Conversational apps and services, such as Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana have managed to find a way into peoples’ everyday lives as a way of finding answers to questions, quickly.
These conversational apps, also called ‘Bots’ which are a form of Artificial Intelligence (AI), are not limited to just answering questions, but can, using ‘natural conversation’ enable users to interact with services (be it ordering a pizza without looking at a traditional menu, or providing technical support to an employee’s PC issue).
Bots can be interacted with by either voice or text and can come in the form of a website, an app, or integration into existing services such as: Skype for Business; Facebook Messenger; Cortana; Microsoft Teams and more. Bots can be accessed via a wide range of devices from smart phones to laptops and even devices without screens.
So why should businesses consider developing their own Bots?
The advantages of Bots to a business should be obvious – without the need of a dedicated and extensive support desk to handle queries for your own website, app or service, you could bake in support for bots inside your own website, app or service. This way users would have access to the same support tools using natural conversation, without leaving the screen that requires assistance.
Bots can work well on their own, but they work even better with the help of humans when they hit the limit of their coded knowledge. Bots are primarily programme driven but are inevitably only be as good as they are designed and coded by humans. The Bot experience is intended to be seamless to the user, even if the Bot’s script has reached its end and it needs to interface to get guidance from a service desk. The user talking to the Bot just enjoys a single trafficked conversation without seeing any splits.
The disadvantages at the start of the Bot technology process was in the creation period as building a coding system from scratch to handle conversational queries and integrate across known and used services was a monumental task. The good news however is that a lot of this work has now been done and is being made available as a foundation to consumers to build their own Bots. Microsoft is currently taking the lead in this area with its own Bot Framework, currently in preview.
Bots are no longer reserved by the technical giants of the world. With the tools to create Bots having been developed and distributed, this makes Bots accessible to a wide array of devices and services. We will soon see a lot more Bots out in the wild from a wide variety of businesses and tech hobbyists. This influx in Bots could impact the technical landscape in a similar way that mobile Apps achieved when their tools became readily available – like with the original arrival of Apps in 2008 for Apple with the iPhone 3G. So those who can make a strong brand early on will see stronger success as the platform evolves over time – and Bots could become a regular feature as part of the service desk toolkit for IT Managed Service Providers in future.