What Are Chatbots?

Customer and chatbot dialog on smartphone screen.
Filed under - Definitions, ,

What Is a Chatbot?

A chatbot is a computer program that you can use to communicate with customers or site visitors when a human agent is not available. It can use voice communication, but more often uses text chats (or it may use a combination of the two).

Chatbot conversations are one of many modern features that can enhance your website’s performance while improving the customer experience.

Chatbots are a cost-effective solution to an ongoing communications problem. Unless you are a large, global company, it is unlikely that you offer 24/7 customer support.

And if you have international customers, there may also be restrictions because of time zones.

Chatbots have no such restrictions and can operate 24/7 with minimal running costs. This can be a major factor when you are considering how to create a chatbot for a website.

They’re now so common that many solutions feature a range of integrations that let you add a custom chatbot to your website or online workspace.

How Do Chatbots Work?

There are two main ways in which your chatbot could work. Some chatbots work on strictly set rules and guidelines. This means that it is limited in its conversation flow and will only respond to the questions it has been programmed to answer. These simpler ones are a useful alternative to your FAQ section.

While this sounds restrictive, this sort of chatbot can be useful in a large business with multiple departments. It can be programmed to ask specific questions of the caller that allows it to direct the customer to the required department.

For example, if you were calling a large hospital, the chatbot could ask you what department you require. It can be programmed to recognize the names of specific departments, ward numbers, or staff members, and, once you respond with a phrase or word it recognizes, it can then divert your call to the relevant department.

If a customer answers outside of the set of responses the chatbot has been programmed to recognize, it will repeat the question or direct the customer to a human.

The other and more advanced type of chatbot is the AI chatbot that employs machine learning. These are programmed to learn through experience and will store new words or dialogue flows.

This means that as they get “older”, their ability to interact with people increases, just as a human child would.

A good example of a machine learning chatbot is what Facebook offers companies to use through Messenger. This has been in use for several years now and allows users to ask specific questions or make requests.

Machine learning chatbots make a lot of sense for companies or sites with large numbers of customers who may not stick to an agreed script.

Chatbots can also be industry-specific. They can be programmed for retail sites, tech sites, healthcare, or financial sector sites. Having an efficient chatbot service makes a lot of sense when you have high daily customer inquiries.

Chatbots are constantly evolving, and we will continue to see better ones available in the future.

Thanks to RingCentral

Author: Robyn Coppell

Published On: 23rd Sep 2022
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