To chatbot or not to chatbot?

Wednesday, 30 June 2021  |  Posted in: Most Recent, News  |  6min read

Artificial Intelligence (AI)– the topic can be met with some controversy. With some having an almost apocalyptic view of this type of technology. Ultimately, what AI aims to do, is to make life easier for us humans.

A chatbot exists to solve user needs independently of a human operator.  Whilst they may not solve every issue, many queries that get asked can typically be quickly resolved without human involvement. This gives employees more time to focus on critical problems and solutions.

Not to state the obvious here, but people love messaging. Messaging app use is surpassing the use of social media; people opt to text their friends, rather than call – it is a habit and behaviour that is so ingrained with how people interact with one another, that it has seeped into how users wish to interact with businesses. Not that long ago, to reach a company the only two options to get in touch was to phone or email them. Today, that is far from the case and companies are contactable practically 24/7 (and it is a growing expectation) via their various social media platforms, website and chatbot in addition to email and calls – whether those responses are from a human, or a bot is another story.

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is a computer program powered by rules and sometimes AI that allows you to interact with users via a chat interface. Not to be confused with live chat, which is integrated into a website for the purpose to have real-time communication to your users.

Featuring a chatbot on your website is valuable as it is there to facilitate an opportunity – whether that be a purchase, making a booking, signing up for a membership, answering a question or viewing a particular page on your site (whatever your type of business would require).

Different types of chatbots fit different businesses. See how they work and if they could be a valuable addition to your website.

ElectricSuper Chatbot

Menu/button based chatbot

This type of bot does not require any AI capabilities. Essentially, it is the online text equivalent of an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) on automated phone menus. A user will select a topic rather than type in a question.

It’s a simple, yet effective type of chatbot. Its capabilities are to complete or respond to simple interactions.  Button functionality can also help speed up certain processes and avoid misunderstandings.

When to use? To answer pre-empted, pre-defined, generic questions which have clearly defined scenarios that a user will select. In addition, your responses will direct users to certain areas on your website to assist navigation and potentially emphasise a certain area of the website.

When not to use? If your business requires answering unique and complex requests. As these types of bots are somewhat simple, they provide straightforward paths and fewer variables. When requirements become more complex these bots do not provide the best user experience.

The Digital Embassy has developed a button-based chat interface – YourChat – that can be integrated into your site.  As part of the integration process, The  Digital Embassy can assist with the types of questions, answers, content and how this is conveyed to users.

Example: ElectricSuper

Rule-based chatbot

marleyspoon chatbot

A rule-based bot can answer user questions based on a set of rules based on known inputs (questions and responses) manually added to the bot. It can be built to address the varying level of complexities. However, because they are linguistic-based, writing rules can be difficult and conflicts occur (including typos); you must be cautious of the linguistic rules put in place. For example, a user may type “I would like to hire a vehicle in Melbourne” but another, “I need a car during my holiday in Melbourne” – a human could understand that these statements mean the same thing, however the rule-based bot might not. Of course, these are things that can be easily modified in the rules you assign and evolve as you learn more about user interaction.

A bonus is that you can easily integrate a professional way to pass the conversation/query to a human if an answer cannot be located.

When to use? When you recognize your users will be asking more complex questions, which you can categorize and identify general responses which can be either found or added to your website.

When not to use? If responses require personalized, specific responses. Or if you are a large consumer-based company where you had a large support desk team, and your users would benefit from a live chat function.

Example: Marley Spoon

Artificial Intelligence (AI) based chatbot

AI chatbots use machine learning to understand the intent of a question and in what context to formulate a response. They are powered by Natural Language Processing (NLP). An AI bot will take longer to train initially, but there is a significant return in terms of time-saving and customer satisfaction once implemented. They differentiate from a rule-based bot as they can evolve with little to no human assistance which saves a business time and money. In addition to understanding communication challenges, such as spelling, grammar, and different languages.

ATO Alex chatbot

When to use? This is best to implement when your company has a lot of data and demand. As it can self-evolve, the more interaction it receives the better and more sophisticated it gets.

When not to use? This is the most advanced style of a chatbot, but they are not always the most appropriate solution, and some smaller companies will unnecessarily go down this path. If there is not a lot of data that the bot can learn from and lesser demand from users, the bot is unable to evolve – it defeats its core purpose and overall benefit in addition to being costly.

Example: Australian Taxation Office

The uncanny valley of chatbots

Users appreciate the convenience and quick responses they get from a chatbot. They also enjoy it when bots have a bit of personality, it is a part of your brand after all. However, there is a fine line, as bots that pretend to be human are deemed deceptive and frustrating as well as being just plain creepy?! To avoid entering the uncanny valley, chatbots should make it clear that they are a bot and if responses cannot be found, the bot should be able to alert the user to a customer service representative to escalate the issue.

To give your chatbot a likeable “personality” we recommend developing a persona, based on how your team handle customer concerns in line with your brand image. Remember Weebo from Flubber? Essentially, that is the type of robot you want to emulate. Kind and helpful, but quite clearly a robot, so it isn’t a strange experience.

All in all, chatbots are transforming the way brands and businesses communicate with customers. They are a powerful tool that can add significant value to your website when used correctly, with zero apocalyptic outcomes (as far as we’re aware anyway!).

Want to know what type of chatbot would suit your website? Speak with our Solutions team.

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