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In order to understand what a chatbot is, it is important to know that there are 3 types of chatbots:
The behavior of these chatbots is determined by rules.
The behavior of intelligent chatbots is driven by artificial intelligence techniques.
Intelligent and scripted chatbots can both have graphical user interfaces.
Scripted chatbots. Conversations with scripted chatbots follow predetermined paths only. To determine the next step in the conversation, the user has to choose between explicit options. These options can be presented in different ways (i.e., text, voice, touch response, etc.) depending on the features and design of the chatbot.
Intelligent chatbots. These chatbots accept more input from users because they use Artificial Intelligence (AI), which allows for more flexibility. They are capable of accepting free form input in the form of voice statements or text. Thanks to AI, these chatbots can improve through time the more that they are used (that’s why they are called ‘’intelligent’’ chatbots!). However, it’s important to know that their intelligence is limited. Even though AI works great in limited knowledge domains, or for one-off instructions, the bots have limitations. For example, it would be very difficult for these bots to understand context or use their ''memory'' to keep the conversation going.
Application chatbots: Considering that both intelligent and scripted chatbots can have graphical user interfaces, application chatbots are not really a separate category of bots. Graphical interfaces are becoming an important concept for chatbot developers as they often allow users to perform the actions they need more efficiently.
This definition however often leads to two potential misconceptions.
1. One of the biggest misconceptions is that chatbots are bots that are able to have conversations with humans in the same way that a human converses with another human. After all, imagining software or even robots communicating with humans in natural language is not that difficult. Science fiction is full of examples.
Even though this may be the ultimate goal, the current technology doesn’t make it possible yet. This misconception often leads to unrealistic expectations regarding what chatbots are capable of doing.
2. Another misconception is that chatbots are only able to communicate using voice or text. The reality is that chatbots also allow users to interact via graphical widgets or interfaces. Various chat platforms including Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and Kik allow web views on which developers can customize graphical interfaces.
Here are some examples of chatbot applications:As mentioned previously, there are many different uses for chatbots, which is why it can sometimes be difficult to define what they are in precise terms. You could actually find a use for chatbots in any business or industry, in the same way, that they use websites or apps. The possibilities are endless! Here are some examples of chatbot applications:
The examples above could also allow customer support agents to get involved in the conversation if needed. This could be a premium service offered by companies who wish to improve the customer experience.
It’s easy to confuse chatbots and applications especially when chatbots interact via a user interface. However, chatbots are used inside chat applications and people’s interactions with the bot are more or less sequential (just like a conversation!)
Another difference is that chatbots, unlike apps, have an identity, which is actually separate from their interaction with users - the same way that real people or customer service agents exist independently of their interaction with customers.
In a nutshell, a chatbot is an innovative way for humans to interact with software. Even though there are overlaps regarding the functionalities offered by apps and websites, interacting with a chatbot is different than interacting with an app or a website.
It comes to no surprise that messaging platforms are becoming universal mobile apps or app portals considering that businesses are looking for new ways to deliver their services and messages where consumers are, which is on chat platforms. Chatbots allow businesses to achieve this!
Conversations are central to chatbots. Chatbots can have conversations with humans but they have limited capacities. However, that doesn’t mean that voice-based or text-based conversations can’t be as good or better than speaking with an actual human. In fact, chatbots offer advantages that human agents don’t. Indeed, chatbots are available 24/7 and they have access to various functionalities as well as a broad array of information. Plus, they can outperform humans in terms of accuracy and speed.
Chatbots can replace humans for specific tasks but they can also be used as virtual assistants to improve the service offered by human agents. For example, the chatbot can provide response options or relevant information to the human agent in a timely manner. The collaboration between bots and humans is easy to achieve when chatbots are used in communication channels.
Find out more about Conversational Artificial Intelligence
Chatbots are integrated within chat platforms such as Slack, Facebook Messenger or SMS that each has its own features. The features of each platform determine the ways in which the chatbot can interact with users, groups or teams but the behavior of the chatbot is dictated by the bot.
For example, SMS and email bots can only show text and attach multimedia widgets. On the other hand, Facebook Messenger, Kik or Telegram Bot can interact with users using a range of different graphical widgets. Users of these platforms can also access web views, which basically allows for unlimited flexibility in terms of the user interface that can be offered to users.
Chatbots represent a great opportunity for businesses to reach customers where they already are, in the messaging apps. Chatbots allow businesses to deliver services in a highly personalized manner where the message, operations and human support can be combined in one experience.