect will be put to work to pull in information and offer relevant options and alternatives whereas the human aspect will be put to use to understand the context of conversations and reply accordingly.

The promising potential of chatbots is being harnessed like never before. Business giants like Amazon and Apple own some of the most popular chatbots – Siri and Alexa. Something along the lines of a true digital butler in your pocket, Facebook’s chatbot – M, is still under the radar but if successful will definitely turn out to be smartest of the bunch. This bot’s algorithms take over the work of its trainers when it can’t figure out or process a particular request or action. Instead of responding with the standard, ‘I am sorry I don’t understand your question’ kind of response, human workers behind the scene respond to requests in such a way to make seem as if the software was still at the helm.

While the progress in this space has been slower than expected till now, the tide is changing with the bots no longer solely aping the human contractors. Since the importance of ‘conversational intelligence’ has been highlighted and not the interface itself, bots may or may not recede as a platform. With unscripted assistant bots being tested and researched upon on a large scale, the future for the bots may swing either way in the coming years.