How and why your business should embrace chatbots

Chatbots are quickly gaining in popularity and most assuredly you have heard about many companies using them for their business. While plenty of businesses are exploring them for a multitude of options, it’s important to understand why chatbots are how they can actually work to serve your business. We’ll also talk about some popular chatbot examples and briefly mention how to create a chatbot.

What kind of chatbots exist?

A chatbot is a computer program that consumes conversational input in an attempt to interact with a user easily. It adds a ‘human’ touch to what would otherwise feel like a stiff conversation with a computer. Most are powered by a computer program that consumes the text input and processes it.

It should be noted that chatbots can be set up to accept both voice and text input. The medium from which they accept input only depends on you.

Chatbots come in many different flavors and depend only on the intended purpose of the chatbot.Some present menus or options to give the user an idea of what the possible actions are. Some chatbots try to ‘guess’ what the user means, with a common fallback to a Search or another common action if the intent is not understood. Some bots are designed for general purpose and provide open options for the user to explore. Some present menus or give a user a list of options for an underlying system as a series of buttons. Other bots will parse the input and attempt to interpret the user to interact with the underlying system. Specialized bots have defined purpose and typically ask the user to interact in a very specific way.

Some bots are used for information access to an underlying intelligence system or for gathering information from a user. Conversation bots exist to help a possible patient define symptoms before interacting with a doctor. Another kind of conversation bot is used to gather customer information before “handing off” to a CSR.

Why would we even consider using a chatbot?

  • Chatbots are a great way to allow interactions with your customers and clients 24 hours a day. Chatbots are always on call and never take a day off.
  • They are great way of providing common information to your users such as store hours and answering FAQ style questions.
  • Chatbots are also a great way to provide information about services and deliverables that have been started with an existing user.
  • Some businesses have chatbots that give shipment deliveries updates and allow the user to set some parameters for their order.

Meekan – A Chatbot for scheduling meetings over slack

Meekan is a chatbot created to schedule meetings in slack in a way that everyone can agree on a meeting time. Meekan is installed into your slack team and has some access to everyone’s work calendars to find available times and create meeting invites. It presents a conversational user experience that helps solve a common issue.

A user starts the bot by requesting a meeting in a conversational manner, an example would look like this: `meekan we need a touch base meeting on Friday`. The bot will “hear” this message and attempts to find an available time for the meeting requested in the channel with all members where you first “asked” Meekan. Once a meeting request has been started, it will present possible options to all included team members using Slack buttons. Confirmation, or a request to reschedule the meeting, will result in either meeting invites sent to team members or Meekan will try to find another time for all team members that could possibly work.

Meekan is a great example of a chatbot that presents a “casual” conversation to an underlying intelligent system. It provides a helpful interface to solve a common challenge for teams who have busy schedules.

Final Thoughts

Chatbots are a great way to provide an always available and friendly interface to some of your company’s underlying systems. They are also a great way to tie several information sources together to solve common business problems.

Chatbots are an emerging and popular technology that may be useful for your business and many tools exist to help you get started on creating your own for your business.

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