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Chatbots: Making lives easier for humans

Chatbots: Making lives easier for humans
Despite all the pros, chatbots are still not perfect, and a human backup is still a necessity

Over the past few days, Chatbots have been the talk of the town after a Google engineer claimed that the company’s most cutting-edge system has developed human-like feelings.

A chatbot is a computer programme that has been specifically designed to emulate and react to human speech.

But how lifelike are these amazing products now available? These sophisticated virtual assistants are now present everywhere.

Be it Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa or even an ordinary retailer’s website, around 80% of them use chatbots. They either respond via written text or verbally.

The growth of chatbots has been very fast and has become the go-to option for most brands to interact with their customers.

Sabina Goranova, a student at York University in Toronto, is one of those people who use chatbots on an everyday basis.

Sabina uses Alexa at home and when it comes to her university she consults the institution’s very own Savy system via her mobile phone whenever she wants information about the college.

Sabina said, “I appreciate the convenience of chatbots. I already used Alexa to save time, so Savy is another tool in my toolkit.”

IMB made Savy for York University and its students. Be it career advice or daily lunch menus, Savy comes up with an answer immediately.

French chatbot firm Mindsay’s chief executive Guillaume Laporte said, “Chatbots are beginning to mimic true human behaviour, but with robots essentially.”

Mindsay is now a part of Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent virtual assistant company Laiye. The firm has very top profile customers that include Nike, Walmart, Avanti amongst others.

“Chatbots are beginning to mimic true human behaviour, but with robots essentially,” Guillaume said.

He added that compared to what chatbots were 10 years ago, now they are 10 times better. Following the initial programming, with the assistance of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, they can comprehend and understand what the user is typing or saying as a result of which they know what to reply in return.

Despite all the pros, Guillaume cautioned that chatbots are still not perfect, and a human backup is still a necessity.

“So the understanding rate differs between different companies and different industries. It can vary between 30% and 90%,” he added.

Jim Smith, professor in interactive artificial intelligence, at the University of the West of England, shared his views about chatbots.

He argues that it is crucial to distinguish between task-oriented agents that perform a service and agents who are supposed to engage in a more in-depth conversation when it comes to their capacity to appear human-like.

Smith said, “The former are the ones most used, and they can work really well. They are taught using masses and masses of text. So, if they are in a call centre, and they know the sort of question they will be asked, they can achieve human-like levels of [customer] service. And it is probably important, for the sake of transparency, that it is made clear to the caller that he or she is not talking to a human.”

Smith pointed out that chatbots analyse statistics to determine what they should probably say to you, due to which errors may happen.

“For chatbots that are expected to have more of a conversation with you, they can seem convincing to start, but they are doing statistics to work out what they likely should be saying to you next, and errors can keep multiplying. And ultimately if the systems get very good, say in 10 years [time], it is difficult to measure what is a human-like performance. I mean, pet parrots appear to be talking to you! And I’m not sure that it is meaningful to ever say that a chatbot is sentient. After all, you can turn it off and on again, it is not a living thing,” he added.

Prof Sandra Wachter, a senior research fellow in AI at Oxford University, stated that chatbots are presently “still far away from appearing lifelike, or humanlike”.

“But as we move forward, we also need to think about ethical responsibilities. At first glance, chatbots might give the impression that we are chatting with actual humans. And we have an ethical responsibility to avoid this confusion because it can lead to potential harm. In the ‘best’ case, it merely leads to frustration when chatting with the bot – due to their limited functionality. In the worst case, we might trust them and share information that we otherwise would not,” she added.

Meanwhile, IBM’s global chief AI officer Seth Dobrin, emphasised the benefits of chatbots.

He specifically mentions how they were used more frequently to communicate important health messages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said, “Take the National Health Service Wales for example. In 2020, they launched a virtual agent, Ceri, to answer common questions from citizens in a conversational tone, on topics ranging from isolating safely and effectively, protecting yourself and family members, managing symptoms like fatigue, advice on how to deal with anxiety and uncertainty, and more.”

Despite all the positive factors, some people still hate chatbots and prefer interacting with humans. Psychologist, Stuart Duff of UK practice, Pearn Kandola, says he comprehends this view.

Stuart said, “Many people dislike chatbots for a number of reasons, but especially when they try too hard to be human. Transparency, empathy and the ability to pick up on subtle tones in our communication are all important ingredients in building trust with other people. These are the reason why we can quickly ‘click’ with someone. But it is also why we put up our guard, if people don’t understand our perspective or empathise with us.”

Though chatbots have advanced over the years, according to him, “they are still basic programmed communicators, prone to mistake essential words, tone, and humour in what we are saying.”

The best chatbots of 2022
Forbes had recently come up with the list of ‘Best Chatbots of 2022’. Here is the list.

HubSpot Chatbot Builder
People can get started with HubSpot Chatbot Builder for free as part of the Sales Hub. It’s a superb solution for companies looking to automate processes like lead qualification and scheduling meetings. There is no need for coding knowledge to use the chatbot creator. One may design chatbot windows that complement the design of the website or product using the HubSpot Chatbot Builder. Create data that is directly collected from the customer relationship management to create natural chatbot sequences and even tailor the messages (CRM).

Resolution Bot, the most recent version of Intercom’s chatbot, has configurable pricing, with the exception of very small organisations. If your company falls under that category, you’ll be required to pay at least USD 74 monthly when billed annually. One will benefit from integrations, dynamic audience targeting, unique email templates, and logo customization. Product tours, WhatsApp, and surveys are add-ons. Its larger business solutions come with support, engagement, and conversion features.

Drift is famously known as a sales artificial intelligence (AI) bot. It was developed to assist businesses in scheduling meetings and qualifying leads. A customer success manager, strategy reviews, onboarding, and chat assistance are included with each plan. Bring in additional team members to covertly assist with a transaction utilising Deal Room with Drift. Additionally, it also helps in the training of new sales agents. It integrates more than 500 third-party products via Zapier and has more than 50 native integrations.

Salesforce Einstein
Any company that uses Salesforce, will have to check out Salesforce Einstein. It’s a chatbot that’s developed to help you get the best out of Salesforce. Without ever leaving the comfort of the CRM, the bot can use it to find out information on leads and customers. Although it can be utilised for sales and marketing duties, Einstein works best for customer service. Businesses can even build their own bots using the Einstein Bot Framework.

For anyone who works on the WordPress site, WP-Chatbot is the one that has to be looked into. It is a chatbot that enables you to interact with website visitors via Facebook Messenger. Without having to learn how to code, one can use it to develop automatic or manual chatbots because it is plug-and-play. With WP-Chatbot, users’ Facebook inboxes retain conversation history, eliminating the need for a separate CRM. The team members can also view conversations and communicate directly on Facebook by using the company page.

Although LivePerson is most well-known for its live chat features, it can do so much more. It is an omnichannel messaging platform that aids companies in connecting with customers across various media. LivePerson stands out because it emphasises self-learning and Natural Language Understanding (NLU). It also provides features like engagement insights that assist organisations in determining how to interact with customers more efficiently. Businesses may build bots and message flows using its Conversational Cloud without ever writing any code.

Genesys DX
A chatbot platform called Genesys DX is well known for its Natural Language Processing (NLP) abilities. Businesses can use it to build bots that can comprehend human language and respond accordingly. Genesys DX stands out from others due to its emphasis on engagement. Businesses can use features like interaction history to better understand how customers interact with their chatbots.

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