Intelligent assistants, chatbots, and voice-enabled devices, like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, open a whole new world of natural and intuitive human-machine interaction that businesses can leverage to provide cost-effective services. Digitally transforming your business using chatbots will require your developer team to learn new skills and tactics.
Here are some of the benefits of chatbots, why it matters for your business, and the steps you’ll need to take to deploy them.
First, what are chatbots? Chatbots are software that interact with the user through natural conversations. Instead of a person talking on the other side, a chatbot can recreate the way a human interacts with customers to solve administrative tasks, sales, or frequently-asked questions (FAQs).
This kind of conversational UI experience is changing the way we interact with machines. A conversational UI is a paradigm shift from earlier human interactions with computers that involved syntax-specific commands or clicking icons. Instead, a conversational interface allows people to tell computers what to do in a more natural way through messaging or speaking.
When backed by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and customer data insights, chatbots can do more than just automate tasks. Chatbots also offer a powerful way to personalize the customer experience and strategically upsell products.
Chatbots are digitally transforming all kinds of industries from finance and healthcare to e-commerce and education. Recently, financial chatbots have become smarter with AI. For example, the AIX system uses complex machine-learning algorithms to discover and identify the best deals—according to both price and relevancy—for traders. On a long-term basis, the system ultimately learns the trader’s tendencies and nuances, then applies them to an automated decision-making protocol.
In the future, consumer bots (like Alexa) will help us look for the best deals on whatever product or service we want. This will change the way marketing is done and the way products are sold. And companies that don’t have bots will be left behind.
Here are some of the tangible benefits of chatbots for businesses:
Handle greater complexity and volume than humans. A study suggests that humans can only concentrate on 3–4 things at the same time. If humans try to manage more than this, errors are bound to happen. Chatbots, on the other hand, can simultaneously have conversations with thousands of people. No matter what time of the day it is or how many people are contacting you, every single one of them will be answered instantly.
Automate repetitive tasks. Chatbots now help automate tasks which are to be done frequently and at the right time. Employees can increase their value in a company when they replace their recurrent tasks for analytics tasks. Chatbots can easily do a lot of recurrent tasks such as respond to FAQS, accept payments, bring a query result, create quotes, accept payments, help to do procedures, etc. For example, there are numerous Slack bots which automate repetitive tasks. This helps people save time and increase productivity.
Generate revenue. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, chatbots can sell products, make cross sales, store referred or interested clients, manage subscriptions, etc. Chatbots can give the exact information to a client in a moment that it could determine a sale.
Offer chat interaction consumers prefer. Statistics show consumers prefer chat above any contact medium with companies, so chatbots are the perfect response to this global market trend.
Simple chatbots can be built with bot-engines like Chatfuel or ManyChat on a subscription plan. But for a more skilled, custom bot, your software engineering team will need to create a custom app that will support all the features.
In my courses on Udemy for Business, I teach the key skills you and your developers will need to build your own chatbots. I recommend starting with my Chatbots: Messenger Chatbots and then as a next step taking my Google Assistant Development Course.
Here are the key chatbot skills you and your developers should master:
Fluency with professional tools for natural language understanding like DialogFlow or Wit.ai.
Knowledge of the integration process for your chat platform of choice. DialogFlow, for example, offers integration with Google Assistant, Facebook, Slack, Telegram, Kik, and Viber.
Good understanding of your client/potential user such as their wants, needs, and problems. This will help you meet their needs, create a rich experience for them, and design relevant conversations.
Skills to create a backend app for the bot. Node.js is the preferred language of choice so brushing up on your Node.js skills with the Complete Node.js Developer course on Udemy is a good idea. A backend app will be able to handle user requests and actions like fetching data from a 3rd party service such as a weather service, financial service, or your company’s private APIs. Your backend app will also be able to store and process information gathered from the user as well.
See how a subscription with Udemy for Business can help your software engineering team cost-effectively upskill on chatbots.
Finally, once you’ve mastered the skills to create your own chatbot, here are a few recommendations on how to effectively deploy chatbots at your organization.
Assembling all the key players in advance will contribute to the success of both the setup and maintenance phase. Business and marketing set the goals, UX/UI and creative teams design the experience, and engineering handles the technical implementation.
Defining the goal of the bot usually is the business and marketing team’s responsibility. When defining the goals, you should ask the following questions:
What is the bot’s overall goal? What do you want to achieve?
Why is this the goal?
What are the current solutions we use? What do they lack?
What would the bot do better?
By understanding who will use your bot, you’ll be able to identify the right devices, the kind of persona to create, and how to build the conversational solution. When analyzing the customer, you need to take into consideration a variety of parameters like age, gender, function (employee or customer facing), geography, and language.
It’s about how well you know your client, not how sophisticated your software is. If you focus your chatbot on user needs and wants, your chatbot will shine above the rest.
Decide if your bot will use voice or only text (devices with display). Here are a couple of technology options to choose from:
If you choose both voice and text, your team might be tempted to just convert text to voice. Do not be tempted by this idea! This article covers some differences. In addition, this article covers some good and bad UX practices for development of voice and text.
According to Liraz Margalit, Ph.D., a researcher who analyzes online consumer behavior, when people interact with chatbots, their brain is led to believe that they’re chatting with another human being. If this is true, why not give your bot a personality, so they seem human-like and authentic.
Defining and implementing the functions of the conversational applications is probably the most challenging part of the setup process. It includes defining the use cases based on the goals, creating relevant conversation flows, and connecting to APIs. This will involve everyone from marketing to UX design and software development.
Building the conversational application is where your software engineering team plays the most important role. Whether you’re building solutions from scratch or using some of the available solutions and toolkits, you and your developers will be responsible for translating conversations into code and delivering the business logic across all channels and devices.
After the bot is published, you need good analytics to analyze the bot’s performance. You need to train the bot and change intents and conversation flows based on data analytics. Work in small steps to deploy changes and new functionalities regularly. Key bot metrics to track could be total number of users, total number of user interactions, failure rate, satisfaction rate, and revenue growth.
Finally, bots will change how machines and humans interact (think children growing up with Alexa) and even predict what people could ask or want. By driving costs down and providing AI-driven personalized interaction with your customers, chatbots are increasingly becoming the new face of brands as they more effectively manage front-end customer interaction.
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