How do Chatbots work?

You’ve probably heard of a chatbot, but until now, not really thought of what they are, how do chatbots work work, or how one could benefit your business.  In fact, you have probably interacted with a number of chatbots and not even realized it!

Nearly everyone has interacted with an online chat or messaging system these days.  These can range from weather bots who update you with current weather information, to news bots that update you on specific current events, to scheduling bots who keep your calendar organized.

In fact, if you find yourself sending a company a message on Facebook, for example, chances are very good that you are talking to their bot.  Stats show that people are using messanger apps more than ever, and bots are benefitting from this trend.

What Is a Chatbot?

Put simply, a chatbot is a service that answers messages and chats.  Much in the manner that you would have a chat with a friend via text, the user asks questions, and the bot responds with appropriate responses.

This may seem like technological magic of the future, but in reality, these services are programmed to recognize and respond to a variety of words and phrases.  

There are three main types of chatbots. Let’s discover them together and learn how do these chatbots work.

Rule-Based Chatbots

These are the least interactive, but they get things done.

Perhaps you have received a text message asking if you would like a service, such as a prescription filled, a delivery tracked, or a message from a local charity.  The message is very simple, and asks you to reply in simple terms, such as “Y” for yes, and “N” for no.

These bots cannot process long queries or any response outside of their programmed vocabulary, but they are very useful for things like distributing information quickly, getting a quick answer to a yes or no question without having to make a phone call or send an email, and even for qualifying whether a lead is a real potential customer or another bot.

Intellectual Chatbots

These bots recognize keywords and phrases beyond simple replies.  For example, if you were to type “I have not received my shipment,” these bots could recognize keywords and provide information on tracking shipments.

Intellectual chatbots can actually learn and teach themselves based on responses from interactions.  When you see feedback requests such as “Did this answer your question?” you’re looking at a bot trying to learn more.

Artifical Intelligence (AI) Chatbots

These bots are the most highly programmed, and require a bit of advanced technology.

While all chatbots include an application, a database, and Conversational User Interface, AI services understand free language and remember conversations with specific users in order to jump from one request to another.

A grocery chatbot, for example, might be programmed to help organize a grocery list, recommend replacements for sold-out products, tally up the total, and arrange for a delivery based on a single chat.  These bots are endowed with Natural Language Processing, which is made of one process to teach it how to understand language and process it into data, as well as a process that helps them generate a human-sounding response.

While this may be a lot of information to stir around, knowing the basics of the three types of chatbots can help you decide which bot might be the best assistant for your website.

How Can a Chatbot Help Me?

Well, the first question to ask yourself is: How do customers get answers from questions now?  The typical process for many up-and-coming businesses is that the customer sends an email, perhaps through an auto-fill interface on your website.

That email comes to an inbox staffed by a human, who then has to formulate a tactful, informative response, and reply to the sender.  Then the sender has to receive that email, and if they have follow up questions, reply back and so on.

Sure, this is a vast improvement from the Pony Express, but if you’re a small business, you may have a very low number of staff members who have a very high number of tasks to complete each day.  

A chatbot is a staff member who never sleeps, never takes breaks, is available 24/7, and does not legally require overtime.  A chatbot can engage with numerous customers at once, and reduce bounce by allowing customers to ask questions that might take just a few seconds to resolve.

While there are still many situations that do require an email or a phone call, many of the questions asked via messaging systems are quick interactions, such as restoring a lost password, double-checking the differences between two products, or updating an order.

Think of how much more productive your staff could be if they left the “30 Second Questions” to a bot so they could concentrate on more involved projects.  

How To Set Up a Bot for my Business?

When considering a chatbot as a business solution, there are a few things to keep in mind.  First, there are the types of bots as mentioned above.

Naturally, there will be various levels of cost and programming needs for each type of bot, which must be considered.  You’ll also want to determine what tasks you want your bot to perform.

This could be as simple as texting customers to let them know their packages have shipped, or more complex, including helping customers choose a product or service on your website and arranging for the purchase. Or it can also help you to convert your website visitors into leads.

Choose the skills you need your bot to have first, as this will help you decide which type of bot to use.

Then check out the various platforms for the bot to work from, such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype, Slack, Kik, and more.  Each platform has different user guides for setting up a bot, as well as professionals who are skilled in the programming of these services.  

While the set up and programming of a chatbot is a bit more involved than outlined in this article, you are now familiar with how these services work, and how they can benefit a small business like yours.

Allowing an automated bot to respond to some of the hundreds of “30 Second Questions” you may receive in a day can free up your staff, as well as make sure you don’t lose web traffic from potential customers who need assistance.  Chatbots may not be able to rule the office (yet!), but they can be a useful assistant in a hectic start-up.


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