What is a Chatbot and how can it Change your Business?
It’s doubtful that many (if any) of our readers are contemplating or pursuing a career in low-level customer service, such as taking orders at a fast food restaurant or working at a call center answering the most mundane questions that consumers can think of. If I’m wrong and that’s exactly the career path you’ve chosen, I apologize for making assumptions. But I also have bad news for you – those jobs won’t be done by humans much longer, Chatbot is the new king, so you might want to rethink your strategy.
Artificial Intelligence, that pie-in-the-sky dream that started with Alan Turing years ago, best imagined in ideas like the computer on the Enterprise in Star Trek or the frightening HAL of 2001: A Space Odyssey, is almost here. And by almost here, I mean it’s just down the block, already turning down the radio and slowing it’s speed to turn into your driveway. Like, really close. But if you instantly think of Big Blue playing chess, you still don’t realize how much AI has creeped into our world. You’ve actually probably been using an early version for a few years now.
That is, if you have a smartphone. Which I’m assuming you probably do. Siri, “OK Google”, Cortana, these are all early versions of what is coming, and they’re now used more widely than many know in the form of what are called chatbot. Chat apps have pretty much taken over the daily lives of millions upon millions of people. Between Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Kik, Slack, and any number of other options, you likely use one to communicate instead of good old sms or (heaven forbid!) actually talking on the phone.
But these chat apps aren’t only populated by humans. Thousands of chatbots are also inhabiting the chat space, taking care of the mundane tasks that humans used to have to do all on their own. Like taking your Taco Bell or Burger King order, or telling you what’s playing at the local movie theater. They’re everywhere now, they’re getting better at what they do, and they’re replacing the need for humans in low-level customer service roles. Pretty soon, they could move well beyond low-level.
Chatbots are, as I’ve said, the precursor to full-blown AI applications that will eventually be virtually indistinguishable from humans when it comes to interaction. Right now they are limited in scope. For instance, how much intelligence does it require to take a pizza order? Pick a size, pick a crust, pick your toppings, and bam – order taken. Which is why many pizza places are already starting to use a chatbot to replace teenagers at the counter doing the same thing for more money.
Surprisingly, chabots are also pretty inexpensive to deploy, which is why the business is booking right now. Almost any small business can afford to launch a chatbot to handle answering questions like “when will my order be delivered” or “what hours are you open”. They can even be used to boost sales, and before long they’ll be able to recognize the emotional state of the human their interacting with and respond accordingly.
So if your dream of being a McDonald’s cashier has been shattered by this revelation, maybe you should learn how to code chatbots. It’s one of the most explosive opportunities ion technology right now, and it’s just getting started.