With much of the world now pretty much gone virtual, businesses across America are trying to find new ways to reach out to both prospects and existing customers. Apart from the usual email blasts and other forms of digital marketing, the use of virtual assistants is now becoming a popular norm. For the most part, we have all seen this; it is that tiny window that is lurking at the lower-right part of the merchant’s website.
With this, you engage in an instant dialogue with a customer service rep (CSR) on a real-time basis and get questions answered, as well as resolve any issues and/or concerns. But dedicating an entire staff to this is an expense to the bottom line of any business, so now there is a movement to use what are known as “chatbots.”
What Is the Difference Between a Chatbot & A Virtual Assistant?
One of the first questions that you may be asking at this point is what is the difference between the two? Well, normally there is a human being on the other end to respond to your needs.
But a chatbot is more of a server-based technology in which there is really no human involvement; but rather, it makes use of what is known as artificial intelligence, or AI. With this, the chatbot becomes much more intelligent and is able to answer queries in a reasonably customized way, as if you were interacting with an actual person.
How Artificial Intelligence Is Used with a Chatbot
It is important to keep in mind that with a chatbot, you can interact in one of two ways, and possibly even both:
- Text chats
- Voice commands
In order to accommodate both of these scenarios, chatbots make use of the concepts of both Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP). The former is actually a subset of AI, and this is what is used to create rather intelligent answers and responses to your queries as you engage in a conversation with it.
One of the key advantages of using Machine Learning in this aspect is that it can literally learn about you as you keep engaging with it over a period of time.
For example, it builds a profile of you and keeps track of all of your conversations so that it can pull it up in a matter of a few seconds for subsequent chat sessions. So, later on down the road, it can even anticipate the questions that you may ask of it, so that it can provide the best answer possible to suit your needs.
By doing it this way, you never have to keep typing in the same information over and over again.
NLP is yet another sub-branch of AI, and this is the tool that is primarily used if you engage in an actual, vocal conversation with a chatbot. It can easily replicate various human speech patterns in order to produce a realistic tone of voice when it responds back to you. Whether you are engaging in either or both of these kinds of communication methods, it is important to note that chatbots are getting very sophisticated on an almost daily basis.
The primary reason for this is that they use a combination of very sophisticated, statistical-based algorithms; high-level modeling techniques; as well as the concepts of data mining. Because of this, the chatbot can now interact with you on a very proactive basis rather than you having to take the lead in the conversations, thus making it flow almost seamlessly.
As a result of using both AI and NLP, chatbots are now being used in a myriad of different types of applications, some of which include the following:
- Merchant websites that make use of an online store;
- Mobile apps that can be used on your Android™ or iOS® device;
- Messaging platforms;
- Market research when it comes to new product and service launches;
- Lead generation;
- Brand awareness;
- Other types of e-commerce scenarios;
- Customer service (this is probably the biggest use of it yet);
- Healthcare (especially when it comes to booking appointments with your doctor);
- Content delivery.
Where Organizations are Seeing Advantages of Artificial Intelligence in Chatbots
As one can infer, there are a plethora of advantages to using this kind of approach in businesses. Some of these are:
1) There is a 24 X 7 X 365 sales rep:
As mentioned earlier, there is no need for human involvement if a business has an AI-driven chatbot. Therefore, you have an agent that can work at all times of day and night that can help sell products and services on a real-time basis. In other words, it will never get tired and will always be eager to serve.
2) It cuts down on expenses:
Using a chatbot, companies may not even have to hire a complete, full-time customer service staff. Thus, they will be able to save on your bottom line by not having to pay salaries and benefits. Organizations should never use a chatbot as a total replacement for their customer service team. At some point in time, they will need some to help resolve complex issues or questions if the chatbot cannot do it.
3) Higher levels of customer satisfaction:
Let us face it, in our society, we want to have everything right now and right here. We have no patience when we have to even wait for a few minutes to talk to a customer support rep on the other line. But by using a chatbot, this wait is cut down to just a fraction of a second. This results in a much happier customer, resulting in more repeat business.
4) Better customer retention:
When organizations are able to deliver much needed answers or solutions to desperate customers and prospects, there is a much higher chance that they will be able to keep them for the long term. This is where the chatbot comes into play. A strong brand can dissipate quickly if one is unable to fill needs in just a matter of minutes.
5) Ability to reach international borders:
In today’s e-commerce world, there are no international boundaries. A customer or prospect is one that can purchase products and services from any geographic location where they may be. If you tried to do this with the traditional customer service rep model, not only would this be an expensive proposition, but reps would have to be trained in other languages as well. Also, the annoyance factor can set in quite rapidly if the customer rep cannot speak the desired language in a consistent tone and format. The AI-driven chatbot alleviates all of these problems because they come with foreign language processing functionalities already built in.
6) It can help triage cases:
If a business is large enough that it needs to have a dedicated call center to fully support it, the chances are that the customer service reps are being bombarded with phone calls and having a hard time keeping up with them. If a chatbot is deployed, that can help resolve many of the simpler to more advanced issues and queries. If something is so advanced that a chatbot cannot resolve it, it also has the functionality to route that conversation to the appropriate rep to handle it. In other words, the chatbot can also triage conversations with customers and prospects if the need ever arises.
As it relates to Cybersecurity, the use of AI tools can be used for different applications. For example, it can be utilized for automating some of the more routine processes in both threat hunting and penetration testing exercises, and for helping filter out false positives. The prime benefit of this is that it will free up your IT Security team's valuable time so that they focus on thwarting off the threat variants that are making their way into your organization's lines of defense.