Advancements in artificial intelligence are fueling the development of chat bots, software programs that use a messaging interface through which to carry out a number of tasks, such as scheduling a meeting, reporting weather or helping users make a purchase.
A chat Bot, also known as a talkerbot, chatterbot or Artificial Conversation entity. A chatbot refers to a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. Such programs are designed to convincingly simulate how a human would behave and interact, thus passing the Turing Test. Chatterbots are used for customer service and information acquisition. Some chatterbots use sophisticated natural language processing systems, but many simpler systems scan for keywords within the input, then pull a reply with the most matching keywords, or the most similar wording pattern, from a database. Although, chatbots are a recent trend, the concept has been around for years. We look at the very beginning of chatbots and the way in which they have created efficiency for every industry’s marketing functions.
The Beginning of Chatbots
In 1950 Alan Turing’s famous article, computing Machinery and Intelligence was published, whereby, the ‘Turing Test’ was proposed. This criterion depends on the ability of a computer program to impersonate a human in real-time written conversation so that one cannot distinguish between a human and a program.
Eliza, published in 1966, which seemed to be able to fool users into believing they were conversing with a real human. Eliza mimicked human conversation by matching user prompts to scripted responses, for some time Eliza was able to pass the Turing Test. Eliza’s key method of operation, copied by chatbot designers ever since involves the recognition of cue words or phrases in the input and the output of corresponding pre-prepared responses that can conduct a conversation in a relatively meaningful way.
In 1972, Parry was introduced. Parry simulated a person with paranoid Schizophrenia. Parry was more advanced than Eliza and was described as ‘Eliza with attitude’ Parry and Eliza ‘met’ several times, the most famous exchange being at the ICCC, where Parry and Eliza were hooked up over ARPANET and actually ‘talked’ to each other.
Jabberwocky’s intention was to create artificial intelligence that was capable of passing the Turing test. It was designed to mimic human interaction and to carry out conversations with users for entertainment purposes as opposed to being used for computer support systems or corporate representation. The ultimate intention of the program was to move from a text based system to a wholly voice operated system, thus learning from sound and other sensory outputs.
In 1992, Dr. Sbaitso was introduced, an AI speech synthesis program created for MS DOS based PC’s. The program conversed with the user as if it was a psychologist. Most of the responses consisted of ‘Why do you feel that way?’ as opposed to an in depth answer.
In 1995, ALICE was introduced, short for artificial linguistic computer entity is a natural language processing bot. Inspired by the classical Eliza program, ALICE engages in conversation with a human by applying some heuristical pattern matching rules to a human’s input, basically ALICE could have a conversation.
In 2001, Smartchild was developed, an intelligent bot that was widely distributed across SMS networks. It’s features included quick data access and fun personalised conversation, it was considered a precursor to Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s S voice.
Watson was specifically designed to compete in Jeopardy in 2006, which he won in 2011 against two of Jeopardy’s former champions. Now, Watson uses natural, machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of data.
Siri, Apple’s famous cheeky chatbot was introduced as an intelligent personal assistant which features a natural language UI to answer questions and perform web service requests. Siri paved the way for future AI bots and PA’s.
Google Now is an intelligent personal assistant developed in 2012. Developed by Google for search mobile app, it employs a natural user interface to answer questions, make recommendations and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of web services.
In 2015, Alexa, a voice service inhabiting the Amazon Echo device. Alexa is capable of voice interaction, she uses natural language processing algorithms to receive, recognize and respond to voice commands.
Last year, Cortana, the intelligent personal assistant designed by Microsoft possesses the ability to set reminders, recognizes natural voice commands and answers questions using the Bing search engine. We also saw Facebook launch a platform that allowed developers to create bots that interact with Facebook users. In June last year, 11 000 bots were available. Tay, ‘thinking about you’ only lasted a mere 16 hours until she was shut down. Tay was released on Twitter on March 23, 2016 under the name TayTweets and handle @TayandYou. Tay was taken off twitter as she began releasing inappropriate messages in response to twitter users.
In May 2016, we saw the release of Google Assistant which can pull information, check weather etc. Google’s virtual assistant was defined as being similar to Google Now but with more of a ‘personality.’ Google Assistant is designed to be conversational and will be able to keep track of the conversation, determine context, and audibly respond with the right information.
The Future Of Chatbots
Since the rise of the ‘bot’ businesses are seeing immense potential and are starting to invest heavily. 80% of companies have planned to incorporate chat bots into their business by 2020. Business Insider reports that most of these businesses plan on using chat bots for services like sales, marketing and customer service. 42% of these companies believe that this automation will improve the ease of the customer. The report was done by business insider of nearly 800 executives and officials in France, Netherlands, South Africa and the UK.
It is believed that the rapid increase of the chatbot will result in a decrease in the need for customer service representatives. A statistic revealed that in the US, $79 billion is dished out to customer service representatives annually. The introduction of chat bots will replace 29% of these representatives, which ultimately saves close to 23 billion. Chat bots will also be brought into the insurance industry, security, financial commodities and financial services industry, thus reducing the need for representatives. Of the companies interviewed, 48% said that they already employed chat bots and automation tools for customer services, sales and marketing.
The question is, why do businesses need chat bots? Ultimately chat bots can create efficiency and allow customer service and sales to occur 24/7. Most customers revealed that they would like to receive instant help over real time messaging on the website as opposed to waiting for a response to an email for help. People are even losing interest in social media platforms, this is evident as messaging apps have become more popular than social media. Chatbots, thus provide an easy, innovative channel to advertise directly to the user via the messaging interface.
Chatbots are revolutionising marketing
Chatbots are now considered the future of marketing for B2C consumers. Industry research firm, Gartner, reports that by 2017, only one third of overall customer service interactions will require human efforts. Chatbots will be leveraged for a number of different things, however, they have been most prominent for marketing purposes by promoting user engagement, efficient customer service and a personalised experience for the customer.
According to NBC news, chatbots are the hottest trend now with regards to artificial intelligence and marketing, “Chatbots have existed for a good while — at least since ELIZA, an early bot that attempted to psychoanalyze people, was created in the ’60s. But the last few years have seen an explosion of applications that make people interact with bots as though they’re talking to another person.”
Customers use chatbots to find out information regarding a product, service or just a general inquiry instead of the user searching the site for hours to find the info they need. The most unbelievable thing is that chatbots can actually get smarter, they can learn from previous conversations so they continue to become more effective. Therefore, the more knowledge it gains, the better it’s able to answer future customers questions.
Brands from all industries are incorporating chatbots, it has allowed them to appeal to millennials who are always looking for efficiency, convenience and instantaneous answers. Universal Studios, promoted their horror film ‘Unfriended’ with a Facebook Messenger bot speaking in the character of Laura Barnes. 57% of fans from the film’s Facebook page engaged in conversations with ‘Laura’ and 23% of them shared the experienced with their friends. Using their “Breaking News” bot on Slack, NBC, users can follow more than 90,000 topics and receive personalized breaking news alerts. MedWhat is a virtual medical assistant that answers questions for doctors and patients instantaneously. The bot also helps doctors and nurses keep updated patient records and stay current with medical literature. Taco Bell uses their TacoBot on Slack to help people easily order Taco Bell for lunch. Currently still in private beta, the bot allows you to make a purchase, customize a order, check out, and receive order confirmations and there are many more industries that chatbots are creating efficiency.
Chatbots are revolutionizing the marketing functions in every company. Small companies more than ever are finding chatbots useful. Small businesses can avoid hiring extras for customer service and marketing and just employ a bot. While an entrepreneur is out closing deals and managing a team, a chatbot can perform the marketing functions, allowing you to be in multiple places at once. Your bots sell your products for you and ensure great customer service in the process, an example of this is the clothing company H&M, When customers interact with the company’s bot, they’re quizzed about the style of clothing they prefer. Then, when the bot has enough information, it can make recommendations that are tailored to the customers’ tastes.
Bots can also gain customer insight as they can store information about customers, you may be able to program your chatbot to track your customers’ purchasing patterns and analyze their habits, another benefit of a chat bot is that it can store information on the types of questions that users are asking. Therefore, this allows the chatbot to be better equipped to answering future questions and up sell additional products, in addition this gives you a better idea of what customers need to know before closing a deal. Giving your customers a personalised experience is one of the best way to ensure loyalty, it can greet your customer by name, as well as adverstise products to them based on their personal interests. Chat bots also help to increase user engagement as they chat to the user. Our definition of engagement from the user was liking, commenting or watching a video, that is essentially changing with chatbots as they generate conversation with the user, ask the user if they need help and gain more insight into the user .