Bots are not only chat bots! Bots and virtual assistants are software programs considered intelligent enough to understand natural language requests, give answers and hold a conversation. Today, bots are becoming a new interaction channel that can use text, voice and video to converse. They can also be proactive toward end users.
Bots are not really new, they have been around for more than 60 years! The revival of bots can be explained by some factors that have appeared rather simultaneously: more mature conversational technologies, “industrializable” Artificial Intelligence algorithms and new end-user usages, habits and expectations (such as the Zero Interfaces: “No UI is the new UI”). In its famous Hype Cycle published in July 2017, Gartner identifies the consumer conversational dynamics as a main trend. We can find in the outlined items many technologies related to conversational agents and advanced robotics (“Conversational User Interfaces”, “Virtual Assistants”, “Digital Twin”, “Human Augmentation”, “Smart Robots”), as well as artificial intelligence topics which could extend the relevance of bots (“Deep Reinforcement Learning”, “Artificial General Intelligence”, “Deep Learning Machine Learning”, “Cognitive Computing”, “Cognitive Expert Advisors”).
Bots can and will be everywhere for end-users:
On your mobile and your computer OS: Apple Siri, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana already exist and are used! A study by Artificial Solutions at the end of 2016 shows that nearly 4 out of 5 (79%) mobile users have already used a vocal assistant service on their mobile devices, 68% at least once a week and 40% almost every day. Unsurprisingly, the main players are in the lead: 62% for Google Assistant, 58% for Apple Siri, 33% for Cortana.
On existing websites and mobile apps: because conversational experience is limitless, you can ask everything with a natural language request!
On social networks due to the launch of numerous social network messaging APIs and new behaviors regarding messaging applications: Mark Zuckerberg explained: “Messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking.”
On new devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home: the sales of these voice-based assistants have soared! According to Mary Meeker, Amazon’s Alexa had already entered 5% of their US customers’ homes in 2016 and Amazon should reach 10M Alexa-powered devices sold in 2017!
And in fact, in a not-so-distant future, it will embedded in all existing and new connected devices such as your connected car, connected appliance, connected home… and your new personal robots!
Bots will apply to all businesses:
Virtual Personal Assistants introduced new cultural experiences and changed our entire way of perceiving the world and finding appropriate solutions, tailored to each situation’s specificities. Most businesses could therefore be impacted in their communication efforts with their customers, or among their people: B2C and B2B, Banks and Insurances, Retail, Industry, Medias, etc.
Focus on Social Network:
Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Kik … More than half of the 2.5 billion smartphone users in the world use at least one social instant messaging app! This new channel is becoming a real interaction channel and a true sales growth driver. Brands have understood this opportunity to take Customer Relationship Management even further. Indeed, Social Bots have become an active sales channel for brands in addition, and complementary, to mobile web, mobile apps and contact centers, which have set opening hours, a constraint not shared by bots.
Personal assistants need to absorb complex information, so they can understand the current context of the user. These data allow them to physically engage their interface or trigger predefined functionalities as a reaction. These operations may be divided in three main steps, accomplished thanks to many evolving technologies or building blocks:
Recording data to analyze the situation: voice, image and video processing like face detection and identification, all types of sensors, motion and presence detectors, microphone, etc.
Understand and structure the identified content: natural language processing, geo-tracking, data analysis, voice recognition, people tracking, emotion classification, data fusion, etc.
Formulate a response and perform some actions: notification push, text messages or e-mail sending, social network post, agenda management, text-to-speech, connected object control, physical movement (in the case of a robot), use a search engine, etc.
All of these steps can be more or less complex to address, with more or less complex technologies behind, depending on the expected sophistication level and the conversation context.
Each interaction can be processed at different levels of complexity:
Strong guidance allows guiding the end-users with suggestions, links, images and buttons: it is like IVR (Interactive Voice Response) for simple interactions.
Natural Language understanding and conversation allow better efficiency for the end-users: suggestions, combined with the understanding of the question, provided in the answer.
Smart Service is the next/future level of complexity that combines Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence to add strong service value (using personal data information and context, open data, open services, new machine learning algorithms…)
This is why Worldline has been developing solutions and know-how regarding the design, the building and the running of Bots and Conversational Interactions. These solutions are of course used in existing Worldline solutions such as our Contact Center, Digital Banking, Merchant Services and Payments solutions! Conversational experience is in line with the strategical simplification of interactions, which are increasing customer engagement and energizing commerce, for Worldline’s Customers!