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The Future of Chatbots is Now

The intelligence of machines seems less ‘artificial’ every day. They are not only programmed. Increasingly, they are created with the ability to learn.

The Internet of Things uses AI to make devices respond to our needs and desires. They can do this without us even voicing our wants. One of the major applications of AI will be chatbots and customer service.

Facebook is pushing chatbots. They have 50 million business pages and want to see Messenger as the way people communicate with businesses. They envision people talking to bots to make reservations, place orders, and schedule appointments.

This is a threat to traditional call centers. How many people will miss endlessly-circular, automated menus and being plunged into a telephonic abyss after pushing the wrong number? The bots are coming. Microsoft has announced a developer toolkit to make it easier for businesses to develop bots. And Kik has created an entire store, much like the App store but for bots.

Bots are not quite smart enough to take the world by storm, yet. You can still see the strings, as the bots follow a script and move down pre-set channels. Intelligent chatbots that can empathize, however, will take things to the next level.

Digital body language is the key.

You could describe digital body language as what users do online, rather than what they say. Think browsing behavior, hesitations, click-through rates, and scrolling.

So far, businesses have used this kind of information for analysis and for providing customization. Businesses could use the same information, however, to infer a customer’s mindset in real time.

It would be a bit like how we read non-verbal clues or body language in offline interactions. If someone agrees to talk to us, but we see them knit their brows and fold their arms, we know we’ve got work to do to get them to loosen up. By having software that reads clues, retailers will be able to use bots to identify where shoppers are mentally and to help them make decisions.

Bots can learn to classify shoppers and identify them very quickly though their actions, attributes, and contexts. This could lead to sites automatically adapting their offerings to suit individual users. It might be like Amazon on steroids. Sites will be able to know what stage of the buyer’s journey you are in (awareness, information gathering, decision), guide you when you get stuck, and even keep you focused when your attention waivers in favor of another shiny object.

We’re at the beginning of another evolution in technology. This time, we are likely to see chatbots becoming ‘the new websites,’ in a dramatic change to how users interact with businesses online.

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