The Rise of Truly Intelligent Chatbots
If you think you know chatbots - or virtual assistants to give them a term that covers both voice and text interaction - think again.
They’re developing faster that many thought possible. Artificial intelligence is making them clever at a speed worthy of one of those rapidly maturing aliens in any number of sci-fi movies.
Not so long ago they were basic, fairly dumb automated text-based systems that offered a limited set of answers to a limited number of questions. And often those answers were wrong, or it didn’t understand the question at all.
You might argue Amazon’s Alexa is still a bit like that - “Sorry, I don’t know the answer to that one” - but the most advanced conversational AI is now a self-learning context-aware helper that has a much better understanding of natural language.
Technology giants such as IBM, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle, as well as more specialised companies such as Nuance and Rulai, have taken chatbots by the scruff of the neck.
They are proving particularly useful for weeding out those “high volume, low value” customer interactions – the most common, simple questions that are easily answered. Questions to a bank or telecoms company - “What’s my balance?” or “How much data do I have left?” – can be answered in seconds.
IBM’s Watson Assistant, for example, which powers Brazilian bank Bradesco’s chatbot, is helping the bank’s 60,000 employees answer about 30,000 customer queries a day. As a result, the bank has been able to switch 94% of its customer queries to virtual agents. Customer satisfaction levels have risen, too, the bank says.