The Essentials to Building A Future-Proof Chatbot
The Essentials to Building A Future-Proof Chatbot
The chatbot market is evolving fast with feature updates, new AI services and a wider field of proven use cases. But if your business is looking to start out in chatbots, sticking to the basics first is a logical way to begin your journey and stay on top of those advances.
Chatbots have come a very long way in a short space of time. We have moved from hand-coding to what-you-see design, chatbot text has evolved from scripts to increasingly advanced AI-powered interactions and bots have moved from discrete silos to widely connected services.
All of which sounds exciting and dramatic, and helps encourage more businesses to join in with chatbots for customer service, sales and concierge services. For any business looking to leap into chatbots, however, especially with limited resources, the key is to start small and work up quickly, rather than bite off more than you can chew and have a dismal high-end bot experience that fails to satisfy both the company and its customers.
Start Out Simple
Most live chatbots currently offer informational advice, solving simple problems, but some are already transactional, providing sales and specific options to the user. Soon though, most bots will be operating in an advisor mode, providing value-added services and individual-level information based on history and access to other services. This is a path that most bots will undertake in the next few years.
For any company with limited technical resources or budget, the road to success with chatbots is paved with careful steps. Even larger businesses are treating chatbots as nimble projects to be rapidly evolved. While major vendors are touting their latest AI services and complex connections, most chatbots can still be successfully launched with a modest amount of natural language processing to solve your pressing business needs.
To build up your company’s chatbots and learn how to best make use of them, you should:
- Start out using ready-to-use services like ours that come with everything you need to make a chatbot, in a day if need be.
- Through use and experimentation, find out exactly what your business and customers need from the bot, and deploy as you learn, unless the bot is mission-critical.
- Only use the features you need right now from the chatbot provider, the nice-to-haves and cool-looking features can be added when you have got the basics right.
Of course, any live chatbot still needs plenty of testing to ensure it answers all the key questions that will be thrown at it. Using a ready-made service saves having to reinvent the wheel, and you can learn about the possibilities of chatbots. With our platform non-coders can build one and you can even build your own NLP models without coding. Concepts like API calls that can expand the features of the bot can be managed using existing templates to help understand what a well-structured chatbot should look like, saving a lot of learning.
That first bot can make use of some simple natural language processing (NLP) constructs to help you understand the basics of AI, or how to turn it into into a multilingual chatbot. Once that first chatbot is done and dusted, you can learn about the more advanced facets such as training through data, modelling and using a wider set of services to grow the features of the chatbot.
The Rapid Growth of AI and Services Requires Careful Bot Planning
AI is growing fast, some research suggests the best AI services were no smarter than a mouse four years ago, yet will be smarter than humans in another four years time. This level of acceleration means those hopping on the chatbot or AI bandwagon later will have a lot more catching up to do, and risk being befuddled by the smart services on offer.
The other big leap chatbots are taking is joining up with other services (e.g. SnatchBot uses Microsoft’s Azure for multilingual functions) and bots will soon talk to each other to help customers get realtime insights or answers to their problems. As more capable chatbots and AI applications arrive, using a range of services, your business will need to be monitoring them to see what you can link your bots to, to improve the value they provide.
Soon chatbots and machine-learning powered services will fall into three categories:
General services, which are freely available as a service from most providers, helping solve the most common chatbot and AI problems.
Focused and specific services, for those in niche markets or particular verticals where a degree of specialism is required. Think of real estate agents, health and wellbeing bots, all being delivered by those with expertise in the field. Your business will be able to turn to providers to deliver these bots as a service, or developers who can help you build bots that fit a specific business use case. Rather than reinventing the wheel each time by creating a new-niche NLP, eventually our community of chatbot builders will develop off-the-shelf models for all verticals.
Global services, the bots that link to a narrow or wide range of public-access tools, such as a chatbot accessing Wikipedia or general forums for information, using maps to help tourists navigate and so on. These features will become a part of the bot like apps have become part of iOS or Android, giving them more power than early bot adopters could have hoped for, but at risk of overcomplicating the bot, or it not working when that service is inaccessible.
A business could find itself using one, two or all of these types of bots as the company grows and chatbots and AI services become a way of life for billions of users around the globe. To prepare for this future:
- Planning needs to start now, with learning and awareness to help you build bots that will evolve smartly without building data silos or services that need to be broken for future updates.
- Keep an eye on rival bots or market-leading examples as they evolve to see what features become relevant to your business.
- Avoid adopting smart-sounding concepts that add to the bill but don’t add much to the chatbot, but consider where they could be useful.
Driving Chatbot Adoption Interest Within the Business
Small businesses can plough ahead with their chatbot projects with the support of “the boss”, but in larger organizations, marketing, product managers or general managers will need to brought onside to support any project.
Key to winning that support is having a working model or demonstration chatbot to show, with ROI examples and success stories relevant to your industry. Having a compelling story of how bot adoption will impact all businesses will help promote your case, along with how these rapid advances can improve your business efficiency in customer service, support or boosting sales.
Points to ensure are covered for any internal discussion include data security, user privacy and checking that the bot identifies itself as such, rather than trying to pass it off as a human agent.
Whatever your business market or model, chatbots and their cousin virtual agents/assistants are here to stay. Catching up with the technology is just as essential as your mobile-focused website, cloud adoption to reduce costs and drive efficiency, and other common efforts. But while those keep-the-lights-on efforts are vital, being ahead of the AI and bot curve could provide huge, new and unexpected benefits in the near future.