Just Imagine . . .
Philadelphia, June, 1752. Benjamin Franklin and his son William are poised to make history. Flying a kite with a key tied to the string, they wait for an approaching storm to conduct their electricity experiment. The grey clouds linger on the horizon far too long, so Ben whips out his iPhone and hits the home button: “Miss Siri if you please, when is the storm likely to arrive in our fair city?”
Er, it didn’t exactly happen that way, but let us indulge our collective imaginations for a moment: What if a Renaissance man and Founding Father like good old Ben had a chatbot? That's right. There's a new storm coming that is no longer on the horizon, it's here thanks to the power of AI or artificial intelligence.
Another Type of Storm Is Coming . . .
Chatbots are computer programs that mimic conversation with people using artificial intelligence. If you go on almost any major website today, they often have a chat feature. Many companies have human operators, but quite often you could be chatting with an AI representative.
For simpler tasks, chatbots are more than ideal. For example, GrowthBot. GrowthBot is a gamechanging tool that allows users through their Facebook Messanger app access data regarding everything from how much your competitors are spending on their pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns to showing you a funny cartoon. Yes, really. But what's most important is these pieces of AI need the training of a human in order to be more of service.
The First Chatbot
Chatbots may be older than you think. The first stab at the technology occurred in 1966 at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Joseph Weizenbaum and his team dubbed it ELIZA, which simulated conversation using a pattern-matching algorithm. The effect appeared to simulate normal dialogue, but the program was not able to process the content and put it into a meaningful context.
The Impact Of Chatbots
One of the major effects of chatbot technology is that they are beginning to replace individual apps. The San Francisco-based startup Assist is one such bot: You can call for a cab, order a delivery, or buy tickets to the theater all in a single chat window.
Rather than having to download individual apps for each service, a user can simply send a chat to Assist from inside his preferred chat platform (Facebook Messenger for example).
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Plenty. In March of 2016, Microsoft launched a Twitter chatbot named “Tay”. The program was designed to comb Internet discussion groups, etc. in order to sound like a “millennial.” However, when asked certain questions, the bot's opinions (programed by a human) showed to be a bit controversial. It apparently supported Trump, loved Hitler, and hated on feminism. Microsoft promptly pulled the plug on Tay.
A Solid Success Story
On the other hand, some chatbots are making significant strides in their approach and execution. The Covergirl chatbot actually mimics the personality of 18-year old fashion influencer Killani Hilliker. The marketing results were significant: 51% of customers that engaged with this bot clicked on a website coupon as a result of their conversations.
What Can A Chatbot Do For Me?
All that’s very nice you say, but on a practical level – how can chatbots make a busy person’s life easier? There are now a variety of ways – as well as chatbots – to resolve common desires, objectives and the golden nugget: answering those FAQs!
AI Personal Assistant
Need to relieve yourself from the burden of time-consuming tasks? Let Niki take over. Niki is a chabot that doubles as a personal assistant. Make hotel reservations, order office supplies, and other administrative tasks – all from chatting with this AI bot.
Need a cheap flight to the coast? There’s a chatbot for reserving plane tickets. Just tell the bot the given day/week of your desired flight, and it’ll respond with all the appropriate choices.
Other chatbots are designed to help with calendars, scheduling, and appointments. After locking in to your time zone, these helpful and conversational bots remind you of upcoming phone calls, meetings, etc.
Still other chatbots can help you with creating a new website. Just tell it the industry, and other criteria – and you’re on your way to marketing that new product or service you’ve just created.
Just Regular Old Opinions
Wondering what shirt or dress to wear for that soiree in Manhattan, but your friends just aren’t available? No problem – there’s a chatbot called Swelly you can hit up ask for an opinion. Simply send out a question, and soon enough you’ll have answers texted to you. Conversely, you can answer other users’ questions about dilemmas they’re facing.
Can I Order My Own Chatbot?
Yes. Chatfuel, a California-based company, allows small business owners to create customized, Facebook-ready chatbots in minutes without any expertise.
In the realm of customer service, Converse and Zendesk allow you to create custom chatbots without coding, and then distribute them on a given platform. Then there's also ManyChat which several entrepreneurs are utilizing to build out their own Facebook Messanger chatbot for their online communities.
The Future Of Chatbots...
Chatbots may well be the future of customer service. Although not perfect, great strides have been made just recently. Chatbots are usually much easier to use, and many people prefer them over calling a representative on the phone. Because most chatbots use messenger apps, which most people have on their phones, the transition and impact of this new technology is rapidly reaching its fruition. It may well spell the end for many apps in the near future.
Back to Ben...
Did Ben Franklin’s key-kite actually get struck by lightning? Most modern scholars are shaking their heads. But what if Ben had a chatbot for his printing business? Or for his work on being a radical statesman? The chances are good he would’ve had a huge leg-up on most of his contemporaries.