By the name itself, you must understand that this is a kind of conversational application. By definition a chatbot is a software application used to conduct an on-line chat conversation via text or text-to-speech. So, basically it is a programming application that simulate a human conversation either written or spoken (natural human languages).
In simple language, a chatbot is a tool where human can ask any query (or predefined queries) about a specific topic and the chatbot gives a response (these responses can be predefined).
Examples: You must have had many interactions on a chatbot.
For example when you ordered food on zomato and you have any complains about food or order. You can do a chat on zomato and it asked certain question to you. You must have noticed that it generate automatic questions and answer. Basically it is a chatbot created to solve customers problem fast.
Second example sometimes when you’re researching product on computer and phone a window pops up on your screen asking if you need help. These all are examples of chatbots.
Why do we need chatbots ? (Benefits of chatbot)
Almost 80% top business in the world usage chatbots. why chatbots are popular ?
- Automation - Human beings have always been showing interest in robot technologies. Chatbots are like robot technology in different and more interesting way. Chatbots provide business a easy way to communicate with human in natural language without dependence on human being. Which is cheaper because you do not have to give monthly salary to chatbots.
- Availability- A human being has a limit to work. But the chatbots solved this problem easily, now you can inquire about any business from any corner of the world on their site and at any time. Chatbots provide 24/7 availability to their customers. Due to availability 24/7 and no boundaries limit it also help in globalization.
- Powerful tool to handle more than one customer at same time.
There are a lot of benefits of chatbot but here we just talked about few to understand the importance of chatbots.
Limitation- Every innovation come with some limitation. As we know chatbots are trained on some specific queries and answers they can only answer the queries on which they trained. Chatbots cannot understand human context, emotions etc... And also chatbots have lack of decision making as they have zero research skills.
Although all these problems are being solved as technology advances, it has not been completely solved.
How chatbots works ? (Types of chatbot technologies)
We can divide chatbots based on their functionality, ease of work and technology used to make them.
We can do this in many ways, but here we will just talk about some important chatbot technology.
1. Button/ Menu based chatbots
This is simplest type of chatbot. In this type of chatbot every query have predefined button to answer. this type of chatbot is very limited and can answer only few specific command.
These chatbots are trained to interact with customers with same type of queries.
For example a person is checking a bank site this means that he either wants to know about that bank or wants to open an account.
That means the bank's chatbot will provide him two options and he can click on the required button and go to the next question.
This type of chatbot not required NLP and machine learning.
The picture below shows simple example of button /menu chatbots.
2. Rule-Based Chatbots
This types of chatbots use NLP (natural language processing). This type of chatbots are advance then previous one but they also trained on some predefined question and answers.
If we ask any question which is not in their database, then it will not give any answer and will ask us to ask the appropriate question repeatedly, until we ask a question with matched keywords.
Such chatbots work on matching keywords and can interact in human language.
3. AI-Based Chatbots
Also known as generative model chatbots. This type of chatbots required AI (Artificial Intelligence) , Machine Learning (ML) and most important NLP (Natural language processing).
They understand human language and can understand intent of human context. This type of chatbots continuously get smarter as they learn from conversations.
Note- We can create a new kind of chatbot by combining two or more chatbot technologies together on demand of different business. This type of chatbot known as hybrid chatbots.
We cannot define exactly how many types of chatbots can be, because different businesses required different type of chatbots.
Customer Support chatbots
Informative chatbots etc.....
Chatbots vs Virtual Assistant
Both are part of conversational application or conversational AI. The work of chatbots and Virtual Assistant is also same at some extent. Then what is the difference between these two ?
Broadly speaking chatbots are used to handle FAQs (frequently asked questions) , specific and repeated queries for mostly business.
Whereas Virtual Assistants have more advance conversational application which can understand intent of human and can generate answer according the question. Virtual Assistants are more capable and complex then chatbots. People also use virtual assistants for personal use.
For example Alexa, Cortana, Siri, Google Assistant etc...
In short we can say that a very advance chatbot is a example of virtual assistant.