Modern digital messaging platforms have extended the traditional vanilla messaging service to being more feature based and affordable. Gone are the days when you just messaged plain text in abbreviated form, today message can contain any forms of media. With ever growing user base being engaged in this medium messaging as a platform was bound to leap to the next level of innovation - Chatbots.
The tech world is all agog these days about chatbots. These are automated computer programs that simulate online conversations with people to answer questions or perform tasks. While chatbots have been around in various rudimentary forms for years — think of Clippy, Microsoft’s paper clip virtual assistant — they have been taking off lately as advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence make them more versatile than ever. Apple’s Siri is the most well-known chatbots!!
In rapid succession over the past few months, Microsoft, Facebook and Google have each unveiled their chatbot strategies, touting the potential for this evolving technology to aid users and corporate America with its customer-service capabilities as well as business utility features like organizing a meeting. Yahoo joined the bandwagon recently, launching its first chatbots on a chat app called Kik Messenger.
Google’s Allo bot, which also features Google Assistant, helps users find information and complete tasks, such as booking a dinner reservation and requesting real-time sports scores within the bot, rather than having to jump among apps. Companies expected to use Allo and Google Assistant when it launches this summer include OpenTable, GrubHub and Uber, according to the research firm Forrester.
State Bank of India (SBI), One of the world’s largest bank headquartered in India, is currently beta-testing its intelligent assistant called. SIA is a chatbot which is aimed at handling customer queries and help guide them through the various retail products and services offered by SBI."SIA is a revolution in the banking industry. It is set to disrupt the way banks and customers interact", say the sources. The chat assistant, known as SBI Intelligent Assistant, or SIA, will help customers with everyday banking tasks just like a bank representative.
SIA has been set up to handle nearly 10,000 enquiries per second, or 864 million in a day, which is nearly 25 per cent of the queries processed by Google every day. HDFC Bank had also recently announced the launch of a humanoid robot Ira in some of its branches. With this platform, companies can build a bot that answers customer questions or performs tasks without users having to leave the ecosystem to access another app or call the company.
Though revolutionary, this modern technology has its own challenges and strengths. With Chatbots the interface becomes simpler but the design gets complicated. Efficient Chatbots have to be fronted by robust Natural Language Processing (NLP) engines to handle wide variations of human conversation and channel them to respond efficiently. Everything need not be built from scratch, the ecosystem to build these solutions are growing and becoming more efficient. New frameworks are springing up making developers task easier. So things are getting geared up for systems to get chattier.
The Potential pitfalls in using chatbots for customer service include customers feeling less valued by the company. “If the brand doesn’t care enough about them to give customers a real person to interact with, they may want to take their business elsewhere,” says one of the AI experts. Such an outcome would offset the benefit of using chatbots to cut costs. Other potential downsides include giving these digital assistants too much power to act on behalf of the company, which could set up the organization for a loss of business or an embarrassment.
But despite the chatbot’s imperfections, Tech companies, particularly startups, are enthusiastically embracing this next tech frontier. And Microsoft’s Nadella sees bots enabling a whole range of functions. “We want to add richness to these bots. So it’s not just text bots. We want to have animation, we want to have videos and we also want to have holograms,” he said. “Now, it is up to each of us as developers to imagine what’s possible.”