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The chatbot evolution: From simple interactions to sentient-like conversations

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By Noa Bar Shay, Senior Partnerships Account Director at Rakuten Viber

Chatbots are a relatively new technology that is fast becoming increasingly commonplace as businesses seek out new ways to communicate with people online. You can see them in a variety of roles, from education to entertainment. Since their creation, chatbots have revolutionized business-to-customer conversations by providing a quick and easy way for people to get the answers they need without human operators and long waiting time. As digital assistants become more and more ubiquitous, it’s no surprise that chatbots are following suit. 

Let’s look at the evolution of chatbots, how they’ve changed over the years, and how you can use chatbots today.

How Chatbots Came to Be

The history of chatbots dates back to the early days of computing—as early as 1966. Meet ELIZA, one of the first chatbots and the first program of its kind, created by Joseph Weizenbaum. ELIZA was designed to mimic human conversation by using a script of pre-written responses. ELIZA could respond to questions in natural language and appeared to hold conversations with users—it has greatly influenced the development of artificial intelligence and natural language processing.

A few other noteworthy personalities in the chatbot world had been Jabberwacky, ALICE, and Ultra Hal followed. Jabberwacky, started in 1981, was one of the first chatbots to use natural language processing, while Ultra Hal was created as a personal assistant and could hold conversations with us humans through speech synthesis.

Today, chatbots are getting even more sophisticated. AI chatbots can learn from past conversations and adjust their responses accordingly, allowing them to have more natural and realistic conversations with people. Modern chatbots are limited only by the imagination of those who create them and the AI training data.

Using chatbots to connect with customers

Businesses understand that staying ahead of the curve and using the latest technology is key to keeping the edge. Chatbots are a type of conversational UI that allows users to communicate with brands through natural language, like in a conversation with a friend. As such, chatbots are a great way to provide customers with the information they need, when they need it, and in a format that is easy to access and read. They are perfect for providing FAQs, updates, and other information that the audience may need from a brand, especially in conversational settings, such as in a messaging app.

Here are just a few advantages that chatbots can offer a business

24/7 availability: customers can get in touch with a business anytime, day or night, even when the brand’s customer service team is offline. This is especially helpful for businesses operating in different time zones or with customers in different parts of the world. This means that customers can always get the help they need, whenever they need it.

Personalized service: using data from brand’s CRM or CDP systems, chatbots can provide a personalized experience for each customer. For example, brands on Viber can program them to offer tailored recommendations so that they answer product-related questions based on each customer’s individual needs. This enables businesses to offer personalized service at scale.

Cost-effective: chatbots can help reduce customer service costs by automating tasks that would otherwise need to be handled by human customer service agents and freeing up support staff to handle more complex or personal interactions. Chatbots can handle multiple chats at once, so customers don’t have to wait in line or on hold: they can get the assistance they need right away without waiting for a human agent to become available, which increases customer satisfaction—without having to double the support staff.

Increased efficiency: chatbots help brands handle customer queries more efficiently by automating repetitive tasks such as customer service inquiries, order tracking, and appointment scheduling. This frees up the customer service team to focus on more complex issues, resulting in improved service. 

Examples of services a chatbot can power, courtesy of Rakuten Viber

Chatbots: industry use scenarios

Let’s look at how chatbots can be used in different industries.

For banks, it is a great way to offer clients 24/7 assistance and support, as well as to provide information and updates about banking services. Chatbots can be programmed to answer frequently asked questions, show the closest branch locations, and even help with simple services. They’re a powerful tool to engage with the clients and increase loyalty and retention. 

For a retail business, the importance of first-class customer service is obvious. Because customer experience can often determine whether they come back, it’s essential for retailers to provide fast, efficient, and friendly assistance whenever possible. Unfortunately, this can be difficult to achieve in a world where customers are constantly on the go. That’s where chatbots can help by being available round-the-clock, even when the actual stores are closed. This can help increase customer loyalty and improve brand reputation. 

For e-commerce, chatbots can help increase sales through upselling and cross-selling, providing personalized recommendations, and even showing products in 3D or letting customers “try on” clothes or test a product before they buy it. 

Enhanced customer experience: example from Viber Chatbots

The bottom line is that chatbots can be an invaluable asset to any customer service team, but they won’t work to their highest potential if they are too complicated or are perceived as impersonal, so it’s important to choose and develop a chatbot that works best for your specific business goals and audience. For example, the chatbot service provided by Viber lets you build your chatbot and integrate it with existing systems. The chatbot can be trained to respond to customer queries in a variety of ways. It can also be used to send automated messages to customers in response to specific events. Viber Chatbots can be programmed to send personalized messages at the right time and with the perfect content. 

The Future of Chatbots, What to Expect

As artificial intelligence continues to evolve, so do chatbots. Having started as simple text-based algorithms, modern chatbots are able to hold conversations, and can even simulate emotional responses. Many companies see the future of commerce and customer service in conversations—messaging apps, in particular, are well-positioned to realize the potential and importance of good conversations. This is why many messengers, such as Viber, prioritize developing chatbots that can offer businesses many advantages, including improving customer service efficiency, reducing costs, and freeing staff to work on creative tasks. 

Noa Bar Shay is the author of The chatbot evolution: From simple interactions to sentient-like conversations. She is currently the Senior Partnerships Account Director at Rakuten Viber.



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