Bot Technology: Why Your Business Needs a Chatbot

2016 has seen a new leading trend in the tech community – chatbots. What’s behind the name? A chatter robot or chatbot is a program that simulates a conversation with real users. One of the main tasks of a chatbot is to help businesses interact with their customers through different messenger apps. The simplest example that springs to mind is Siri. We bombard her with questions and if her answers are satisfactory, we really believe that we’re talking to a human being. Chatbots function according to the same pattern. They process human’s message, analyze its keywords, and respond using the scripted replies. The technology can’t be called brand-new. But a chatbot’s ability to access different apps within one interface is what customers need.

Do You Need a Chatbot?

A chatbot will be a good idea if you deal with regular ordering and purchasing. Customers’ questions are inevitable and answering them can be pretty time-consuming. You may need to hire extra staff to ensure that every customer is paid enough of your attention. An optimal solution will be to let the chatbots handle simple situations and commit more tricky questions to humans.

How Chatbots Can Benefit Your Business

Today, many companies use messenger apps (WhatsApp, Viber) to engage more clients. They realize that mobile messaging is a part of our lives and it already influences the way business is done. This is where a chatbot is that technology that brings messaging a step closer to an automated customer service solution.
Businesses can use chatbots to answer FAQ. A chatbot will analyze customers’ messages and respond with the scripted solutions. If the question is complex, a chatbot can pass it on to a customer support representative alerting them that they got a new task. Also, chatbots can conduct customer feedback surveys by sending private messages.
If you run an online store, a chatbot can help your customers decide what they want. Many customers often don’t know what they’re looking for. Search bars are of little use for them in this case. Let’s look at how a chatbot can help a hesitating customer. Through a one-to-one conversation, a bot will gather necessary information and suggest some items.
The ultimate goal for most businesses is to grow their customer base, increase the demand for their products, and make a good profit. And chatbots are a good solution here.

How to Build Chatbots

Before you build a chatbot, you should realize that there are two types of them. One functions according to the scripted algorithm (rules). The other one is based on artificial intelligence (machine learning). The first one responds only if it detects keywords or gets specific commands. The one based on AI reacts not only to commands but also to language. With every next conversation with a human, it gets smarter. You should choose the type depending on the needs of your business.
The technical side of building a chatbot is not as challenging as the issue of user experience. You should aim to build a bot that will prompt a customer to use it.
Here are 9 platforms where you can build your chatbot.

Facebook Messenger

In April 2016, Facebook opened its Messenger platform in beta to let chatbots into the app. Messenger already has 1 billion users. They can easily contact a business (read: a chatbot) within this large social network. 1-800-Flowers.com was one of the first chatbots on Messenger. Using it, you can order flowers or talk to support. It will recognize your address even without comma separation. Software Developers can build chatbots for Messenger using its send/receive API. The combination of UI and conversation create a great experience. The main means of interaction on Messenger is the structured messages. But now Facebook is working on developing natural language after acquisition of Wit.ai. Developers can turn to Facebook’s bot-building partners or build their own bots or use Facebook’s Bot Engine.

Microsoft Bot Framework

This platform allows businesses to interact with their customers via SMS, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Kik, Office 365 mail and other popular services. To build a chatbot, you’ll need its three major components: Bot Builder SDK, Developer Portal and Bot Directory. The Bot Builder SDK is an open source SDK hosted on GitHub. It provides everything you need to build great dialogs within your Node.js-, .NET- or REST API-based bot. The Developer Portal connects your bots to different apps. You just register your bot, configure desired channels, and publish in the Bot Directory.

WIT

Wit.ai is a natural language processing platform that makes your bots conversational. Its Bot Engine allows developers to build bots easily. Just enter what a user may say or ask and it will generate the reply for a chatbot. Also, there is the “Bot says…” button using which you can specify bot’s reply manually. Wit.ai has a clear, well-organized documentation. The API documentation features code samples, SDKs, quick start guides, and a complete Wit app guide. Although Wit.ai was acquired by Facebook, it’s said to remain free and open to all developers.

Kik

American teenagers use this platform extensively to chat and share with their friends. The bots integrated into Kik let brands engage potential (future) customers. Chatbot development engineers can use quality APIs and libraries to optimize chatbots for Kik. Since the target audience is short on money, businesses should not focus on monetizing the users. Their aim should be to make a good impression on Kik community. Kik supports all necessary bot features. Thanks to the buttons you don’t need the keyboard for navigation. Unlike Facebook Messenger, Kik allows bots in group chats.

Slack

First, Slack was a platform meant for facilitating workplace communication. But its well-designed UI and client apps have turned it into a great tool for customer support and online communities. Still, Slack is mainly focused on people at work. It means that it’s not the best place for entertainment or promotional bots. But teams can easily create and use bots in their workflow. Within a Slack channel, bot users can do nearly anything the team will program them to do.

Telegram

The most distinctive feature of this platform is its openness. It has been open for bots for quite a while. Telegram’s Bot API allows you to connect bots to this system. Telegram users can interact with bots by sending messages and requests to them. Bots can be used to get customized news and involve content from external services. Using them, you can create custom tools and build social services. Telegram’s Bots are special accounts operated by software. Users can interact with bots in two ways. The first one is by sending a message and opening a chat with them. The second one is by sending requests directly from the input field by typing the bot’s @username and a query. How can one create a bot? Just talk to a bot and follow its guidelines. Once you’ve created a bot, read the Bot API manual.

GupShup

GupShup was a pioneer in messaging and bots. Today, it is known as one of the most advanced bot platforms. Using it, chat bot development team can quickly build, test, deploy, and track chatbots across messaging channels. The latter include SMS, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Slack, Telegram, Teamchat etc. Guys behind the platform believe that chatbots have created a new paradigm in the tech world. They are becoming a good alternative to apps.

Chatfuel

Following the instructions of Chatfuel, you can build your perfect chatbot. No knowledge of coding is required. More than 230,000 chatbots have been created using Chatfuel. A rich set of tools allows both big publishers and small agencies to build effective chatbots. If you provide some services, use a chatbot to let them know about you or even guide through a process of reservation. The platform is young (it was founded in 2015) but now it creates chatbots on Telegram and Facebook Messenger.

Pandorabots

Chat Bot Developers can build and deploy chatbots using Pandorabots’ AIaaS API. Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS) provides API access to the bot hosting platform and SDKs. It allows Chat Bot development company to integrate conversational interfaces into applications.  Pandorabots has a lot of useful features. Those include customizable AIML content, learning bots, large community, and speech interfaces. It also supports different languages.

Conclusion

As the Kik platform put it: “First there were websites, then there were apps. Now, there are bots”. Businesses need to adjust to the changing world that has entered into the era of mobile phones and messaging. People want to have everything at hand. They want to get relevant news, find answers to their questions, and buy goods and services using their mobile devices. This is where chatbots can help them to do that. Businesses can use chatbots to promote their brands, engage new customers, and increase their profits.