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What is a chatbot and how does it work?

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Many of you have heard this term before, but if you’ve opened this article, some mystery still remains.

In simple terms, a chatbot is a robot capable of answering the questions of its users.

The term “chatbot” is the combination of two words

  • “chat” meaning discussions (online)
  • “bot” meaning robots, automation

You can chat with a chatbot, (or conversational agent), via instant messaging (Messenger, Whatsapp, Wechat, SMS, Slack, Skype,...), websites, mobile applications or voice assistants.

In everyday life one can ask:

  • « Reserve me a train for Marseille on April 23» SNCF’s chatbot
  • « I want to cancel my credit card» Crédit Agricole Centre Loire’s chatbot
  • "I would like to make a veterinarian appointment for my cat on March 16th” Dr. Snowy’s chatbot
  • "I lost my badge, can you create a new one?” Léonard de Vinci University’s chatbot
  • “Order me the ingredients to make an apple pie” on Google Home with Carrefour’s chatbot
  • “why have my expenses increased?” Thierry Immobilier’s chatbot
  • “Can you send me a quote for Home Insurance” Maïf’s chatbot

The professional world has also evolved to improve productivity and well-being at work.  We can:

  • Ask for days off
  • Easily accomplish administrative tasks
  • Book conference rooms
  • Welcome visitors to the office
  • Training
  • Help selling a complex product
  • Etc!

The rate that artificial intelligence (AI) is evolving is exceptional and chatbots are part of this wave of progress.  Today the number of users of messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Slack, Skype business, Messenger, etc is soaring.

In an era where we want everything without having to wait, chatbots can respond instantly 24/7.  It’s not for no reason that 65% of millennials prefer to speak with a chatbot than with a human.

There are many reasons why a company uses a chatbot to get rid of repetitive tasks and simultaneous processing of multiple user requests.  In addition, the speed of processing user queries with chatbots significantly improves the customer experience.

By the way, Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than 85% of customer interactions will be managed without humans.

What are the differences between a live chat and a chatbot?

It is very common to confuse live chats and chatbots

The live chat has the same defects and qualities of humans:

  • It is not available 24/7
  • It can’t handle multiple users at the same time, which can lead to high wait times if it’s busy
  • It can handle complex and unexpected situations
  • Requiring the presence of humans, it is expensive, but guarantees a quality service

The chatbot is a “robotic live chat”.  It allows you to manage instantly and simultaneously several requests.

The chatbot allows you to:

  1. Simplify and automate repetitive processes to free up human time on high value-added activities
  2. Upscale internal services by improving response rates and waiting time

Nevertheless, in case of unexpected questions by the user, the chatbot must be able to be passed to the human in a live chat for example.

The two notions are not opposed, but instead are complementary.

What are the different types of chatbots?

The world of chatbots can be divided into three major groups:

  1. Chatbots that interact according to predefined scenarios (scripted chatbot)
  2. Chatbots that understand human language on the basis of pre-defined training (chatbot with NLP)
  3. Chatbots that mix these two types of interaction
Chatbot scénarisé

The scripted chatbots leave a limited choice to the users.  It follows processes that are established by the company.  The users can click on answer bubbles, but can’t express themselves openly.

Chatbot avec NLP

Chatbots with NLP (Natural Language Processing) rely on algorithms of artificial intelligence neural networks to understand the demand of users.  The user writes a sentence that is interpretedby the NLP and the chatbot can then answer the most relevant sentence in this context.

Chatbots with NLP leave more freedom to the user, but can lead to disappointments when the botis in the learning phase and doesn’t understand the request of the user, unlike the scripted chatbots.

It’s important to use a mix of both approaches to get the highest satisfaction rate.

On which communication channel should a bot be deployed?

It is now possible to deploy a chatbot on most communication channels such as Slack, Messenger and Skype, but also on voice assistants like Alexa or Google Home.  More importantly, it’s also possible to connect your chatbot to the company’s business tools to have access to these actions and information.

A useful chatbot is one that’s present on the users’ communication channels, and an intelligent bot it ones that’s connected to internal tools.

Therefore, it’s necessary to deploy the chatbot as a priority over the communication channel for user, by ensuring connectivity with the internal tools.

Why make a chatbot?

All companies are now thinking about integrating conversational agents into their day-to-day operations, customer communications, and sales processes.Chatbots can help:

  • Improve customer service.  This is the best option for those who do not want their customers to experience the operator’s response – “Stay online, we’ll answer your call in X minutes”.  It’s always annoying, isn’t it?
  • Make a product speak by backing a chatbot to each product to offer recipes, set up an upsell stratedy...etc.
  • Make an FAW conversational.  Typically, users don’t have time to scroll through dozens of pages with instructions.
  • Increase the acquisition and conversion rate by being present on the social networks and by allowing their customers to finalize the purchase directly on the the instant messenger thanks to a secure payment method.  There’s less friction and steps between advertising and buying.
  • Submit newsletters on instant messengers
  • Improve a response rate.  About 90% of questions sent from Facebook business pages remain unanswered.  The chatbot responds to 100% of the messages and converts more visitors into buyers.
  • Automate repetitive tasks and instantly respond to 80% of requests.  Most of the employees; requests are recurrent and take too much time for the departments concerned: How many days of leave do I have left?  Should I come to work if it is over 45 degrees Celsius?  What’s my percentage of tax withholding? I forgot my password!

The chatbot presents many cases of internal or external uses to the company.

How do I build a chatbot?

To create a chatbot, you must:

  • Define the objectives.  What should your chatbot do?  Clearly indicate a list of features your chatbot must perform
  • Choose a communication channel and chatbot tone depending on your target.
  • Establish conversation scenarios and a list of questions and answers for learning the bot.
  • Connect as many of your internal tools to the chatbot so that it is useful and not just a gadget.

How to choose your chatbot creation solution?

It’s now possible to automate 80% of repetitive operations... The chatbot is a solution that eliminated the repetitive tasks of customer services, HR, DSI and others while focusing on more strategic areas.

In a business, chatbots are useful to both employees and customers.  This is why the choice of the solution is very important.  The solution must allow to be shared between the different departments of the company while allowing a DSI to have governance of all the bots.

To avoid significant additional development costs, the solution must allow for the bot to be deployed on all communication channels needed by its target.

To get a real return on investment, we must opt for a solution facilitating collaboration between developers and people with business knowledge.  This is the only way to design a smart sculpin and integrate it into the company’s IT culture.

Anyone can create a chatbot, want to bet?

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