Chatbots don’t suck, the word ‘chatbot’ sucks. Here's why...
The ‘bot’ part of the word ‘chatbot’ comes from ‘robot’. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word ‘robot’ I think of the Jetsons or Star Wars. Not to disrespect two great productions, but that’s not exactly what we’re aiming to achieve with customer engagement technology today.
One could argue that robots, and ‘chatbots’ by connotation, are gimmicky and futuristic, difficult to understand, and imperfect.
When a company brings on a new chatbot, half of their staff probably expect to turn up on Monday morning to find a robot sitting at a desk amongst the customer services team. In reality, chatbots are customer engagement tools operated by a cloud based SaaS platform. Yes, there’s lots of complicated stuff going on in the background in order to deliver automated engagement with the person on the other end of the conversation - but there’s no robot - let’s move on folks.
Technology has changed
Chatbots were originally called ‘chatterbots’, back when the technology was poor and much simpler - a decision tree was used to come up with predetermined answers to specific word cues. The human element was simply the chat.
Nowadays the word ‘chatbot’, is used to describe all technology that imitates human conversational interaction even though the technology has evolved considerably (and is constantly changing). Artificial intelligence, using machine learning and deep learning, enables more ‘thoughtful’ and personalised responses. The conversation gets better with time as the technology learns - just like a human. The human-like elements aren’t just the chat, but learning and personalisation too. The word ‘chatbot’ just doesn’t encapsulate the technology!
The outcomes have changed
With ‘chat’ being the focus, a chatbot on first impression would really only help with small talk or frequently asked questions.
It just so happens that the field of artificial intelligence has exploded enabling huge advances in deliverables from many industries - agriculture, medicine, logistics, transport, and customer service, just to name a few. Using artificial intelligence in conversation has evolved this further than just a bot that chats. People can make purchases through these platforms, sign up to new plans, find out news, see what their insurance policy will cover and much much more - all without waiting for a human to pick up the phone or email back.
From an organisations’ perspective, it aims to deliver better user experiences, keep staff and customers happy, increase customer retention and decrease CAC - better experiences, more efficiency. The current technology and future advances truly allow these outcomes to be achieved.
Now that there’s real value in implementing these technologies, ‘chatbot’ just doesn’t quite cut the mustard.
But what to call them?!
So we’ve established that the word ‘chatbot’ doesn’t accurately capture the technology or the outcomes. But what else is there?
You may have heard other terms bandied around like conversational AI, virtual assistant, conversation engine, AI-assisted customer-service, or automated messenger chat. These are all good alternatives, but personally, I like ‘customer engagement platform’ as this captures the function and technology, leaves room for evolution and for all customer conversations to be streamlined.