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How chatbots can improve your applications and business

Eighty percent of businesses want chatbots by 2020, with mainstream adoption moving beyond the familiar customer service use cases by 2021. Chatbot capabilities are being added to all areas of business, including applications.

While we’re sure you’re familiar with chatbot technology, we’d like to give a very quick overview and then really dive in to the many ways chatbots add value to applications (and your business).

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is a software program that is written to mimic either written or spoken word to create a conversation and/or interaction with a human. While chatbots have historically sounded very robotic and been rather limited in their capabilities, the technology is advancing. You may even find yourself unsure if you’re interacting with a human or a bot these days.

The main technology behind chatbot development is Natural Language Processing (NLP). NLP allows chatbots to process the information (words) presented to them through a series of algorithms.

These algorithms not only identify what the user has said, but they also interpret the information and infer what the user wants. The chatbot responds based on analysis and inferences, hopefully in an appropriate way.

Of course, the technology is not perfect, and there may be occasions when the chatbot is unable to determine what the user wants. These instances can be accounted for within the system, teaching the chatbot when to escalate to a human.

Machine learning is also being added to the equation, making chatbots smarter by the day. Smart bots bring in someone who has the skill to answer the customer’s question. Better yet, the human agent is provided with a full transcript of the chatbot conversation, so customers do not have to repeat themselves. The AI chatbot can even continue to help the human agent, searching internal and external databases for useful information and presenting it to the human agent in real time.

As chatbots have advanced, they are being integrated in many areas of business, particularly in mobile and web applications. Chatbots in applications provide real-time communication with the end user—something customers have come to expect (especially for those operating a service-based business). This goes well beyond basic customer service queries, improving customer engagement throughout their journey.   

The benefits of adding chatbots to your application

Reduced costs

Chatbots are expected to cut business costs by $8 billion by 2021. Additionally, companies using chatbots for customer service have reported a 33 percent savings per voice engagement.

The reason is simple. Chatbots free skilled workers to work on solving the more difficult  problems, while the bots field the easy questions.

Improved user engagement

Your app is only as good as your users deem it. Whether your app is used for ordering food or updating sports fans of the latest stats, a chatbot can complete these specific tasks easily and quickly.

A chatbot in your app creates a truly interactive experience that keeps users interested and coming back because they have had useful conversations.

Better service on mobile

Integrating a chatbot in your mobile app allows you to serve customers more quickly. Chatbots assist customers in the buying process, answering simple questions on items and even making suggestions if a particular item is unavailable. Customers can move through the sales process more quickly without taking up the time of human agents.

If your app provides a service rather than sells goods, the same holds true. Chatbots answer user questions in real-time, providing a higher level of service, helping users help themselves.

Improved usability

Whether a chatbot is setting a personal reminder or helping the user analyze statistical information, this technology makes it easier for your users to get to the desired result from your app.

And, when it comes down to it, that’s what apps are all about. We fundamentally believe that a user-friendly app is a successful app.

Personalized service and messages

Adding a chatbot to your app allows you to send personalized messages to users. These messages can fill a variety of needs, ranging from informational to urgent.

For example, a chatbot can notify a user if a product they are waiting on is now in stock. In a more urgent scenario, a chatbot in a banking app can immediately alert a user to suspicious activity, allowing the user to take action right away.

Chatbots can also use customer history such as past purchases to deliver personalized greetings when a user opens your app.

Improved sales

If your app sells products or services, chatbots can help drive sales. Customers may not want to call or email for support, but when a chatbot pops up and can easily answer questions, they are more willing to engage.

Chatbots can be especially helpful when customers are comparing products, as the chatbot can quickly identify differences, guiding the customer in the decision process. Chatbots can also reduce cart abandonment, reminding customers they still have items in their cart and encouraging them to complete the checkout process.

Improved customer satisfaction

Chatbots are not only good for your application, but customers like them as well. Users appreciate the 24/7 access of chat. In fact, more than half of the respondents of a recent survey said they actually prefer a chatbot over a human if it will save them up to ten minutes. Of course, the chatbots must be helpful and should not sound like a robot.

Gain valuable information about your users

Chatbots gather data about your users—data that provides actionable insights into your application. Understand how users are engaging with your app, what kinds of questions they have, and more. This information can be used to form plans for future iterations of your application, making sure updates meet the needs of end users.

Tips for getting started with chatbot development

When we work with clients on custom mobile application development, we build many components and capabilities from scratch. But there are instances when it makes more sense to integrate tools that have already been built, and this is certainly the case when it comes to chatbots.

There are a number of leading chatbot platforms on the market, including:

  • Flow XO—A complete solution for building, hosting, and deploying chatbots.
  • ChatterOn—Build your chatbot quickly from pre-built tools, while also having customization options. This tool also has some machine learning algorithms which are very useful.
  • Wit.ai—This tool helps developers build bots that understand human commands and interactions. This is a good place to start for developers looking for more advanced chatbot functionality.
  • Botkit—More than a chatbot builder, Botkit is a community of developers. It includes open source libraries and tested code from experienced chatbot builders.

If you are building a chatbot for your application, there are a few factors to keep in mind:

Define a purpose

While chatbots are “in,” make sure you’re adding this technology to your application for good reason. It should enhance the user experience, streamlining the user journey while adding value or enjoyment. Ask yourself what the purpose of the chatbot is and will your users truly benefit from implementation before you go down this road.

Build a strong content foundation

Chatbots rely on the information provided to them to assist customers and users. This information must be kept up to date if your chatbot is going to be able to meet users’ needs six months or a year from now.

The chatbot needs access to all critical application information, and it should be able to get it without manual intervention. This is where the application development team is important, making sure the chatbot has access to all required data.

Plan to evolve

Chatbot technology is still advancing. Just as your application is constantly being updated to better meet end users’ needs, so must your chatbot grow and develop.

For example, you may start with a text-based chatbot and then progress to a voice-based technology.

Chatbots have been around for some time, but their evolution has turned them into an exciting new capability that is making applications more powerful, engaging, and successful. When properly implemented, a chatbot is a prime way to make your app more valuable, which directly translates to more downloads, better retention rates, and stronger revenue numbers—making bots something worth chatting about.