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Rise of the Robot: Will your kid’s online BFF become your Customer Service Rep?

Rise of the Robot Will Your Kid’s Online BFF Become Your Customer Service Rep

Chat bots have come a long way from only being the customer service representatives. Imagine this; they can be even your kid’s new online friend, his or her BFF (Best Friends Forever). Yes, you read that right.

Mitsuku, a chat bot created by Steve Worswick took home the Loebner Prize in the year 2013. This was in an annual competition that identified world’s most human-resembling computers as well as artificial intelligence programs – which could meet or even surpass the Turing test of human behavior. She can play games and do magic tricks at the user’s request.

Coming into present scenario, Mitsuku is not the only AI-powered chat bot responsible for winning the hearts but in China, in the year 2016, the chat bot Xiaoice, who is like a hyper-chatty, seventeen year old girl, is proven to be empathetic and engaging to over 10 million Chinese teens who have proposed to her over the chat platform Weibo by saying, ‘I love you’. This is in fact, a huge appreciation to the corporate parent of the bot Xiaoice, Microsoft.

As the two chat bots Mitsuku and Xiaoice are gaining popularity as well traction among the kids, there is a huge probability as well as a huge opportunity can be seen for the chat bots In the enterprise – the 24/7 customer service. Still not satisfied? Check out below mentioned reasons as why China loves Xiaoice.

Reasons why China loves Xiaoice:

  • Xiaoice derives all the knowledge from the Bing search engine.
  • She can engage in multiple conversations during one session.
  • She can even tell jokes and up to date with latest pop culture gossip.
  • This is not all; she also argues and disagrees if you are factually wrong. So, it’s time to get your facts right before engaging with Xiaoice.
  • Lat but not the least, she also remembers your previous conversations. Approximately, about 26% of her database comes from the prior conversations.

Lauren Kunze, principal at Oakland, Calif-based chat bot platform Pandorabots which was actually used by Worwick to build Mitsuku throws some insight on the future of chat bots as well. She says that consumers should soon expect deeper conversations or connections with these human-like bots or humanoids of all kinds – from buying a service to solving a problem.

Lauren Kunze, who engages with over 235,000 developers to develop nearly 300,000 bots, says that current engagement is more with the chat bots is exponentially higher than with the service bots. Her findings also conclude that if the consumer engages with a service bot, even if it offers a small talk, they return to it more often than not.

The studies also claim that the service bots should be excellent conversationalists rather than being only the task oriented robots designed to solve specific problems. It will help to create an engaging and helpful customer experience for some of the biggest companies of the world.

A friend in need, indeed!

Unlike the service bots created by Apple like Siri and one by Amazon, Alexa often pride themselves on completing tasks, Mitsuku and Xiaoice just want to know how you’re doing. They even remember who you are and what you like. A great thing about them is that they respond to you more appropriately, empathetically to your expressions whether it’s remorse or elation. This is the reason why millions of people love engaging with these service bots to get things done.

It is believed by Steve Worswick that the same logic will be applied to future or next generation of customer service technologies. For example, Software giants like TeleTech along with other software technology companies are already heading in this direction which is also agreed by Lauren Kunze. All the difference, in fact is made by just a small talk.

In her own words, “People are now expecting human-like interaction with bots,” she says. “So the content these bots create has to evolve. An example could be like the problem faced by the bots when the customer go off the topic. For this, developers have started implementing conversational tidbits into service bots leading to a result which is very positive.

The problem!

With the fast advent of chat bots or the service bots to improve the customer experience, some of the major problems are faced by many companies in the customer service space. Firstly, they believe that the AI-powered bots are still not intelligent enough.

Secondly, bots are still to learn and understand natural language. There is a huge scope of work to be done in this area.

This can lead to switching the unresolved query to new bot – think bot swarm or a human agent, which is quite poor or even non-existent at the time. This leaves the customer’s query unresolved. As a result, it’s poor customer service.

A lack of systems integration can be largely covered by a human agent but it cannot be covered by a bot. A bot can only depend on constant indexing of the corporate knowledge.

Dealing with these problems is the challenge every company which is implementing service bots or chat bots has to face.

How to get started then?

The question is still daunting. But there are certain things to be considered before jumping into providing service bot or chat bot based service to your loyal customers. Benefits can go beyond the cost reduction like business benefits by improved customer satisfaction through reduced response times, increasing customer convenience and increasing first time resolution to their problems.

The first step is to understand the bots in every aspect, not alone in your industry but others as well. There are several examples of bots being used in food and travel industries and how they use different interfaces to interact with customers.

The next step you could take is to understand and analyze the potential of using a service bot in your own organization. Like if you are already using means like messaging or chatting to solve your customer’s problems, you can incorporate a chat bot to do the job for you. If you are not using any such means, you can analyze social forums, call logs or email histories to see what all problems could be solved by using chat bots.

Lastly, run a pilot with the human agents as well as chat bot side by side to test and train it to handle more complex scenarios. This will enable you to test what type of interactions work best with your customers.

Share this article and follow me on Twitter. I would love to connect with you.

Rise of the Robot: Will your kid’s online BFF become your Customer Service Rep?

Evolution of Celebrity Chatbots: Talk to Game of Thrones and your favorite celebrity

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Today’s youth is more inclined towards web medium to watch any of their favorite TV programs than switching on the television set.

Even as a child, you must be remembering your favorite classical TV program maybe because of popular dialogues or because of some soulful performances of the actors of the show. It’s simply unforgettable. You are still looking for the episodes online even long after the show went off air.

Online streaming services like YouTube, Netflix etc come into picture as they have extended their reach to global audience and they bring in the same old TV shows you can’t stop watching. These online streaming services have enabled the companies to revolutionize the entertainment sector. With their help, users can view their same old, cherished shows online anywhere, anytime.

Advancement in Artificial intelligence is helping chatbots to modify the entire process of engaging the fans with popular television characters. Chatbots bring famous celebrities who were earlier way out of reach and their fans closer than ever before.

Below are some of the popular celebrity chatbots:

Game of Throne GoTBot : Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows in the recent times. A Facebook bot named GoTBot can answer all the questions related to the Game of Thrones at one place. Developed by a digital creative agency in London, Catch Digital, keeping in mind all the secondary characters which fans usually forget about along with the other relevant and important information they never knew that it even existed. The AI of the GoTBot is being handled by Wit.ai service. Company utilizes Google cloud for spell checks and analytics. It has helped in improving the bot’s performance significantly.

Joey Tribbiani from TV show ‘Friends’ : Remember your favorite TV show named Friends? A bot named Joey Tribbiani is inspired from the fictional character in the show. It is developed by researchers from University of Leeds. The sole objective of their research was to build virtual talking avatars of characters automatically, from the TV shows. They wanted to show how to copy the character’s style of speech, visual appearance and language from the unconstrained data. It was an effort to develop an interactive avatar of a person and effectively immortalize it by computational methods. Joey was effectively immortalized in a generative model enabling him to say new sentences in his style and appearance.

Christian Grey from Fifty Shades DarkerAnother Fifty Shades Darker character Chritian Grey was converted into a Facebook chatbot by a tech company called Persona Technologies. It enables fans to interact and engage with their favorite character. The chatbot was launched on the premiere date of the movie ‘Fifty Shades Darker’. “I could’ve used Api.ai to help with natural language processing (NLP), but I still hold true to the belief that most people don’t really want to have a full conversation with a robot (except developers, I know),” wrote Josh Bocanegra, CEO, Persona Technologies on his blog. Chatfuel, a bot platform was used to develop the chatbot to know how users interacted with the conversational UX. 

Kim Kardashian BotAmong the top 3 celebrity chatbots on Bottr, Kim Kardashian bot is famous. It is bombarded with ton a questions and messages from fans daily.  Questions ranging from actor’s involvement several controversies to keeping up with the Kardashians, a mobile game in the name of the actor, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood and her several photo shoots, the bot is happy to answer all the fans Q&A with her innate attitude. Kim Kardashian bot doesn’t hesitate to answer every single question from her ever growing fan base.

Steve Jobs BotAn ingenious way of keeping the man’s legacy alive, Steve Jobs’s bot is doing the needful. Steve Jobs chatbot mainly talks about his work and life at Apple, with quite a few personal details about him. If you try asking, the bot, ‘Why you quit Apple?’and he will be able to answer it frankly for you. “In 1985, because of differences of opinion, the Board of Directors restricted my duties and I ended up having almost no decision-making power, so I quit.”

Donald Trump BotDonald Trump is an ideal material for the chatbot. He is offensive sometimes, sometimes he’s controversial and he raises eyebrows. A lot of people have several questions for him ranging from US elections till he is on the top of the Google search rankings this year; he is no doubt a celebrity. As a person himself, Donald Trump’s chatbot however is blunt and baffling. It does not think that it’s important to justify his words and actions. With a signature “haters gonna hate,” Trump’s bot brags about his wealth, hotels, casinos and wives

Justin Bieber BotThe singer has been quite in news recently. With his alleged relationship with Selena Gomez, people want to know about his personal life as well. Justin Bieber bot is there to answer your questions. It answers the questions about his career in music, acknowledges his fans affections and even share the singer’s latest YouTube videos with the fans. Also, he tells the fans what he liked and what he didn’t like. Justin Bieber Bot also finds innovative ways to keep his fans away from visiting his house. If you are a true fan, the bot will definitely make you feel closer to the celebrity.

Selena Gomez BotOver a 119 million followers of the celebrity on Instagram alone, Selena Gomez bot exists to keep her overwhelming fan base happy. Each of the die-hard fans of Selena Gomez spends over 15 minutes a day on an average chatting with the bot. Like a bubbly pop star Selena Gomez, he chatbot is able to mimic her personality while interacting with her fans. Instead of being secretive like the Bieber bot or straightforward like Trump, she even motivates her fans and speaks about how she feels about the milestones in her professional and personal life. Some of the questions being asked are as follows: “Does Selena Gomez have a new boyfriend?”; “Does she write her own songs?”; “What does Selena like to do on weekends?”

Mahatma Gandhi BotIn the celebrity chatbot race, Mahatma Gandhi occupies a dignified place. Although, not a celebrity in a true sense of word, but he is truly celebrated. Educating and providing information to the people about the 200 year struggle for the independence of India, Mahatma Gandhi bot answers questions related to history of the world and that of India.

Chatbots have come a long way since their inception with Eliza and SmarterChild. With enhancements in AI and ever growing Natural Language Processing, they have to go a long way to go to truly augment and think like us. Having said this, celebrity chatbots are doing really well.

For the fans, bot makes them feel closer to celebrities that they love. Share your experience on chatting with your favourite celebrities. Share this article and follow me on Twitter. I would love to connect with you.

Evolution of Celebrity Chatbots: Talk to Game of Thrones and your favorite celebrity

Ten Chatbots from ecommerce you don’t want to miss!

Ten Chatbots from Retail and eCommerceImage Credit: tickto

As the Artificial Intelligence is evolving, industries like Retail and ecommerce are using chatbots to provide enhanced services to their customers. We bring you today ten of the widely used chatbots in retail and ecommerce domain. Try yourself from below list of chatbots:

1-800-Flowers: This one is Mark Zuckerberg’s favorites. When he revealed that he is opening up Messenger for bots at F8, he declared 1-800-Flowers as one of his favorites. He said, “It’s pretty ironic: To order from 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again.” The bot seems handy for th of June-2016 i.e. last year, about 70% of the people who ordered through the chatbot are now 1-800-Flowers customers.

H & M Bot: It utilizes Kik Messenger. It can build out outfits for you around any piece of clothing. Customers can chat with it to get fashion advice and it will direct them to H & M’s ecommerce website and help its customers in buying anything they need. Like other beauty and fashion brands, H&M uses the H&M Kik bot as a brand extension tailored towards customizing the user’s shopping experience. The chatbot begins with a friendly conversation as it asks a few questions about the user’s style by presenting two photos labeled as 1 and 2. It asks the users to pick one out of them. This way, it is more entertaining than being a hassle.

Sephora: Like H & M, Sephora bot is also on Kik Messenger. Along with its presence on Kik, it’s also popular on Snapchat. Few of the instant messages initially are kicked off by the chatbot as,” “Hi, welcome to Sephora!” with the second message as “Get makeup tips and reviews by chatting to us.” It can also help the customers by showing them how-to videos and several product reviews. Over 275 million users of the messenger dedicate over half an hour per day on an average on the app, the core market of the app being the younger millenials or the Generation Z. The ultimate aim of the Sephora chatbot is to convert these users into paying customers too!

Hello Barbie, Mattel: It’s a companion chatbot built into a talking Barbie Doll enabled by the Wi-Fi called Hello Barbie. A unique feature of the chatbot is to be able to remember things from previous conversations and keep users engaged over time. Some of the things the chatbot remembers is favorite color hope for the future, which startups the users think they are cool etc.

Ask Rachel from Tesco: Tesco telecommunication’s Ask Rachel chatbot has been billed as the “Head of the customer service”. The chatbot has been developed into their website and it answers questions asked by the customers regarding phone deals and service. Besides this, users can also utilize the chatbot to do a small friendly talk chatting about her family and pets. A new version of the Ask Rachel chatbot was added to the Tesco Broadband website in November 2012. With this, Rachel was able to answer questions about broadband and home phone services.

Yoko, Toshiba France: Toshiba France’s first line customer service chatbot is named Yoko.  Users having trouble with electronics and using the company’s products cancount on Yoko for answers, some of the questions ranging from battery not charging and no picture on TV etc. It handles the issues it is programmed to handle and can escalate the complex issues and queries to human representative when needed.  Released in October 2013, Yoko is a 3D talking avatar and is specifically customized for Toshiba France. Since she is connected to the Toshiba Europe customer databases, she is able to know each customer’s warranty status and can propose the most appropriate solution to resolve each technical issue. Being connected to Toshiba Contact Center’s e-ticketing system allows her to immediately create tickets and notifications when there is a need of transferring queries to a real person.

Online support, Viewsonic: One of the Electronics giant has a chatbot built into their website to provide customers with answers about the questions and information about a wide range of the brand’s product offerings which include TV’s, projectors, tablets, digital media devices, LCD/LED monitors etc. It uses natural language processing technique. All you have to choose your product type and ask the relevant questions using natural language and it will give a relevant and prompt response from the help and support system.

VSPINK from Victoria’s Secret: With over 1 million followers on Twitter, VSPINK from Victorias Secret can be used by the college going girls to find the perfect clothes and lingerie like finding the perfect bra. You can use the chatbot on popular messenger applications like Facebook Messenger and Kik Messenger to talk and it will ask you some of the questions about your current fittings and style preferred. It will then provide suggestions about the right fit. It also suggests innerwear, apparel and accessories for the special days and occasions as well.

Emma from Toys R Us: Toys ‘R’ us, Britain and the World’s leading toy megastore was looking to enhance and improve online customer experiences. Emma has been supporting ToysRus.co.uk online customers with key purchasing information such as Delivery and Gold Cards. Emma is proving to be a real hit among the mothers who are struggling with finding time to find the latest kids’ toys. Since 2011, Emma has been helping Toys R Us’s UK customers and can answer questions about product deliveries, Gold Cards and help them searching for items.

College Stylist Bot/Target College Bot from Target: Target’s college stylist chatbot can be used to help you or your college bound offspring in finding the right clothes, storage solution along with other gear to suit the new phase of life. It is available via the Kik Messenger. It uses IBM’s Watson Artificial Intelligence to get to know your personal style, pair you with an expert influencer stylist, and help you uncover your new favorite college must-haves.

We presented above ten of the popular and successful chatbots being used today in retail and ecommerce industry. Talk to these bots and do share with us which of the listed ones are your favorites and for what purpose do you use them. Do you use them for information or only for information purpose only? If you want to add chatbots in the list, kindly share your experience on chatting with your favourite brand in comment. Share this article and follow me on Twitter. I would love to connect with you.

Ten Chatbots from ecommerce you don’t want to miss!

Soon you will never be completely sure about the talker on the other side

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Soon you will not be able to know that whether you are chatting with a human or a bot on the other side of the computer; when you are shopping at your favorite e-commerce store. Ecommerce chatbots have started gaining popularity and are on the verge of replacing humans in the area of shopping consulting. There are two reasons for this phenomenon, one is technological and other is economical.

The fact that the users have started shifting towards messengers gave rise to development of chatbots and later their factual appearance. With improvement in technologies used to build chatbots has made them smarter and be able to provide high-level consulting and selling services. These bots provides much simpler and familiar chat interface compared to applications, as every application has own user interface. The development of chatbots are economical compared to cost of application development.

I have personally noticed that brands are trying to hide their customer representatives contact details and even customer places a call to customer service, usually it takes more than 2 minutes to talk to actual representative. Managing a customer care is expensive for the company already running on thin margins. The major expenditure is salary of customer care representative and infrastructure around this. Chatbot has started replacing humans as bots are economical, easy to scale and available for 24*7*365. Running a chatbots are even more economical compared to managing a customer care.

Modern times has changed the consumer behavior

Unlike traditional way when chatbots were not there and resources were limited, customers had no option but to wait for their query to get resolved and to be consulted. But now, customers expect a lightning fast response times which has been made possible with the help of AI powered chatbots. They want the purchase process to be easy. With cut throat competition in e-commerce today and surge in mobile e-commerce has raised the bar as there is a need to accommodate huge volumes of traffic. Chatbots, in this scenario can be a helpful tool for these brands as they can attract clients for the company one-to-one in a personalized and humanized manner.

Modern chatbots have not been made so smart yet but they have to handle the task at hand effectively even with the limited functionality. Chatbots are not only the shopping consultants meaning that they are not only helping users order clothes, order pizzas etc. but also they are helping the users to schedule meetings, providing weather forecasts and relevant news, and can even be your personal assistant and a friend in need.

Chatbots in Ecommerce

The best of the chatbots that are out there are the ones who have the ability to understand natural language. If this quality is lacking in a chatbot then there is no difference between chatbot and a standard application. In e-commerce, the main goal from chatbot is to sell the products and services, however their usability can be extended further to related activities including PR, customer service, marketing and branding.

Although Chatbots can’t be there for every single communication as people still rely on well known ways of purchasing with only few of them opening to the new shift; however the future of chatbot is bright considering use of chatbots have been increasingly popular among the Millennials.

Creating your own chatbot:

There are several pros and cons to be considered before switching to chatbot for your e-commerce store, so whole procedure should be planned accordingly. Best approach would be to get the answer to some of the important questions before jumping into chatbot wagon. There are many chatbot solutions are available in market, and some of them are build it yourself. This is recommended for mid-size companies to depend on vendor with expertise as full time in-house team requires lots of knowledge base and expensive hard to find chatbot developers.

Benefits of chatbots with your shopping audience:

The first question to be answered when developing your own chatbot is whether it will benefit your audience or not? This can depend on nature of business, target audience and ability to program chatbots. Though after lot of enhancements in the AI based chatbots, some customers are still not comfortable using chatbots. They are still into traditional ways of making their purchases. Only a certain portion of the customers, the millennial, are open to the chatbot experience while making a purchase.

Choosing the right platform for customer engagement:

Chatbots can be deployed on several platforms. Some of the popular platforms include the Facebook Messenger, Telegram Twitter, Kik, Slack, Skype, Viber and other messengers and services. One of the effective way to implement chatbots are on iOS and Android application. It depends on number of downloads, and major customer engagement platform of specific brands. It’s all up to the brand to decide where the target audience is mostly located before choosing the right platforms to reach the customers at large.

Choosing the right platform to develop your chatbot: 

Platform used to build the required chatbot is also a question when it comes to transitioning your marketing and customer engagement strategy. According to the research by Mindbowser and Chatbots Journal, 61% of respondents use IBM Watson for bot building, 41% of businesses prefer Microsoft Bot Framework and almost 45% of developers like Wit.ai.

All of these platforms involve coding skills while developing the chatbot. But what if you don’t have the resource with programming skills? There is a way to develop chatbots by using the platforms like ChattyPeople, Chatfuel, Bosify, and other ones. Rasbor develop custom chatbot for brands on all major communication channels including iOS application, Android application, Facebook messenger and Telegram to name a few.

User experience management for a chatbot:

Chatbots comprise of numerous design and functionality elements like buttons, cards, menus etc. Although the main element of the chatbot is conversation, and you have to take into consideration multiple possible questions or answer that your customers are asking based on the common interaction patterns. The final step would b to equip the chatbot with checkout form so that the customers actually are able to make a purchase with no redirects. Scripted bots are popping up in ecommerce and layout designs are started to move towards maturity. This is important to consult experience bot developer for bot designs.

Marketing and customer engagement with a chatbot:

Now the development is done, you need to tell your customers about the new way of shopping by creating awareness about your chatbot. You have to involve in more different ways of promotion to get the best outcome of the efforts. Some of the popular chatbots has increased customer engagement by 2X within months. This is important to market and incentivize customers for interaction with chatbot.

Common marketing channel like use Social sharing buttons such as ‘like’ and ‘share’ can be included in the chatbot interface. Then promote chatbot on your store as an alternative way to make purchases from you. Share the information about it in your official social media accounts, placing your chatbot into dedicated catalogues and using the power of content and opinion leaders in this field are some of the ways you can promote the chatbot.

Chatbot Analytics:

Finally, after all your efforts, chatbot analytics are essential to know the performance of the chatbot and feedback about the ways it can be further improved. What is the common user behavior within the conversations? What are the problems faced by the customers etc. The available analytics chatbots are not yet so powerful than Google Analytics but they cover most urgent needs and sometimes even more. Some of the chatbot analytics tools are DashBot, BotAnalytics, Facebook Analytics, BotMetrics, etc.

Chatbots provides one of the major technological disruption in brands communication with customer. Its purpose is to improve the quality of communication equal or better than human. Chatbots will start disrupting industries after industries and will force major business and technological restructuring. This is a great time to be early adopter and benefit from major technological revolution. It can be viewed by some as the global conspiracy of the machines but that is promoted under the slogan, ‘For the good of mankind’.

It’s obvious that you will never trust a bot as compared to a human operator. However soon the bots will become indistinguishable from us, you will probably never be sure about the talker on the other side.

Have chatbots helped you in your customer engagement? Do you want to build a chatbot? Kindly share this article and follow me on Twitter. I would love to connect with you.

Soon you will never be completely sure about the talker on the other side

The evolution of conversational interface

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With changes in consumer behavior and expectations, its necessary to study how the invisible interfaces like chatbots and intelligent assistants are redefining customer engagement and brand experiences.

Nowadays, messaging apps are increasingly becoming new platforms of convenience and customers expect to unlock a plethora of information by using just voice commands. A quick glance at some of the facts is listed below:

Today, 6 out of top 10 apps are messaging apps.

More than 1/3rd of customers prefer social media for customer support rather than using telephonic conversation.

Each month, over a billion messages are exchanged between businesses and their customers over Facebook Messenger, Telegram and other platforms.

The revolution of how humans interact with devices is made possible by rise of messaging apps, social media, mobility cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) accompanied by machine learning, natural language processing and cutting edge technologies like neural networks. The future will be enabled by everything from intelligent assistants, conversational interfaces, smart devices and even immersive virtual reality.

Chatbot or Intelligent Assistant, what is it?

A chatbot is nothing but a conversational user interface using voice, text or images, the driving force being artificial intelligence and natural language processing, image and video processing, and audio analysis to extract contextual meaning and user intent, responding to it with human-like intelligence. Artificial intelligence technology combined with messaging apps has made chatbots glamorous tool for enterprises today. Artificial intelligence and speech recognition are primers for chatbot development. Big players like Google, Apple (Siri), Amazon (Alexa), Facebook Messenger, IBM (Watson), Microsoft (Cortana) provide platforms for developers to develop and deploy chatbots.

The Evolution of the Conversational Interface – From Eliza to Alexa:

It all started in the year 1950. Alan Turing developed the Turing test which was used to determine the intelligence of the computer programs. Alan Turing was an English computer scientist, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher and theoretical biologist.

Then in the year 1960, MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum published a bot named Eliza that used a script to simulate a psychotherapist’s conversations. Eliza was created to demonstrate the superficiality of communication between man and machine. It simulated the conversation by using pattern matching and substitution methodology that gave users an illusion of understanding on the part of the program, but had no built in framework for contextualizing events.

In the year 1988, Rollo Carpenter created Jabberwacky chatbot. It marked as one of the earliest attempts at creating an artificial intelligence through human interaction. Rollo carepenter went on with developing a bot named Cleverbot, a chatbot web application which used artificial intelligence algorithm to have conversations with humans.

In the year 1990, Loebner prize was launched which was an annual contest to name the bot found to be most human like.

Following the suit, in the year 1992, an artificial intelligence speech synthesis program named Dr. Sbaitso was developed by creative labs for MS-DOS based personal computers. The program “conversed” with the user as if it were a psychologist, though most of its responses were along the lines of “WHY DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY?” rather than any sort of complicated interaction.

A.L.I.C.E. (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity, was developed in the year 1995. It was a natural language processing bot that applied heuristic pattern matching rules to human input. The software which was used to create A.L.I.C.E. is available as open source Alicebot and Artificial Intelligence Markup Language (AIML) software.

During the start of 21st century, in the year 20000, SmarterChild was developed by ActiveBuddy. SmartChild, a chatbot was available on AOL instant Messenger and Windows Live Messenger (previously known as MSN Messenger) networks. In many ways, SmarterChild was a precursor to Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s S Voice.

After SmarterChild, three programmers, the Russian-born Vladimir Veselov, Ukrainian-born Eugene Demchenko, and Russian-born Sergey Ulasen developed Eugene Goostman chatbot in Saint Petersberg. It is the first chatbot that passed the Turing test on June 7, 2014 and was able to convince over 33% of the event’s judges that it was human. Goostman is portrayed as a 13 year old Ukranian boy – characteristics that are intended to induce forgiveness in those with whom it interacts for its grammatical errors and lack of general knowledge.

In the year 2005, Steve Worswick developed Mitsuku using AIML technology which later won the Loebner Prize two times in the years 2013 and 2016.

Then, after 7 years, in the year 2011, Apple launched Siri, a voice activated intelligent assistant as a part of their iOS and MacOS platforms (also a part of watchOS and tvOS platforms now as well). The assistant uses voice queries and a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of Internet services.

Following Siri, Google developed its own chatbot, Google Now for Google Search Mobile app. Google Home is powered by Google Assistant, which performs all the same tasks as Google Now an offers up information in a more conversational and accessible format.

Amazon follows suit with Apple and Google by launching its own, Alexa via the Amazon Echo and Microsoft launches Cortana, a virtual assistant named after a fictional character from “Halo” in the year 2014.

Next year, in 2015, Facebook launched M, a hybrid bot-and-human, text based virtual assistant of the social network which is accessible through Facebook Messenger.

Growing up significantly, Alexa was able to take a place in over 5% of Amazon customer’s homes in 2016. In the same year, Google unveils its Amazon Echo competitor and named it as Google Home. Also, Apple introduced SiriKit. SiriKit enables your iOS apps and watchOS apps to work with Siri, so users can get things done with your content and services using just their voice. In addition to extending Siri’s support for messaging, photo search and phone calls to more apps, SiriKit also adds support for new services, including ride booking and personal payments. Also, in the same year, Facebook, Google and Microsoft made major announcements about their bot platforms at their annual conferences respectively.

Presently, in 2017, Google introduces Google Lens, the assistant which actively uses machine learning technology to understand the surroundings and display relevant content on your screen. Google Assistant which was a part of Android only, spreads to Apple’s iOS platform. It is now available at iTunes stores for iPhones for download.

Google Home also gets more useful. It now acts as a phone, can connect over Bluetooth. Also, it’s now compatible with services like HBO and Hulu, which will enable you to use your voice enabled voice assistant to issue commands to these apps throughout the house.

We are building a platform where you can create a custom chatbot and publish it on Facebook, Telegram, Andriod and iOS. Kindly share this article and follow me on Twitter. I would love to know your experience with chatbot and AI Assistants.

The evolution of conversational interface

The Advantages of Chatbots in Marketing

the_advantages_of_chatbots_in_marketing

Chatbots have been in a use since a long time, albeit in different forms. Earlier times were different, today chatbots are much more sophisticated and they are making use of high level artificial intelligence (AI). The Artificial intelligence, in fact has evolved to be so good that many chatbots are indistinguishable from actual humans conversing. In this article we will discuss about chatbots from marketing point of view.

Advantages of using chatbots in marketing:

An entirely personal marketing channel with every customer

Chatbots are a personal marketing channel in themselves. Chatbots, as thought by many marketers today, are a new marketing tool. For some, they are just ‘another channel’, another channel for which they can write on, another channel which they need to monitor. In all, chatbots are very personal channel to gain customers insight.

Chatbots will be the marketing channel of the future. One of the most powerful and usable utilities of chatbots is to gather insights on your customers. Depending on a particular program used by your brand, you can program your chatbot to track your customers’’ purchasing patterns and analyze customers buying habits.

This monitoring ability by the use of chatbots will give you, as a brand a powerful measure of the customers’ preferences for your different products and services. Also, you will be able to know common problems and issues with your offerings.

Another advantage when it comes to marketing is that chatbot can store the information in the form of questions its being asked. This data will help chatbot to further equipped with better customer insight which can be further used to up sell additional products and services. AI behind chatbot will be able to predict future customer needs and hence chatbot will answer the future questions related to the products and services offered by brands.

Chatbots means an effective content distribution strategy

Also, it’s an opportunity to devise brands content strategy as the best type of content is the one which will answer most of the questions which are already being asked by different customer groups.

E-mail open rate, at a low point which is about 20% has been already there since last decade. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest gave us as marketers, a hope for some time, but soon we saw a decline in numbers there as well.

For these situations, chatbots came to the rescue. They are a direct line to your target audience. It’s an e-mail which is not a spam. It’s a social media marketing channel which will not be diluted. Best part is that there is a lot of cost savings with improved precision. Once you have acquired new customers through chatbot, you will never be prevented or stopped by anybody to reach your audience. The only way it would be possible is if the customer will click the unsubscribe button.

The Always on digital Assistant

Yes, the chatbots are your 24X7, always-on helpers. In the growing competition around your brand, you as a marketer have to make sure that the right information or content reaches to the right people at the right time. Sometimes, you need to help your audience in finding the content they want. We have already discussed the role of chatbots as always-on helpers in many aspects, from sales assistants to customer support.

Suppose a customer lands up on your website at wrong page. The customer is not able to find the information which they want. At this point, the customer can take the help of chatbot to be directed to the right page with the right information as needed instead of the customer leaving the site possibly never to return back.

This means that the marketers should relax by feeding in all the content to the chatbots? No! Instead the marketers can count on their chatbot to take over when the customer needs 24X7 support.

A personal friend who listen

Remember, 2014 movie “HER by Spike Jonze”. The chatbot can engage with customer on personal level by catering to all customer needs and by being available as a personal friend 24*7. It will not just use a customer’s first name when addressing them, but more importantly – it can use the information gathered from customers to recommend other products customer might be interested in.

Engagement is crucial part of your marketing efforts. It will encourage your customers to buy your products and services – a path to increased loyalty. A website alone is not sufficient to make the experience personal. A chatbot is used to interact with the customer in a more human way, keeping them engaged.

In the previous era, engagement was limited to only actions taken by the customers or visitors of your website like clicking on a video or leaving a comment on the blog post. Chatbots are changing the trends, instead of just receiving comments or playing a video, a bot can actually converse with your customers. Going beyond just sharing information with your customers’ of selling your product or a service, you can actually build brand loyalty with your customers by using the chatbot for your brand.

To boost your marketing efforts by using a chatbot, don’t treat chatbot just as advertising platform but use it to engage customer on personal level. Brans must figure out other ways of keeping customers engaged. This will help in increasing brand superiority in a significant way. In short, chatbots listen. Chatbots interactions are direct and in-depth insight about how your audience thinks. By scrolling through the logs, you can figure out the issues and how your customers are talking about them. This invaluable information will be helpful for your marketing efforts and will influence every part of your business.

Making transaction effortlessly

Some of the chatbots today can be used to take and process payments. You can successfully use a chatbot as a payment tool to get money from your customers. It will also be an enjoyable experience for your customers as it will take just a few clicks and confirmation from customer over chat. This depends on customer transaction preference and pattern. This is more natural way to increase trust in chatbot to handle transaction, Eventually resulting in higher percentage of upfront digital transaction.

Feedback, which is priceless

Getting feedback from your customers about your offerings can be tedious right? Chatbots can easily reach out to your customers via simple questions and help gathering feedback. This information can be utilized for website optimization. Gathering feedback will help you fix low converting pages of your website and improve your site all around.

There is a huge potential of chatbot as a personal marketing channel. Power of recommendation, up sell and cross sell brings chatbot even closer to customer and your customers will love you for this experience.

Have chatbots helped you in your marketing efforts? Do you want to build a chatbot? Kindly share this article and follow me on Twitter. I would love to know your experience with chatbot in marketing.

The Advantages of Chatbots in Marketing

How Artificial Intelligence technology will drive Customer engagement

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken its course of time to improve business processes to a great extent. Retail industry is rapidly utilizing the power of AI. Retailers today are using AI as a tool to eliminate or reduce lot of manual activities in areas such as promotions, assortments and supply chain. Major retailers are experimenting with AI, machine learning and robotics in major parts of value chain nowadays.

Digital retailers or e-tailers/eCommerce companies are benefited significantly because they are using AI to predict trends, optimize warehousing and logistics, setting prices and personalizing promotions.

The many benefits of AI in retail:

With introduction of the AI, retailers can benefit in a number of ways listed below:

  1. It will help people in making a smarter decision, with more accurate and real time forecasting.
  2. Using AI, operations can be more efficient. It is all because of robotics and process optimization that helps in enhancing productivity and minimize manual labor costs.
  3. Utilizing the power of AI can help the retailers increase both the number of customers and average amount spent by them by creating personal and convenient shopping experiences.

The future of retail utilizing the AI is helpful for the retailers as they will know what customers want before even the customer knowing the same with the help of forecasting and real time, automated decision making. The large volumes of data will be generated and analyzed, the retailers will be able to identify the patterns from this data spanning many disparate sources – previous purchases, social media trends, weather forecasts, online viewing history, facial expressions analysis and what not.

The retailers will also be able to predict their future store performance. This will be of significance when they will be expanding their physical footprints. Due to the advent of digital stores, more sales per square meter of physical space are declining. To keep the costs low, it has become crucial for the retailers to optimize store space and location.

By improving the AI enabled forecasting, an European retailer was able to improve its earnings before Interest and Taxes (EBIT) by 1 to 2 percent by using a machine learning algorithm to anticipate the fruits and vegetables sales. This way, company orders the materials based on the forecasting algorithm to maximize the turnover and minimize waste.

Automation and Retail Operations:

Operations like Warehousing and other store operations provide a rich array of optimization opportunities for the application of artificial intelligence. For some of the retailers which are non digital in nature, notably the supermarkets, AI automation would make an existential difference. Many of these supermarkets offer home delivery and online sales to match their competition in the online domain but they have to still carry the full cost of the physical stores.

Autonomous robots can work well alongside people to increase productivity and moreover, reduce the injuries. In store, machine learning can help optimize merchandising, with opportunities to improve assortment efficiency by 50 percent.

Retailers are personalizing the shopping experience:

Consumers are now empowered by ease, economy and immediacy of online shopping so they expect highly personalized, immediate, pitch perfect help. However, the AI will be invaluable to marketers who are trying to reach hyper connected consumers who continuously redefine value by comparing prices online. AI can help optimize and tailor to each shopper, in real time, the smart phone penetration that necessitates an Omni-channel strategy. The sales can be increased by over 1 to 5 percent by following insights based selling, including personalized promotions, optimized assortment and tailored displays. This kind of personalization, online, along with dynamic pricing can lead to 30 percent growth in sales.

With the help of data gathered online, the pure internet players are several steps ahead in targeted marketing. Traditional retailers have to gain access to data assets to compete with the online counterparts.

Another advantage would be that the User Experience would be enhanced to a great extent. Deep learning and computer vision technologies will help the store owners compete with one click convenience of online retailers as the checkout process would be eliminated completely. An example would be Amazon Go an experimental grocery in Seattle allows shoppers to take goods off shelves with stopping at a cashier or checkout kiosk. This is achieved by allowing a computer vision to identify the customers as they enter the store, link them with the products they have picked up from the shelves. The cost of the items is then deducted from their Amazon accounts and sends an email receipt.

In the future it will also be possible for the products to be delivered at homes of the consumers within minutes of purchase by using artificial intelligence technologies. Most of the big players are making this effort possible with the help of unpiloted aerial drones. The drones and robots are built with focus on application of deep learning technology to allow innovative problem solving and decision making.

Gaining that extra edge:

Competing in this new realm of retailing will be hard. The retailers will have to invest in data gathering both up and down their supply chain to get an extra edge, to seek a competitive advantage. This will involve improvement in partnership between retailers and their suppliers to improve supply chains and marketing optimize pricing and achieve efficient merchandising.

Also, cross industry partnerships between retailers and other players will also evolve to create better customer insights. Computer vision technology in physical stores can be effectively utilized to give a tremendous insight through customer footfall data, customer reactions and promotions as well. Natural language processing and deep machine learning will further facilitate the rise of virtual assistants by making dialogue more intuitive and improving it faster.

Virtual assistants vs. retailers

The rise of virtual assistants will be, however will lead to disintermediation of the retailers. As the human interaction will increasingly be reserved for higher engagement types which will involve emotional intelligence, excellent product knowledge and brand championship? Retailers will need to rethink the skills of their sales teams.

We are building a platform where you can create a custom chatbot and publish it on Facebook, Telegram, Andriod and iOS. Kindly share this article and follow me on Twitter. I would love to know your views on Customer engagement using Chatbots.

How Artificial Intelligence technology will drive Customer engagement

Scripted chatbots are managing communication with customers in the age of AI-powered bots

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Ever since the Facebook has opened up its Messenger platform (FBM) to ‘bot’ developers at Facebook developer conference (F8) in April, bot designers have been busy in swiftly developing chatbots. These bots are smart script with the layer of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML).

Guess, What’s the mainstream bot which is AI-powered out in the market? We all know about it. It’s……Google. It’s a bot because it is based on NLP of the search queries of the users. It does its job pretty well. It provides most accurate answers based on the user’s search queries and it does it even without the need for the user to additionally click on the results.

Similar to Google, if we closely observe, we are using largely the invisible bots on day to day basis. These are nothing but the various algorithms powering the most widely used apps people are using daily. Whether it’s a conversation or not, you might be interacting with a bot whenever any structured output is given to you based on your deliberate input(s)/or behavior. For example a question answer type of format is one of the ways a conversation is initiated. It’s nothing but a bot which is trying to mimic a human like conversation.

Over the time, bots have become smarter. This has happened as they are interacting with us, the humans. They are learning from us, gradually understanding our needs and deliver the results in an automated way which is relevant to the query of the customer/user.

However, still the messaging/chatting alone is not the best way to interact with the bots. For instance, Facebook Messenger has close to one billion plus users. Every single company would like to introduce bots for the messenger app to engage with its customers. We are still exploring other possibilities of interacting with the bots beyond chatting/messaging or SMS.

There are two two classes of bots getting into mainstream. One which is used for messaging/chatting which are scripted and other which is AI and NLP powered bots. Most of the brands are using the scripted bots on major platforms like Facebook Messenger and Kik. When it comes to AI-powered bot, it poses number of risks when It comes to tricking the system, due to the sophistication involved in its design and development.

Users are not interested in what is happening at the backstage. They are only interested in the play which is happening in front of their own eyes. The inputs and outputs are related. The information which is given as input impacts the information which is coming out. It can be sometimes an unexpected outcome. The brands find the scripted bots most feasible and easy to use strategy to test the new technological era of the bot world.

Brand marketing will be managed by Chatbots/Scripted bots to a large extent in the future. They provide an extension to the brand’s existing marketing strategy by making it easy, natural and fun to interact for the users who are engaging with the brands and the best part is that it doesn’t appear as an advertisement or a promotion or just any other marketing gimmick.

The scripted bots are slowly becoming the integral part of brands’ mobile engagement strategies. But the chatbot strategy should not be secluded one. It should carry on along with the brands’ other marketing and promotion strategies well. The brands should know how to layer the chatbot experience along with other engagement experiences. For example, Distributors want to promote a new film. One of the most effective approach could be the chatbot. It takes the customer engagement to a whole different level. Promotional campaigns like trailers and GIFs can be delivered over mobile when customer ask for it; which could possibly provide the personal experience to customers like location of nearby theater, show time and ticket availability, ultimately influencing bot users to purchasing the ticket.

The bots alone cannot sustain interest and engagement; they must be complimented with other marketing engagement campaigns that drive awareness and interest. Remember to create the marketing channel of driving traffic to the bot before before investing in chatbot project. Once the two strategies are in place, bots will create a full circle branding strategy to keep customers engaged and entice them to promote and share the bot with their friends.

The performance of the campaign matters. The brands which are implementing the scripted chatbot strategy, must have access to analytics to measure how well or bad the bot experience is. They should make sure they have a constant update on things like the read rate of the bot messages, the timestamp on the average back and forth conversation that’s happening with each user in the bot, how many people went through the funnel to reach the KPIs (clinking a link or making a purchase), and an understanding of the sentiment (was it a positive or negative experience overall).

Lets discuss the strategy followed by a retail brand American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) as how the brand implemented the AI powered chatbot system into its current operations. During the the holiday season last year, the retailer tested new and effective ways of communicating with its customers via chatbots. AEO has successfully introduced its chatbot – the AEO Holiday Gift Guide Bot on Black Friday. This chatbot was released on both Kik and Facebook Messenger. It prompts user s to take a short quiz and provides them in return gifting ideas based on the answers given by them.

It is possible for the customers to send any message to the chatbot technically however, AEO monitor the conversations. This is done in order to review the performance of the bot that whether the bot is answering to the queries of the customers appropriately as well as to monitor the customers behavior with chatbots. Creating a generic bot is in its early days, and the engagement span with customer is shot in digital age. If bot is not covering the desired queries, customer engagement will be a challenge. Hence, AOE has decided to create a scripted bot to guide the customer as well as the bot on messaging journey.

For instance, a message sent by the user,” I’d like to shop for bras” would be directed towards the bra shop. On the other hand, if the customer sends a random message will receive a message from the bot as “I didn’t understand that, but tap ‘Home’ to see what we can do.”

In order to measure the success of the bots, the retailer is benchmarking their performance against social metrics. “The premise is that people are on these messenger apps more than they are on social networks,” Bell explains. It is remarkable to know that since the introduction of the chatbots, the brand has acquired more customers than what it did via all social channels combined within two weeks of launch of chatbots.

It has become increasingly popular nowadays for brands to explore and implement the bot strategy into the mobile engagement world. This is going to run through into the foreseeable future. And there is no doubt about effectiveness of bots.

Are you are a brand which is also exploring a chatbot based strategy to compliment your existing marketing/promotional strategy to increase user engagement, Rasbor is creating customer chatbots for enterprise, which can be served on Facebook Messenger, Telegram or can be integrated with Android and iOS applications.

Do share your experiences on working with Chatbots. We are building a platform where you can create a custom chatbot and publish it on Facebook, Telegram, Andriod and iOS. Kindly share this article and follow me on Twitter.

Scripted chatbots are managing communication with customers in the age of AI-powered bots

Poets are working on AI. Creative is new cool in Silicon valley

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As the need for virtual assistants has risen, writing for AI (Artificial intelligence) is becoming a hot job in the Silicon Valley. The big apps and software like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are not run by software engineers alone. There are poets, comedians, fiction writers, and other artistic and creative type of people who work along with engineering guys to work with the AI.

Robin Ewing was working just as a writer in Hollywood, pitching pilots to film studios and writing TV scripts until recently. Now she has been hired to apply her creative talent toward building the personality of a virtual assistant, animated by artificial intelligence and is used to interact with sick patients.

Working with Sophie, a software program which can be downloaded to a smart phone, Ewing has trained the virtual nurse. The virtual nurse reminds users to check their medication, asks them how they are feeling or if they are in a pain. Then it sends the data to the real doctor.

The virtual assistants like the one developed by Ewing and the engineering team are designed to perform more of the prosaic tasks such as reading through e-mails, sending meeting or appointment reminders, or even turning off the lights as you shout across the room. This is a lot more different than the normal Hollywood characters built by Ewing who are put through adventures, personal trials or plot twists to keep the audience engaging.

But we can see a new age of start-ups based on bots whose products will be soon seen flooding the market are engaged with developing more ambitious bots that can interact seamlessly with human beings.

This brings writers into the picture as this new wave of technology is distinguished by the ability to chat. The work of the writer for AI is to make sure that the conversation should feel more natural. Designers for Amazon’s Alexa have built humanizing ‘hmms’ and ‘ums’ into her responses to questions. Also, Apple’s Siri is known for the wry jokes as well as the ability to beat box upon request.

When it comes to fiction, writers for the artificially intelligent virtual assistants create a life story for their bots. For the medical and productivity apps, writers have to make character decisions of whether the bots or the virtual assistants would be workaholics, eager to work hard or self effacing. “You have to develop an entire back story — even if you never use it,” Ewing said.

Mundane tasks also require a lot of creative effort as the writers try to build the personality into the most repetitive or mechanical activities. At the start-up x.ai, a Harvard theater graduate is tasked with deciding whether its scheduling bots, Amy and Andrew, should be using emojis or addressing them by their first names. “We don’t want people saying, ‘your assistant is too casual — or too much,’ ” said Anna Kelsey, whose title is AI interaction designer. “We don’t want her to be one of those crazy people who use 15 million exclamation points.”

According to the CBInsights and Washington Post research, Virtual Assistant Start-ups gathered investments worth at least $35 million over the past year alone. This however doesn’t include the many millions spent by tech giants Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft.

The investor’s increased interest in virtual assistant start-ups has been partly fueled by the rising popularity of messaging apps such as WeChat, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger which are also among the most widely used and downloaded smart phone applications today. The users are increasingly drawn towards the conversational platforms. Investors are seeing this and they hope to build additional features into these apps.

Virtual assistants have also gained significant boost from subsets of artificial intelligence (or the AI) known as machine learning and natural language processing, or the ability for the computers to understand speech.

In this intersection of humans and artificial intelligence, the rise of this technology is evident. It is estimated that by 2025, 12.7 million new US jobs will involve building robots or automation software. According to Forrester data, more than one-third of the workforce will work side by side with such technologies by the year 2019.

Some of the virtual assistants are already becoming the companions in the office. A bot in the productivity software Slack, named Howdy, can query employees on behalf of a boss and collate their answers into a single document. The meeting scheduling bots Amy and Andrew, developed by start-up x.ai, can be used to email back and forth with real administrative assistants.

The two nurse virtual avatars, Sophie and Molly, developed by start-ups IDAvatars and Sense.ly, respectively, ask questions from the patients about their medical condition and also try to cheer them up. Another guru virtual assistant who will teach users meditation and assist in weight loss is being developed by another start-up, Botanic.io.

According to Ewing, Users can go online and get the information they are seeking themselves in most of the cases without the need of virtual assistants, though it will take a little more time. In her own words, “So if the character doesn’t delight you, then what is the point?”

Microsoft recently conducted a meeting of its virtual assistant Cortana. The meeting consisted of six person writing team including a poet, a novelist, a playwright and a former TV writer — the group debated how to answer political questions. It’s the daily morning routine of the group. The team also brainstorms Cortana’s responses to new issues.

“We will do everything possible to limit technical exploits but also know we cannot fully predict all possible human interactive misuses without learning from mistakes,” Microsoft said on its blog after it took Tay down.

A question that concerns the team about Cortana is gender. Cortana is, however crystal-clear that she is not human, team has given her a female voice because early users expressed a preference for using a female virtual assistant. Also, Apple’s Siri and Google Now also have female voices by default, though they are configurable to be a male.

Still, the team insists that Cortana isn’t a woman. “She knows that gender is a biological construct, and since she’s not biological, she has no gender,” Harrison said. “She’s proud of her AI-ness.”

Are you a creative person? Rasbor is creating custom chatbots for enterprise, which can be served on Facebook Messenger, Telegram and can be integrated with Android and iOS applications. Kindly share this article and follow me on Twitter.

Poets are working on AI. Creative is new cool in Silicon valley

Will Chatbots replace Customer Service Representatives?

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Yes, you read that right. Chatbots have been becoming a part of the system nowadays for many of the companies. Their work is to replace the customer service representatives. But, will it really work? Let’s discuss it in detail.

In place of human interaction, chat bots can do the work but on a limited basis. In fact, customers prefer humans over chat bots as they can easily differentiate between the two. In this rapidly changing industry, chabots would, however be welcomed in the coming years.

People are finding more ways which are more easy and efficient to find things online, order a product or book for a service from the comfort of their homes. They are not bothered that whether they are helped on by a real human being or an automated chat bot.

The Advantages

The benefits that the chat bot has over the humans are significant. For example, if we want to look at a customer’s profile in detail, a chat bot will do it much quickly as compared to the time spent by a human. So chat bots have an advantage of looking into the history of the client through the database of the registered users in much less time along with more precision.

Another advantage of chat bots can be seen as customers prefer text-based interactions through Messenger applications instead of voice assistants like Apple’s Siri or Okay Google. The reason for this is simple, voice based assistant cannot help up to desired accuracy.

The BIG CHALLENGE!

The challenge is however a big one, to make the chat bot more human like. With the information readily available, it would be easier to provide quick and efficient service to the customers.

How it will benefit your Business? 

According to a survey by Oracle, 80% of the respondents said that they will shift towards the chat bots by the year 2020. Another 48% said that they already use automation technology for things like sales, marketing and customer service.

It, however impacts to workforce as it would be replaced by these chat bots for certain business processes. Automation in certain customer management processes will also lead to considerable reduction in customer service departments. As the chat bot is capable of handling thousand chats simultaneously, the companies will still not need workforce even if customer base grows to a significant number. This is a cost effective approach for the companies as the business grows. The expected savings by automating the business processes in US only is a whooping $23 billion per year.

As artificial intelligence comes into bright picture, the real benefits come intangibly as well by efficient customer management, sales, marketing, reporting and communication.

The world of chat bots or robot customer service would be efficient, precise and brisk. They can work at any times of the day, are cheaper to implement and can be trained instantly. Moreover, they will not ask for any leaves!

The likelihood of automation of customer service jobs is 91 percent, means that it would be completely replaced by bots or robots to take care of the process.

We have also become more comfortable with handling machines while communicating with businesses in our day to day activities.

In the Banking sector also, AI bots have been tried and tested to handle customer’s queries. RBS, for example is said to introduce an AI chat bot called Luvo to deal with day to day customer problems like stolen bank debit or credit cards and forgotten pins or passwords.

Many food chains in US have also implemented this solution, this way users can easily order food online for themselves or for their coworkers. The bot will not only help you with the orders simply but will also provide recommendations based on your food preferences.

The advantage of bots over humans

One of the advantages of bots over humans would be that users would no longer face a rude customer service representative. Customer will focus on getting their task done by bots.

It is also beneficial for the employees. When it comes to managing relationships, call centre employees or customer service representatives fail to maintain healthy home relationships as compared to other workforce. So by replacing them with chat bots, they would be compelled to upgrade themselves and manage their life in a more efficient way.

Another advantage is breaking out of the same monotonous routine. The customer service employees are tired of answering same questions on a daily basis. With the chat bots, this issue will be eliminated.

It is frustrating for customers, if call gets cut in the middle of a conversation with human raps, and customer has to explain everything again to new customer raps. Chatbot will have humongous advantageous as bots can remember everything of last call.

The human raps will co-exist with bots

Human raps will co-exist with Bots as bots will provide context and data to human employees thereby helping both the customer and the human raps by making their experience a smooth ride.

Although, the history has shown that automation has taken place of humans in industries like manufacturing, it has not impacted overall unemployment levels significantly.

In fact, it compels the human employees to upgrade their skills for superior customer service; as a result, new jobs will be born.

The latest example can be of a Facebook artificially intelligent smart phone assistant M. It sits within the Facebook Messenger app and can complete tasks for you. However, the AI is trained and supervised by humans. The bot M is set to handle simple queries while the humans handle the more complex ones.

The Future of bots

The chat bots is a reality. They are evolving very fast. Industries like retail and call centre/BPOs will eventually utilize the power of automated bots to handle the work related to customer service, but in a combination with human employees who will be handling complex queries whereas bots, the simple ones.

Finally, there will be a need for specialized salespeople, engineers and designers who will be responsible for designing, building, repairing and maintain these bots in an event of their break down. So, there would be more specialized, highly skilled new jobs available for humans to look for in the future.

Does your company uses any automated solution or a chat bot for its business processes? We are building a platform where you can create a custom chatbot and publish it on Facebook, Telegram, Andriod and iOS. Kindly share this article and follow me on Twitter.

Will Chatbots replace Customer Service Representatives?

The Indispensable Chatbot – Personalized, Intelligent and Pragmatic

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Does a chatbot need to impersonate humans? Is it not enough for it to quickly deliver responses that speak directly to human needs? To boost the business outcomes and deliver superior experience they must be able to deliver quick responses and continuously learn to apply meaningful responses for their unique requirements over time.

Chatbots have started taking over the world, technologically – helping the humans to interact with the machines in their native language. The chatbots have started gaining popularity in many industrial scenarios – particularly the customer service. The tremendous growth of messaging apps, the advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive technologies and a wider reach of automation in various processes and business operations are driving force behind the chatbot trend.

Is this all sustainable over time? Well, the factors are making the interest in chatbots growing over time but for it to be sustainable for long time, a stronger business rationale and better near time results will play an important role.

The main challenge faced by developers is to imbibe natural, human like voice in the chatbots so they can converse in the users’ language. Although there is advancement in AI but still it’s not able to fulfill the promise made by the natural language processing (NLP). Most of the chatbots work on deep learning models which are more retrieval based instead of generative ones; making it easy for the users to know that they are talking to a machine, not a human.

Also, in some time, chatbot novelty will not exist anymore. This will leave the users with one concern, how well the bot can get the things done. For keeping the chatbots effective, the best way is by keeping the simple design and minimum conversation. This can be achieved very well by developing utility bots that specialize in specific tasks, provide specific recommendations to the users and help users to complete those tasks.

Bots are being used to perform rote and repetitive tasks but with over time they will evolve to learn and offer personalized interactions with relevant recommendations. This would be achieved by their ability to access and process the data quickly using technologies like neural networks and machine learning.

Some of the best things which can help these machines o comprehend large chunks of data are the self-learning algorithms and graph databases. They make it easier for the machines to understand what the users are referring to and that too without the ambiguity. However it’s very important to dynamically update these semantic graphs which store the data types and their relationships.

The chatbots which are effective will demonstrate and understanding of user needs. It will then complement these needs with visual aids like quick access buttons and images that depict the options available. This way, the chatbots can reduce the user’s time and effort spent on interacting with the chatbot leading to a quality user experience.

The use of chatbots:

The chatbot ecosystem is shaping up; we can see specialized chatbots that are emerging to address various user needs. On the launch of Messenger, Facebook has reported development of over 33,000 bots that too in just few months of the launch. Some of the ways of using the chatbots:

  1. Customer service – Most of the bots are providing shopping assistance and product recommendations based on user’s preferences.
  2. Scheduling – The chatbots can be used to buy plane tickets, booking movie tickets and setting up meetings
  3. Status Checks – These include the news, weather forecasts, local events and everything you need from the internet. The apps/chatbots are there to help you out with these.
  4. Entertainment purposes – Need random quotes or jokes or funny videos? Chatbots can help the users with these as well.

Whichever way they are being used; it’s important to examine the growth of this phenomenon. It will help in knowing that whether the chatbot will continue the same way or evolve into something entirely different.

The chatbot growth:

Since the evolution with the chatbots and advent of digital revolution, the chatbots have moved mainstream. The movement started in 1950 with Alan Turing’s intelligent machine, later on followed by ELIZA which was intelligent machine to perform near human conversations.

The chatbots have been growing and this can be attributed to number of factors:

  1. Rising use of Messaging applications among younger generations – One by one, messaging apps have been surpassing the usage of social networks. WhatsApp hit the one billion user mark in 2015. Messaging has been seen as the single biggest contributor to the chatbot growth over the years. Messaging apps are now the platforms and a phone is a messaging device.
  2. High app volumes – Users are no doubt overwhelmed by app volumes. This doesn’t mea that the apps will give way to chatbots; however there are few apps which users use on daily basis.
  3. The advancement in AI and related technologies – Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry including machine learning, natural language processing, image recognition and speech recognition is expected to reach a whopping $5.05 billion by the year 2020 growing with a CAGR of 53.65% from year 2015 to 2010.
  4. Focusing on Overall Customer Experience – Businesses are trying new ways to satisfy the customers on the phone and lower the costs involved. Some of the simple tasks can be done with minimal effort and customers find it annoying to call the contact centre for the same.
  5. Wider reach of mobile and messenger apps in developing countries – Developing nations like India, the mobile apps and commerce have gone ahead of conventional e-commerce. In many villages and small towns with low bandwidth availability, messenger apps are used for communication, collaboration and commerce. In this scenario, chatbots designed specifically to address these conditions will push their growth in these emerging economies.

All this has been made possible by Digital World. Digital makes 24X7 availability and engagement possible. Digital technologies provide the required infrastructure for these chatbots to live and prosper.

All the above discussion leads to one question, how the chatbot needs to be designed?

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The Concern over Sustainability:

The technology today focuses primarily on enhancing features and improving the functionality to make the chatbots engage in a more natural and intelligent conversations like a human responds. All the efforts being put into chatbot to make it behave like a human, it’s success does not wholly depend on its ability to behave in a natural, human like way.

It’s a fact that text messaging is around since last two decades and commercial SMS were introduced in 1990’s. Social boom hit a few years later into the technology world. This led to the inception of the buzzwords – social sharing and enterprise social. It was the time since when the virtual chatting has emerged as a way to build relationships. This is however; set to wear off with the chatbot novelty after which such interactions will not be about building the relationships.

Several attempts have been made in the case of chatbot. The attempt to imbibe emotions such as remorse, happiness, pride or frustration can lead to an experience which is negative for the users who attempt to work with such chatbots and/or machines that try to mimic humans and their behaviors. Also, the attempts that are made to humanize the chatbots can give rise to a term ‘the uncanny valley’, the theory that humans’ emotional response to a robot quickly turns negative when the robot appears ‘almost’ human. The same is applicable with the chatbots as they swing between being intelligent and acting as a human being.

An example would be the Microsoft’s intelligent bot Tay who was criticized for posting racist tweets on the popular social network just a day after its launch post which the company suspended the bot to make the needed refinements. Humans are very much capable of sensing when they are interacting with a machine or chatbot and any of the attempts to make it sound more human like rather than intelligent will not lead the expected outcomes.

One more consideration which is needed to be addressed is the ability of the chatbot to handle complex problems when it comes to customer service environment. The chatbot is very useful when the problems are well defined, clear, easy to articulate and straightforward to solve. Problems which are difficult to explain a human over the other end of the phone/computer are even more difficult to explain to a machine/chatbot on the other end of the phone/computer. Chatbots, in most cases are trained to ask the users to repeat the questions, rephrase it or simply to try again. If it asks to repeat again and again, it can be a frustrating experience for the user.

Utility and Personalization – Two Values of the Chatbots

There are many gadgets which don’t pretend to be intelligent. They don’t engage users. They simply do what they are designed to do, for example coffee vending machines in the offices, ATMs in their initial days at al.

Chatbots are expected to mature along the following lines over time:

  1. They will be more ‘utilitarian’: They will be very useful for the day to day activities. Users will not hesitate to interact with the chatbots on daily basis.
  2. Key Performance Metric would be first-contact resolution: The chatbot which would be able to resolve the problems, even the complex ones, without rephrasing or asking the user to repeat the question will lead the chatbot world. The chatbot’s ability to respond to queries in the shortest amount of time and the best way possible will further enhance its utility.
  3. Understanding the individual user over a period of time, learning the nuances of the user’s request and improving the first-contact resolution: Chatbots which would be able to personalize responses based on user’s query will determine the quality of larger customer experience. A relationship building ability of the chatbot with the user based on their individual needs rather than providing the generalized set of responses will be the trait of a successful chatbot.
  4. Ability of the chatbot to leverage the data ecosystem – to pull out the data, both from within and outside the enterprise: The faster the chatbot accesses and processes the data, way better will be the user experience be.
  5. Chatbots will be more specialized in the coming times: Chatbots would be developed for specified tasks rather than being jack of all trades. However, it will take trial and error to know what task it can do perfectly.

The best chatbot experience is when the human get what he or she has requested.

Designing the chatbot – Key Elements

It’s essential to design the bots or the coming times. This means designing the chatbot to work in today’s context. This involves several factors such as bot/human interaction and interface design.

With this, following are the key design elements when it comes to designing the chatbots:

  1. Reduced manual effort: The best experience which would be key design element would be reduction in manual effort required for human interaction. This will essentially mean, to reduce the number of mouse clicks, keystrokes or touches required the chatbot to determine the best solution to the problem.
  2. Predicting the option which is right: The system should be able to display the right clickable options for users to choose from, from the available set of choices. This means that the system should be able to understand the problem of the user well enough.
  3. Personalization: How much personalization can be brought into the bot/human interaction itself? The system must be capable of remembering user profiles, previous conversations, profiles and interactions of the other users in the system, the current context of the problem and the environmental know how.
  4. Best approach for the unresolved queries: When the chatbot is unable to understand or resolve a particular query or user is not able to phrase it as expected, the level of frustration would be higher. In this case, best design strategy would be that the chatbot should demonstrate a partial understanding to reveal which part of the question the chatbot failed to understand.
  5. User Recommendations: In the case when the conversation is stuck in a loop with no resolution in sight, one resolution is to provide recommendations for the users to bring the chatbot into more useful state.

Future of the chatbot, in a nutshell

Most of the bots today have failed to meet the expectations around them. Blame it to the slow advancements in the technology. It’s fairly easy to design and deploy the chatbots today. Businesses are developing the chatbots to reach people where they are spending their most of the time, like messaging apps such as WeChat, Facebook Messenger at al.

However, there are other ways of reaching users on messaging apps and WeChat is just one primary example. Developers must be motivated to assemble experiences with bots at the center of the action rather than just a technological adventure.

We are building a platform where you can create a custom chatbot and publish it on Facebook, Telegram, Andriod and iOS. Kindly share this article and follow me on Twitter.

The Indispensable Chatbot – Personalized, Intelligent and Pragmatic

How Artificial Intelligence is changing Retail

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken its course of time to improve business processes to a great extent. The retail industry is rapidly utilizing the power of AI. Retailers today are using AI as a tool to eliminate or reduce lot of manual activities in areas such as promotions, assortments and supply chain. Major retailers are experimenting with AI, machine learning and robotics in major parts of value chain nowadays.

Digital retailers or e-tailers/eCommerce companies are benefited significantly because they are using AI to predict trends, optimize warehousing and logistics, setting prices and personalizing promotions.

The many benefits of AI in retail:

With introduction of the AI, retailers can benefit in a number of ways listed below:

  1. It will help people in making a smarter decision, with more accurate and real time forecasting.
  2. Using AI, operations can be more efficient. It is all because of robotics and process optimization that helps in enhancing productivity and minimize manual labor costs.
  3. Utilizing the power of AI can help the retailers increase both the number of customers and average amount spent by them by creating personal and convenient shopping experiences.

The future of retail utilizing the AI is helpful for the retailers as they will know what customers want before even the customer knowing the same with the help of forecasting and real time, automated decision making. The large volumes of data will be generated and analyzed, the retailers will be able to identify the patterns from this data spanning many disparate sources – previous purchases, social media trends, weather forecasts, online viewing history, facial expressions analysis and what not.

The retailers will also be able to predict their future store performance. This will be of significance when they will be expanding their physical footprints. Due to the advent of digital stores, more sales per square meter of physical space are declining. To keep the costs low, it has become crucial for the retailers to optimize store space and location.

By improving the AI enabled forecasting, an European retailer was able to improve its earnings before Interest and Taxes (EBIT) by 1 to 2 percent by using a machine learning algorithm to anticipate the fruits and vegetables sales. This way, company orders the materials based on the forecasting algorithm to maximize the turnover and minimize waste.

Automation and Retail Operations:

Operations like Warehousing and other store operations provide a rich array of optimization opportunities for the application of artificial intelligence. For some of the retailers which are non digital in nature, notably the supermarkets, AI automation would make an existential difference. Many of these supermarkets offer home delivery and online sales to match their competition in the online domain but they have to still carry the full cost of the physical stores.

Autonomous robots can work well alongside people to increase productivity and moreover, reduce the injuries. In store, machine learning can help optimize merchandising, with opportunities to improve assortment efficiency by 50 percent.

Retailers are personalizing the shopping experience:

Consumers are now empowered by ease, economy and immediacy of online shopping so they expect highly personalized, immediate, pitch perfect help. However, the AI will be invaluable to marketers who are trying to reach hyper connected consumers who continuously redefine value by comparing prices online. AI can help optimize and tailor to each shopper, in real time, the smart phone penetration that necessitates an Omni-channel strategy. The sales can be increased by over 1 to 5 percent by following insights based selling, including personalized promotions, optimized assortment and tailored displays. This kind of personalization, online, along with dynamic pricing can lead to 30 percent growth in sales.

With the help of data gathered online, the pure internet players are several steps ahead in targeted marketing. Traditional retailers have to gain access to data assets to compete with the online counterparts.

Another advantage would be that the User Experience would be enhanced to a great extent. Deep learning and computer vision technologies will help the store owners compete with one click convenience of online retailers as the checkout process would be eliminated completely. An example would be Amazon Go an experimental grocery in Seattle allows shoppers to take goods off shelves with stopping at a cashier or checkout kiosk. This is achieved by allowing a computer vision to identify the customers as they enter the store, link them with the products they have picked up from the shelves. The cost of the items is then deducted from their Amazon accounts and sends an email receipt.

In the future it will also be possible for the products to be delivered at homes of the consumers within minutes of purchase by using artificial intelligence technologies. Most of the big players are making this effort possible with the help of unpiloted aerial drones. The drones and robots are built with focus on application of deep learning technology to allow innovative problem solving and decision making.

Gaining that extra edge:

Competing in this new realm of retailing will be hard. The retailers will have to invest in data gathering both up and down their supply chain to get an extra edge, to seek a competitive advantage. This will involve improvement in partnership between retailers and their suppliers to improve supply chains and marketing optimize pricing and achieve efficient merchandising.

Also, cross industry partnerships between retailers and other players will also evolve to create better customer insights. Computer vision technology in physical stores can be effectively utilized to give a tremendous insight through customer footfall data, customer reactions and promotions as well. Natural language processing and deep machine learning will further facilitate the rise of virtual assistants by making dialogue more intuitive and improving it faster.

Virtual assistants vs. retailers

The rise of virtual assistants will lead to disintermediation of the retailers. As the human interaction will increasingly be reserved for higher engagement types which will involve emotional intelligence, excellent product knowledge and brand championship? , the retailers will need to rethink the skills of their sales teams.

We are building a platform where you can create a custom chatbot and publish it on Facebook, Telegram, Andriod and iOS. Kindly share this article and follow me on Twitter. I would love to know your views on how AI is changing Retail.

How Artificial Intelligence is changing Retail

The Great Mobile Divide- Smartphones & Tablets for Mobile Commerce

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What once started with brick like heavy sets have now changed to sleek and stylish multi-functional devices that can make more than calls or SMS. Mobiles today have surpassed the bygone era and become an updated version of sleek and handy devices that is required to perform most of the tasks for a day to day errand. The software capabilities of a phone has increased by leaps and bounds, accessing internet through the mobile device is now so easy and convenient. Along with the mobiles phones, advanced technology invented something unique and ironically named tablet.  A tablet as we know is a larger device and more powerful than a mobile phone. Between Smartphone’s and tablets, desktops and traditional computers are becoming obsolete altogether.

With the creation of these various mobile devices and their use in technology developed mobile commerce. Last year, mobile commerce in the U.S. totaled approximately $115 billion, or 35% of overall eCommerce transactions with a projected compounded annual growth rate of 17% in the next five years. In addition, approximately 47% of total eCommerce site traffic can currently be attributed to mobile device shoppers, a number that’s projected to surpass 50% in the coming years. Though most of the functionalities and traffic generated for the devices are the same, yet there are some differentiators that have created the great mobile divide.

Trends and Statistics

If international statistics are taken to account then Smartphone’s and tablets display a wide range of differences based on their location. Example, the worldwide average retail eCommerce site visit duration is 10.4 minutes for tablet shoppers and 8.4 minutes for Smartphone users, with interesting discrepancies appearing all around the globe. In terms of site traffic share, approximately 22% of traffic was attributed to Smartphone shoppers and 16% went to tablet users in 2015.

Holiday and Peak Season Statistics

The holiday seasons are always different. They bring in spikes in retail sales making it very interesting and a preferred time to discover new ecommerce trends in the market. 2015 showed a hike in the purchases made from smartphones and tablets. Compared to tablets, smartphones are more easily available and accessible to people staying the rural regions of a country, thus making it a preferred choice for shopping than tablets during the holiday or peak seasons.

Common Activities on Devices

As mobile commerce has grown, the consumer behavior in different geographies has also changed. For example, the shopping patterns, browsing of products and price checking have changed from country to country. Worldwide, the second largest Smartphone share of app launches and site visits were shopping related (84%) and for tablets, where apps are utilized less, shopping visits (37%) ranked number one. Both mobiles and Smartphones are devices for product discovery. Product discovery is therefore a popular activity for people using the devices, they are purchase influencers.

Conclusion

Smartphones (15%) and tablets (33%) are expected to generate 48% of eCommerce sales by 2020, only a small number of retailers have direct initiatives aimed at capturing the unique and growing market. Many retailers plan to change their investments in these initiatives in 2016, with 67% of retailers intending to increase their Smartphone investment spend and 53% of retailers planning to do the same for tablet investments. As technology develops and continues to evolve, mobile commerce will become more sophisticated and customized with analytics that differentiate Smartphone from tablets.

The Great Mobile Divide- Smartphones & Tablets for Mobile Commerce