Ten years ago, the phrase chatbot might have existed but it didn’t come with a lot of fanfare. Instead it came with a lot of frustration and questions about whether they would have a future in the online landscapes to come. Even the chatbots of today have been known to be riddled with problems, like the frequently scoffed at Facebook bots that infuriate more often than not. And yet, companies continue to stand by these bots and continuously improve them in the hopes that someday, they’re going to be a safe supplement for early stage customer service.
The goal and dream for chatbots are relatively clear. They should be able to perform the kind of high-end language functions that a human being can do. Unfortunately for us, the technology is at this point are too limited in their functions to achieve an authentic human conversation with a real life human being.
This doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been a great deal of progress in the realm of chatbot functionality. Ten years ago, the conversation might have derailed after the first couple of exchanges. Now there are some chatbot programs that can see a full human conversation through until the end, satisfactorily handling SOME customer service experiences within an organization. Businesses these days are held far more accountable than businesses of the past. Customers expect a business to be responsive to all needs, day or night. While a chatbot might not be the best customer service answer at 1 in the afternoon, it quickly becomes a Godsend if a customer has a problem during non-business hours and needs a quick answer.
Databases of information help these miracle workers to perform. They’re programmed to perform in a customer service situation the exact way that a human being would behave. In some cases, we’re now seeing that kind of functionality happen in the retail industry, where customer service relationships need to be nourished on a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week basis. When real customer service is out, these “bots” can step in and handle some of the most basic of all customer service exchanges.
When the bot meets a dead end, it can refer the human customer to business hours and who to contact during those hours. Some highly specific problems are sometimes something only a human being can tackle at this point, and for most cases, that’s okay. The bot takes care of the basics (recommended you read) and a human being can step in when the problem is a highly technical one.
The goal of the bot is to one day pass the Turing Test. And there is one chatbot who is currently passing this test on a regular basis. That’s great news for those who want to see chatbots flourish online and someday be able to handle high level and specific technical issues within any type of organization. Using success stories like this, chatbot programmers continue to try to create ever more sophisticated chatbots to tackle tough customer service issues.