First of all, what are chatbots?
Initially, chatbots were developed as computer programs able to communicate with people via the messaging interface.
Following many advancements and improvements in the technology behind them, chatbots’ popularity has spiked since 2016.
Machine learning and NLP (Natural Language Processing) have provided chatbots with an extra layer of intelligence aimed at improving interactions with humans overall. The newfound intelligence of these conversational interfaces increased their popularity, made them more accessible and led to a strong increase in demand for them.
Chatbots are now much more dynamic than they used to be and create more personalised messages, enabling more efficient problem solving. The improved interaction between customers and businesses is mutually beneficial, and more and more companies are choosing to adopt a chatbot as a first-line support agent.
Chatbot innovations are introduced continuously on the market, so companies that want to stay relevant will need to keep up with the latest trends in the chatbot industry to keep their own chatbots up to date.
Development trends in the past year show that chatbots are becoming more and more capable of mimicking human behaviour and providing customer service on similar terms.
The most recurrent issue with chatbots, one that many of us will have experienced at least once, is that people tend to feel dissatisfied when talking to chatbot-based customer service and receiving an emotionless, robotic response.
With this in mind, most chatbot providers have been implementing AI-based bots to focus on improving the capabilities of the customer service with Natural Language Processing (NLP) to make it feel more human. The intelligent chatbots are programmed to be more personalized and capable of understanding the intention of the customer enquiry, rather than just the information input. This feature could mean customers can talk with a chatbot without even noticing the other party is not human.
Chatbots get a voice
Voice bots like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa are leading the trend of giving a human voice to services and applications. More companies are to follow the example: the technology is gaining popularity as chatbots sounding more human than before improve customer experience. This development affects users positively as they are gaining comfort from utilizing voice assistants that sound more human-like, especially when they are in need of receiving information quickly while multitasking or having their hands busy. The technology of voice assistants is advancing and becoming more personalized.
Customer care by companies 24/7
Many companies are on their way to automate their support and call centers where they engage with customer requests. This means any customer service of any business has the potential to be available 24/7, providing rapid solutions with no downtime and, as technology evolves, fewer and fewer errors. Chatbots are now capable of answering more and more complex queries. The proactive interaction results in higher satisfaction from the consumer side and higher productivity for the business.
Chatbots are now available on smartphones
Smartphone applications have developed significantly since their early days. Today it is easier than ever to get the most out of a service on the go since chatbots are capable of integrating various tasks into one application. This development boosts the performance of the business while elevating the comfort of the consumers.
Conversation becomes multilingual
At early stages of their development, chatbots were armed to speak only one language, that language often being English. As technology advanced, the language barriers were eliminated. Chatbots have become fluent in dozens of languages, and they can now recognize different accents as well. This improvement gives smaller companies many opportunities to expand globally and operate across borders without linguistic obstacles, and it is greatly beneficial for the customers as well as they can get help in their preferred language.
The need for sentiment analysis
As more and more people are demanding the human-like approach when talking to intelligent dialogue systems, the IT sector is continually developing chatbots to keep up with the increasingly demanding standards of users. The features of a chatbot used today become obsolete by the next release. The NLP programming of conversational AI services is now supplemented with sentiment analysis, which helps to achieve a more intelligent and personalized conversation between the customers and the chatbot. Sentiment analysis is all about recognizing how the texting partner currently feels by analyzing the tone of the other person in a message based on the selection of their words, their selection of special characters, how much they write, or how fast they reply. This technique is now part of the best chatbots: programming them to notice the small nuances and subtleties in conversation will lead to the individual having the best experience possible.
The advantage of machine learning
Machine learning (ML) is the algorithm that interacts with the environment by generating actions and discovering new information. Similarly to data mining, machine learning requires relevant data to identify patterns and tailor the program’s operations accordingly. By using this method, the conversational AI technology is capable of obtaining unlimited data and learning from it. When users search, click or answer questions and pass the knowledge to the machine, the information will be remembered and used. In the very near future, chatbots will be able to engage with the user at any phase of the service process.
Improved data protection legislation
New technology calls for new legislation. Due to the increasing amount of data collection from the IT sector, in which chatbots and other machine learning programmes play a crucial role, a new wave of data protection legislation is being decreed. A case in point is European General Data Protection Regulation, which gives more transparency and brings some of the decision power back to the users: companies now have to gather explicit consent for the handling of personal data – consent that can be withdrawn at any moment.
Better customer analytics
From a company’s perspective, using chatbots for business operations can boost productivity and growth. AI significantly increases the efficiency of analytics by automating customer data acquisition, organizing data collection, and gaining deeper insights that help better understand the market.
Chatbots for everyone
The use of chatbots is no longer a niche area of IT experts. The AI-based bots are now straightforward enough to be handled by the line-of-business employees with little or no IT background. By using chatbot builders and platforms that are easy to use and have an intuitive UI, such at BotXO, companies don’t need to spend their own development resources or spend money outsourcing development: they can do it in-house.
Bots in full-time employment
In the near future, chatbots won't need human assistance at all to complete tasks and assist customers and users throughout their whole journey. To speed up operations, multiple chatbots will also be able to work on the same assignment. Meanwhile, with the help of the webhook builder that connects the web application with the company’s FAQ or database, for instance, fully dynamic conversations can be built automatically and there is no need for pre-scripted responses. This also saves time and energy for the business.
In the next couple of years, the number of companies utilizing AI-powered bots is expected to grow significantly as the advantages of using conversational AI are becoming more and more prominent. While organizations are adopting chatbots in order to be more efficient, drive more sales and cut costs, the public opt for the technology to enjoy the quality service it delivers. Customers’ tastes and habits are changing over time, and more and more users prefer interacting with chatbots rather than emailing or calling customer service departments. In the best scenarios, users can end up chatting with bots without being aware they are, in fact, talking to a bot. Based on predictions of Business Insider, over 80% of the communication will be handled by bots in the next couple of years. Any company’s customer service will be facilitated by AI, reducing the margin for human errors and speeding up operations for retailers and other branches.
About the Author: Beatrix Szabo, Guest contributor from BotXO