By Prashant Choudhari

Effective communication today has become a core necessity in the business-customer interaction space. With engagement as a prime focus area, technology provides multiple means of interacting with customers. One of the most important contemporary means of interaction is the use of chatbots to engage customers in a natural, conversational manner.

What’s most interesting is that users don’t have to install a new app to get their queries answered any more. Chatbots are now being hosted on popular chat outlets that users already have on their phone and spend a lot of time on. This allows businesses to connect with their audience on platforms they prefer the most; ensuring a seamless interaction.

Frontend customer service

The customer service industry presents the best use case scenarios for chatbots to elucidate their abilities. Chatbots are able to effectively utilize the classic 80-20 rule in the industry i.e. the fact that 80 percent of questions asked are similar and can be answered by 20 percent of the prepared responses, to cut down on response times and enable resources to be focused elsewhere. Despite the inherent need for human intervention in cases where the bot is unable to understand the nature of the inquiry, this system enables customer service to remain streamlined and operate smoothly.

Guide to solution/information

Another means by which chatbots can imitate human interaction is in the case of troubleshooting. Traditional search engines adopt a unidirectional approach towards information searches, placing the onus on the users to constantly refine searches through trial and error. Chatbots bypass this by initiating conversations with users, thereby allowing the solution to be found faster and more intuitively. The Singapore govt. Bot is a good example of this.

Replacement for FAQs

In addition to this, they also replace FAQ sections by incorporating them into their information database and thus becoming the singular destination for all doubts. This advantage allows core institutions such as banks to dispense frequently inquired information such as account creation and closure, interest rates and transaction details effectively without wastage of resources.

Go beyond text

Finally, one of the greatest advantages chatbots possess is their blend of voice and visual elements. AI technology has progressed in the contemporary scenario to enable chatbots to not only possess the required information but to also present it in a manner that resembles human interaction closely. By utilizing relatable names, avatars and vocalization software, chatbots are better able to engage with a wide variety of users based on their means of information access and communication preferences.

The future of customer service will primarily revolve around the evolution of AI and will follow where the customers are. Customer service experience will also be much more personalized and proactive, where problems are detected and mitigated before they happen. Another area of innovation will be when AI meets mobile robots (like Asus Zenbo), which will take customer service from the virtual world to the physical world.

Most Bot applications today are specialized, i.e. they do a good job in one or few scenarios, like answering an FAQ or retrieving bank details. These are what is known as Weak AI. In the future, the explosion of data through channels like IoT and cheaper computations will enable building of intelligent systems which can learn a new topic like humans do. This is known as Strong AI (or Artificial General Intelligence). In addition, advances in fields like Speech and Natural Language processing, motion/gesture/emotion detection, etc. will enable machines to interact increasingly like humans.

The author is a principal program manager at Microsoft India (R&D) Pvt Ltd. He contributes to the engineering of Microsoft Bot Framework and other cognitive service offerings.

Publish date: April 10, 2017 10:49 am| Modified date: April 10, 2017 10:49 am

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