Do the nature of our services and size of our customer base warrant an investment in a more efficient and automated customer service response? How can we offer a more streamlined experience without (necessarily) increasing costly human resources?  Amtrak’s website receives over 375,000 daily visitors, and they wanted a solution that provided users with instant access to online self-service.
The promise of artificial intelligence (AI) has permeated across the enterprise giving hopes of amping up automation, enriching insights, streamlining processes, augmenting workers, and in many ways making our lives as consumers, employees, and customers a whole lot better. Senior management salivates over the exponential gains AI is supposed to deliver to their business. Kumbayah […]
Keep it conversational: Chatbots help make it easy for users to find the information they need. Users can ask questions in a conversational way, and the chatbots can help them refine their searches through their responses and follow-up questions. Having had substantial experience with personal assistants on their smartphones and elsewhere, users today expect this level of informal interaction. When chatbot users are happy, the organizations employing the chatbots benefit.
Having a conversation with a computer might have seemed like science fiction even a few years ago. But now, most of us already use chatbots for a variety of tasks. For example, as end users, we ask the virtual assistant on our smartphones to find a local restaurant and provide directions. Or, we use an online banking chatbot for help with a loan application.
“Today, chat isn’t yet being perceived as an engagement driver, but more of a customer service operation[…]” Horwitz writes for Chatbots Magazine. “Brands and marketers can start collecting data around the engagement and interaction of end users. Those that are successful could see higher brand recognition, turning user-level mobile moments into huge returns.”
This means our questions must fit with the programming they have been given.  Using our weather bot as an example once more, the question ‘Will it rain tomorrow’ could be answered easily. However if the programming is not there, the question ‘Will I need a brolly tomorrow’ may cause the chatbot to respond with a ‘I am sorry, I didn’t understand the question’ type response.
[In] artificial intelligence ... machines are made to behave in wondrous ways, often sufficient to dazzle even the most experienced observer. But once a particular program is unmasked, once its inner workings are explained ... its magic crumbles away; it stands revealed as a mere collection of procedures ... The observer says to himself "I could have written that". With that thought he moves the program in question from the shelf marked "intelligent", to that reserved for curios ... The object of this paper is to cause just such a re-evaluation of the program about to be "explained". Few programs ever needed it more.
A chatbot works in a couple of ways: set guidelines and machine learning. A chatbot that functions with a set of guidelines in place is limited in its conversation. It can only respond to a set number of requests and vocabulary, and is only as intelligent as its programming code. An example of a limited bot is an automated banking bot that asks the caller some questions to understand what the caller wants done. The bot would make a command like “Please tell me what I can do for you by saying account balances, account transfer, or bill payment.” If the customer responds with "credit card balance," the bot would not understand the request and would proceed to either repeat the command or transfer the caller to a human assistant.
This was a strategy eBay deployed for holiday gift-giving in 2018. The company recognized that purchasing gifts for friends and family isn’t necessarily a simple task. For many of their customers, selecting gifts had become a stressful and arduous process, especially when they didn’t have a particular item in mind. In response to this feeling, eBay partnered with Facebook Messenger to introduce ShopBot.

This is the big one. We worked with one particular large publisher (can’t name names unfortunately, but hundreds of thousands of users) in two phases. We initially released a test phase that was sort of a “catch all”. Anyone could message a broad keyword to their bot and start a campaign. Although we had a huge number of users come in, engagement was relatively average (87% open rate and 27.05% click-through rate average over the course of the test). Drop off here was fairly high, about 3.14% of users had unsubscribed by the end of the test.
WeChat was created by Chinese holding company Tencent three years ago. The product was created by a special projects team within Tencent (who also owns the dominant desktop messaging software in China, QQ) under the mandate of creating a completely new mobile-first messaging experience for the Chinese market. In three short years, WeChat has exploded in popularity and has become the dominant mobile messaging platform in China, with approximately 700M monthly active users (MAUs).
One pertinent field of AI research is natural language processing. Usually, weak AI fields employ specialized software or programming languages created specifically for the narrow function required. For example, A.L.I.C.E. uses a markup language called AIML, which is specific to its function as a conversational agent, and has since been adopted by various other developers of, so called, Alicebots. Nevertheless, A.L.I.C.E. is still purely based on pattern matching techniques without any reasoning capabilities, the same technique ELIZA was using back in 1966. This is not strong AI, which would require sapience and logical reasoning abilities.
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