Guest blog: Why should we care about bots?

The history of bots dates back to the 1950s, when pioneering British Computer Scientist Alan Turing (who would now be 106 years of age!) began wondering whether machines could develop the ability to think like humans.

In 1950, he created a test which is now aptly named The Turing Test. This originally started out with two participants, one human and one computer. A person often referred to as a judge or interrogator would ask a series of questions to determine which participant was human and which was the computer. The Turing Test has now evolved to test a single participant, either a human or  a machine.

Turing pioneered a parameter of intelligence for machines. According to him, if a machine can impersonate a human enough to convince the other person involved that they are interacting with another human being as opposed to a machine, then the machine is intelligent. This may be why we use the term artificial intelligence today.

Joseph Weizenbaum, a German Computer Scientist and Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, took great interest in Turing’s work. So much so that in 1966, he developed the world’s first chatbot, ELIZA. ELIZA was designed to imitate a therapist who would ask open-ended questions and respond accordingly, the aim being to trick the user into thinking it was human.

Since the birth of ELIZA, we have seen a multitude of variations in the form of chatbots. So why, when bots have been around for decades, is there so much hype around chatbots and AI today?

Today, the way people communicate with businesses is evolving at rapid pace. 64% of people choose to message businesses instead of picking up the telephone and a mammoth 94% of customers “dread” contacting customer services. This demonstrates the demand for smart, 24/7/365 customer service.

For the first time since 2015, the use of messenger platforms such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Kik, Viber, Telegram, WeChat and Line took over the use of social media in terms of monthly active users.

The change happened at about the 2.5 billion mark, when the number of people using messaging platforms started to climb sharply. As of the end of 2016, messaging apps boasted around 4 billion global monthly active users to social media’s 3.5 billion.

“We think that you should just be able to message a business in the same way that you message a friend.”

Mark Zuckerberg

Consumers now expect instant customer service delivered in the same way they choose to communicate with their friends and family; through messaging platforms. This is where chatbots come in. Here are just a few examples of how bots can benefit businesses:

  • Increase first contact resolution
  • Reduce overall call agents
  • Vastly reduce triage calls
  • Streamline call routing to appropriate departments
  • Flag high priority calls through sentiment analysis
  • Increase and or create upsell opportunities
  • Profile customers based on chatbot integrations
  • Integrating profiling data into existing CRM’s
  • Automate and streamline post call administration
  • Leverage chat analysis to understand chat trends
  • Streamline customer satisfaction surveying
  • In-built ‘Next Best Action’ recommendations
  • Automate DPA checks

Although these benefits are undeniably transformational for businesses, it’s important to remember that bots are not unbreakable and they can’t do everything that humans can – they’re designed to work in conjunction with humans agents.

By 2020, 55% of major brands will have some kind of AI initiative in place, many of which will be focused on customer service (Gartner).

To learn more about chatbots, check out the We Build Bots resources section. 

Image credit: Mike MacKenzie