Chatbots are currently the most popular applications of artificial intelligence technologies. They are commonly used in the B2C function and they are beginning to transform the B2E and B2B organizational spaces. It is now believed by the majority of global executives that AI will enable their companies to gain competitive advantage as they are expected to cut business costs by $8 billion by 2022. That is why most businesses (80%) want chatbots by 2020.
Adweek recently asserted that “chatbots can make as many sales as humans”. Every month I see more organizations than even switch over to marketing bots and teaching their pay per click teams to also configure bots as part of the marketing automation process. But it is not just the private sector that embraces the technology. As one global supplier of governments said in a recent news article: “We are presented with a set of advantages that the combination of AI and chatbots deliver, which transcends borders and industries. I noticed that in particular in working with a multi-sector and multi-lingual operation: the feedback we obtain from governments and industries is rather similar.” (Avi Benezra on CEOWorld)
With the growing number of chatbot applications, chatbot analytics, chatbot builders, social messaging platforms and other chatbot-related technologies, it is easy to be overwhelmed. However, with the right approach, brands can go through the endless available options and come out a winner with the best chatbot platform suited to their needs.
An enterprise should have readily available and accessible chatbots across numerous channels. Chatbots should also be integrated with internal business systems especially Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems.
A chatbot is not something that an enterprise just begins out of the blue. It is a strategy. Basically, the enterprise should assess the value that it really needs from a chatbot and its technological capability to handle bots. It can only decide on a single-task bot if its needs are simple. If the enterprise’s needs and scope are more demanding, it will need a chatbot platform.
What to Look for When Assessing Chatbot Platforms
Chatbot platforms differ in terms of AI, ML, and NLP capabilities and the technical ability needed to yield successful results. What enterprises really need is a platform that will increase and facilitate flexibility, scalability and speed in order to support their employees and customers. There are many bot-building platforms with many features and enterprises have to assess and determine the features they need. Enterprises should therefore assess each platform for the following requirements.
1. Determine Budget and Required ROI
Before looking at individual capabilities of chatbot platforms, an enterprise must determine its budget and required return on investment (ROI). This analysis will eliminate platforms that are beyond budgetary reach and those that do not bring the desired ROI.
2. Different Chatbots Performing Several Tasks
The platform under consideration should offer pre-built and ready to install bots for particular functions such as customer support and lead generation. These bots should be customizable to suit business needs such as customer interactions, business offerings and answers to FAQ. It is wise for an enterprise to have several bots that allow them to track and update many functions at once. At least the enterprise should have a single-task chatbot and a multi-purpose chatbot that communicates with many internal systems and can complete many tasks within each system.
3. Multi-channel Capability
The enterprise should make sure that the chatbot platform under consideration can deploy bots to many channels such as the website, mobile apps, Facebook Messenger, etc. The user interface should be customized for each channel. In fact, the user should be able to click on a particular channel and be taken to an interface for that channel. Lastly, the bots should be able to interact with other corporate tools such as Skype.
4. Natural Language Processing and Speech Support
Enterprises should determine whether a chatbot platform incorporates Natural Language Processing (NLP) training. The bot should be able to maintain accurate interactions and conversations using both speech and text. One that can do both will provide the best results in terms of understanding user intent and giving relevant content in reply.
5. The Chatbot Should be Intelligent
For a platform to be considered, it should have intelligent chatbots that understand, remember and endlessly learn from the data and information that they collect from each customer interaction. It should also be able to maintain the context of each customer interaction and use Machine Learning to continue to develop and perfect its capability for processing natural language.
6. Can the Platform Share Messages Across Functions?
A platform should be able to share messages between bots, users and many internal systems. It should also be able to categorize messages.
7. Flexibility is Required
The platform should provide users with a built-in capability to design, build and customize a chatbot based on the channel it will be deployed to, the tasks it will perform, etc. It should also provide an option to restart bot development from scratch or reuse components that have been developed. During bot development the user should be able to test the chatbot.
8. Seek Industry Experience
The investment in chatbots is too high for an enterprise to make mistakes. It is better for enterprises to engage with the right technology and platform providers.
When enterprises assess available platforms for all these features, they will come up with one that meets all the requirements.
Popular bots exist on bot stores. I spotted bot developers like Shaikh Abdul Qadir with an array of bots, the CareMotto bot for healthcare on the SnatchBot store, with a string of high-end bots launched by Avi Benezra and his team of engineers. You also have Botsify, Sequel, TARS, Chatteron and so other platforms that are opting to give turnkey solutions. Evaluating your options will take time – but enjoy the experience and be inquisitive!