Back in 2010, when Apple unveiled the virtual assistant Siri as a standalone app, few people could have predicted the impact chatbots will have in the years to come. At the time, Siri was something to poke fun at, especially in its feeble attempts to comprehend speech commands.

A lot has changed since then. Tremendous advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence and messaging have combined to make chatbots the hottest tech buzzword for 2017. Tech giants, notably Facebook and Amazon are lauding chatbots as the next big thing. Despite the well-publicized missteps of Microsoft’s Tay, the best chatbots are set to change the way we interact with technology dramatically.

What Are Chatbots?

Chatbots are computer applications designed to simulate conversations with users by using artificial intelligence. Also known as conversational interfaces, they are a service that interacts with customers mainly via text but also through voice inputs and image recognition. Chatbots have become popular as a means of helping clients achieve a particular goal. For example, you may use a chatbot to order a taxi, buy a pizza or solve problems with your internet service.

How Do Chatbots Work?

There are two major types of chatbots. The simplest are those that respond to specific commands. These are based on predetermined rules and are not intelligent enough to understand human speech. However, they can be smart enough to help you carry out simple tasks such as ordering a taxi. If you say the wrong thing, an unintelligent chatbot won’t understand you. Such chatbots have their limitations and are only as smart as they are programmed to be.

The best chatbots use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and pattern recognition to decode human speech. Thanks to Natural Language Processing, they not only understand specific commands but human speech as well. These types of chatbots get smarter by learning from actual human-like conversations with people.

Chatbots are usually installed on a website, in your favorite apps or within messaging apps such as WhatsApp.

Thanks to Messaging, Chatbots Are King

A few years back, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram ruled the Internet. Every business had to build a presence on these sites to interact and engage with customers. Although social media is still vital for business, messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype, Wechat, and Kik have become more popular.

Since we spend more time chatting, it’s only natural to expect companies to incorporate chat into their customer service. Rather than downloading an app for every service we need, such as hailing a taxi, booking a flight, checking the weather or shopping for clothes, we can now just text a chatbot from within a messenger app such as Facebook or Kik. In this regard, chatbots can replace apps if integrated with your favorite messaging app.

Benefits of Using Chatbots For Business

1. Better Customer Service

Chatbots are the biggest innovation in customer service ever since businesses created web portals for customers to serve themselves. Email and live chat may have increased the interaction between firms and clients. However, chatbots are available 24 hours a day and will interact with customers in the same way a human would. Since most customer queries do not require human intervention, chatbots save you money by automating your customer service. You can now put an end to automated email replies and unavailable live chat services.

2. Greater Interaction Using Real Language

One of the reasons chatbots may herald the end of apps is that they speak the same language as the user. The language used by apps to interact with customers is frankly, not engaging or friendly. Apps are limited to commands such as “Log In,” “Download,” “or” Exit.” Chatbots can use more human language such as “please,” “how is your day ” or ” “how can we help.” By speaking to the customer in their language, chatbots foster greater engagement and satisfaction. Furthermore, you can add your personality and brand identity to your chatbot to make it speak to your customers just like you would.

3. Chatbots Operate Where Your Customers Are

Your customers need not visit your website or download your app to find you. Chatbots are easily incorporated into your client’s favorite messaging app. The simple text-driven interface of chatbots also makes them much easier to use than individual apps. As the popularity of messaging continues to overshadow social media, chatbots are the best way to go where your customers are spending most of their time.

4. Chatbots Are Easy To Build

Building a chatbot is cheaper and easier than developing a cross-platform app. Ready-made software and easy to use chatbot templates are available from Facebook, Microsoft, and other companies. Depending on the uses of your chatbot and the size of your firm, creating a new chatbot can be done in a few days.

Businesses stand to benefit immensely by adopting the best chatbots into their marketing, customer care, and advertising strategies. This new, increasingly intelligent and highly interactive feature is no longer a sci-fi dream, but the new reality for businesses.

What are some of the ways you use chatbots? Let me know in the comments below and thanks for reading!