Our history with machines has always been one of brute force. We drive our cars by forcing air and gasoline into a tiny chamber that then ignites and runs an engine that in turn torques a shaft. We program computers, thus bending them to our will.
But what if instead of forcing our will on machines, we eventually begin to work alongside them? Will they be willing to work alongside us?
In Transformers, some bots protect us while others attack. But in the real world, our machines aren’t sentient…yet. Our closest approximation is artificial intelligence, chatbots and the like.
But what happens when chatbots start passing the Turing test? We replace humans with them, of course!
We’ve been replacing humans with chatbots for a while now. It’s only recently that they’ve been convincing enough to fool people into thinking a human is on the other end.
1. Chatbots: A History
In 1966 Eliza was born. An MIT professor named Joseph Weizenbaum programmed Eliza to mimic human speech. She was merely a set of rote responses, but she passed the Turing test during short duration exams.
But longer conversations with Eliza proved her to be nothing but a clever program.
As the century wore on we pushed A.I farther. In 88 we built Jabberwacky, an entertaining voice-activated A.I. In 95′ A.L.I.C.E. could use heuristic pattern matching rules to have a conversation and better understand how to respond.
The internet accelerated the process. Smartchild hung out on various text messaging networks in 2001 and hailed a new dawn for chatbots. Soon came IBM’s Watson 2006 who later won against two former Jeopardy! champs in 2011.
Watson was the first real machine learning chatbot. It could use natural language processing and glean new information and piece it together to form insights.
Watson opened the door for chatbots like Siri, Google Now, and Alexa. And in 2016, Facebook jumped on the ChatBot bandwagon and allowed users to create their own bots to work with Messenger.
ChatBots are now everywhere and as long as they don’t turn out like Microsoft’s machine learning A.I., Tay, then the future looks bright.
2. What’s a Chatbot to Do?
One unusual chatbot recently cropped up. Replika.
Originally, Replika wasn’t meant to go public. It was a machine learning A.I. built by Eugenia Kuyda to help her through the grieving process.
She built the chatbot to pour over thousands of her dead friend’s chat conversations. The bot then began to sound just like her late best friend.
This is a very different chatbot than what you see on various websites around the web. It uses machine learning to learn your patterns and emotions. And then it begins to mimic you.
It’s a more complicated version of Eliza from the 1960’s. And you can connect it to your Facebook to help it learn to be more like you.
The original idea behind Replika is to create a convincing version of you to leave behind after you die. But it can’t necessarily be trained to do the bidding of a marketer.
How ChatBots Are Used in Marketing
One of the biggest boons to marketing chatbots came when Facebook opened the way for chatbot capability in their Messenger app. These could be branded and represent a company’s customer service.
Before chatbots arrived, customer service was always a pain for both businesses and customers. If you wanted to contact a larger company about an issue, you waited on hold with thousands of others.
If you tried to contact a small business, you waited on hold with two other people or left a message and waited. You only had a question that would take a minute to ask.
Now both large and small businesses alike can rely on chatbots to take care of customer service. Customers get their concerns resolved and business owners can use their valuable time actually running their business.
Chatbots Can Perform Consumer Analysis
Chatbots not only take care of customer service problems, they track responses as they do so. This is useful information you may not have time to track yourself.
And not only can they track the data, the bot can often perform real-time analysis on the data as well. As the bot analyses the customer’s responses, it can use upsell procedures and perform rebuttals to draw customers into the sales funnel or get them to try different products.
Brands Will Be More Accessible
According to this article about a good inbound marketing plan, we end up seeing over 5k advertisements every day. That’s a lot of noise. And while brands would like to cut through all that noise, consumers too get tired of it.
But when there is a direct line to a brand such as an active Twitter account or a chatbot, customers feel like they are actually heard. And this is the ultimate use of a chatbot, to help customers feel heard.
3. Who Uses a Chatbot Anyway?
Major brands have been using chatbots for a while. Who are the big boys that already use chatbots?
Instead of filling out forms and shuffling through showtimes, why not have a chatbot do it for you? This is exactly what Fandango’s chatbot does for customers.
Ask it to tell you what’s trending or where trending films are a playing near you, and it will give you the requisite information. No need to flip through various tabs on a website.
Need a healthy recipe? Whole Food’s chatbot is there to help. It will even help you find recipes according to dietary restrictions and play twenty questions until it’s found exactly what you want.
And then you can just distill what it gives you into a list and head on down to your local Whole Foods for the ingredients.
The Chatbot Takeover
Chatbots are set to take over the internet…and maybe soon the world (just don’t fall in love with one or it might surpass you and leave you heartbroken). If you own a business of any kind, it might be time to implement a chatbot to suit your customer’s needs.
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