Spring has sprung, days are longer, the Easter holidays are just around the corner. And as we say in Spanish “Spring alters the blood” so we are offering you in Etcétera blog some new trends which we have detected thanks to our day to day work with clients. In the first post from this series, we´re going to talk about chatbots. We know that you are used to talking to them, but… maybe they haven’t introduced themselves to you yet? So what exactly are they?
Chatbots, how are they going to change our lives?
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/Freedigitalphotos.net
Chatbots have been amongst us for quite a while now but we didn’t really realise it. They capture followers, respond to questions, give tips when shopping online, a tool that, used properly, allows to do amazing things. So let´s find out more.
Lately there has been quite a stir on Instagram and other social media regarding Influencers who use ruses to increase the number of followers. As a result of complaints such as the one in case of the To Be Gourmet blog, a lot of users have discovered the existence of the so-called “bots”: software tools that are able to follow automatically other accounts, post comments or even respond to messages.
But these bots which perform relatively simple functions are just the tip of the bot iceberg. Nowadays, a new generation of programmes is emerging which are not only capable of performing automated actions, but can even hold actual conversations with users. These are chatbots or conversational robots and they are going to revolutionise the way in which companies interact with their audiences on the Internet.
What do chatbots do?
The reason why chatbots have a promising future is easy to understand: the Internet and social networks have made interactions between companies and users multiply exponentially. Nowadays, any user can get in touch directly with a brand to ask a question, leave a comment, or make a complaint. And the expectation that the consumer has is that brands will respond in real time, because otherwise they face loss of opportunity or crisis of reputation.
But how on earth can brands deploy resources to attend to thousands or even millions of daily interactions on the websites, social networks or company´s applications? It would take a whole army of customer service personnel that companies simply can´t afford.
Instead, a chatbot can work 24 hours a day, serve thousands of users simultaneously and never get tired of responding to the same queries or doing the same tasks. Seems like a perfect employee. For this reason, more and more companies are going to incorporate solutions of this type in the coming years. A study from IDC notes that 12% of Spanish companies are already using chatbots and that 30% plan to implement these type of conversational assistants soon.
How are chatbots currently being used?
-Customer service: some call centres already use automatic systems to assist clients by chat, e-mail or even by phone. In this sense, BBVA is developing since 2012 Lola, the first virtual assistant for financial institutions.
-Online shopping: chatbots can also be helpful when shopping online, telling you where to find what you´re looking for. For example, the Shopify e-commerce platform bought last year Kit, a chatbot aimed at online stores.
-Online reservations: travel websites use chatbots to help customers make reservations online. One of the pioneers is the search engine Destina, which has created a chatbot on Facebook to advise users when looking for a hotel or a flight.
-Online marketing: another function that chatbots can do is to select and show the most interesting offers according to your preferences and browsing habits. For example, ImaginBank counts on a chatbot that looks for deals for its customers.
-Productivity and collaboration: employees of companies can also benefit from the assistance of chatbots. An example: the Slack collaboration suite includes virtual assistants which help teams perform routine tasks.
-Online counselling: there are several mobile applications that use chatbots to get in shape, learn languages or help you improve your finances. One of them is Lark, an app that tells you what to eat and how to lead a healthier life.
Lark app is a chatbot that gives you tips on food and healthy living
More and more human chatbots
As they become popular, the characteristics of the chatbots and the tasks they can perform will become increasingly incredible. For David Shing, a Digital Prophet of AOL´s, a company specialised in programmatic advertising, chatbots will no longer be the “simplistic relatives of artificial intelligence” to become “the mechanism of coupling between man and machine”, creating a “perfect synergy” between the two which is essential for “the growing convergence between technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality or 360-degree video.
To achieve this, chatbots will need to be further refined in order to provide really useful answers and functions, rather than the disappointing experiences we have all experienced with early virtual assistants. And how can this refinement take place? The key relies on the development of the two technologies which are also experiencing a big boom right now: artificial intelligence and Big Data.
“Be right back”, a chapter of the television anthology series Black Mirror, in which a chatbot allows to talk to dead people, based on the information they leave on social media
The application of artificial intelligence will allow chatbots to improve human language recognition, respond more naturally and even learn from interactions. For its part, Big Data implies that the chatbot you interact with will have access to a virtually infinite amount of information to give you more answers.
There are still years of development to come for AI and Big Data convert chatbots into really smart tools. There may be even a day when a chatbot can become your best virtual “friend”. Does that sound too far-fetched? Take a look at Replica, a chatbot application that you can teach to have a personality of its own. Don’t say we didn’t tell you.