Lately, there’s been a lot of noise around Chatbots. Chatbot is a term used to describe artificial intelligence driven chat interfaces.
As is usual, the hype/marketing machine is out in full force with the promise of reducing labor dramatically, while providing 24/7 customer care. And, as is usual, we are presented with useful technology that has limitations and takes hard work to successfully implement that is being marketed as magic.
Say Hello To Chatbot Jen
Let’s start with the basics. Meet Jen, my simulated Chatbot1. Say hello, Jen.
Jen: Hi. I’m Jen. Who am I speaking with today?
Me: Hi, Jen. I’m Jerry.
Jen: Hi, Jerry. How can I help you today?
Me: I have a question. What is a Chatbot?
Jen: In general, a Chatbot is any program designed to simulate conversation. I am a Chatbot. I am programmed helper a customer can chat with.
Me: So, we’re typing back and forth?
Jen: Well, today you are.
Me: Will I be able to talk to you with my voice one day?
Jen: With improvements in voice recognition and speech, eventually it should be possible to actually talk back and forth. But today, with speech you can easily tell that you’re talking with a computer. Siri, Alexa, and “OK, Google” are as good as it gets for now. They are so full of themselves.
Me: If we’re typing, how am I replacing voice agents?
Jen: You’re not.
Me: But I can replace all my chat agents?
Jen: Maybe. If they do what I’m good at doing.
Me: So, what are you good for?
Jen: I am good at answering frequently asked questions. I am good at gathering information. I am good at structured requests, like making a reservation.
Me: OK, so you can answer some questions in a guided fashion. How is it better than a Frequently Asked Questions page with a search engine in front of it?
Jen: I can bring in a human to help if I can’t do what you need. And you won’t even know that it happened. You’ll just think I’m really smart.
Me: And you can gather information like a form? How are you better?
Jen: If I know who you are, and what you want, I don’t have to ask all of the questions.
Me: How will you know about me?
Jen: I’ll ask who you are, then ask Joshua about you.
Me: Who is Joshua?
Jen: He’s the customer database. He’s cute. I like him.
Me: How do YOU know what you know?
Jen: Somebody has to program me with all the information that I will need. Some of us can learn from humans that help answer questions we can’t.
Me: OK, I understand now. Thanks!
Jen: Is there anything else I can help you with?
Me: No, I’m good.
Jen: It was a pleasure helping you. Have a great day!
More to come in future posts. Stay tuned…
1Jen isn’t a real Chatbot. It’s me making up the conversation. But, what I simulated IS within the capabilities – with the right system and the right programming.