So Ummm… What is a Chatbot?
2017 is the year of the chatbot revolution–chatbots are starting to pop up all over Facebook, retail websites, and even federal/state/local government websites. This begs the question: what exactly is a chatbot?
Do you need a primer to explain what a chatbot is and how it can help your government agency? Do you want to understand the benefits that chatbots can offer? Well, look no further!
In summary, this article serves as your chatbots 101 course and answers the following questions:
– What benefits do chatbots provide?
– What technologies are used to make chatbots?
– How much does a chatbot cost?
Chatbots 101: Definition of a Chatbot
Think of a chatbot as an app that users interact with in a conversational way. Chatbots can have extended dialogs with you through text messaging, Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, Web Chat, or many other communication platforms. Chatbots can also communicate with cards, or speech.
Chatbots give you information and perform actions on your behalf. A really good chatbot understands what you’re asking for (even if you don’t use perfect grammar or spelling), and quickly satisfies your request.
Chatbots 101: What Benefits Do Chatbots Provide?
Now that you know what a chatbot is, let’s talk about the benefits chatbots can offer to government agencies.
Chatbots Enhance The Customer Experience
There are a number of ways that chatbots can enhance the customer experience:
- Faster service: reducing customer wait times always enhance the customer experience. Rather than keeping phone customers on hold, government agencies can use chatbots to handle simple customer requests immediately.
- 24/7/365 availability: customers want services beyond the normal 9 am – 5 pm business hours. Why not have chatbots that can provide services 24 hours a day?
- Ease of use: since chatbots use natural language interfaces, there is absolutely no learning curve to using them–if you know how to read and type, then you know how to use a chatbot.
Chatbots Reduce The Cost of Customer Service
Building and maintaining a chatbot to handle customer requests is much cheaper than hiring a new government employee. Furthermore, as chatbot technology progresses, the cost to build and maintain a chatbot will continue to go down.
Chatbots Improve Their Own Performance
Chatbots often integrate machine learning technology, which allows them to continuously improve their accuracy without any new development. This is a tremendous benefit to government agencies that need to increase performance and decrease ongoing cost.
Chatbots 101: What Technologies Are Used To Make Chatbots?
There are several development platforms that you can use to create chatbots. Some of the more well known chatbot platforms include:
- cFocus Software exclusively builds chatbots using the Microsoft Bot Framework, Microsoft Language Understanding Intelligence Services (LUIS), and Microsoft Cognitive Services.
- Amazon Lex is a service for building conversational interfaces into any application using voice and text, and is powered by the same deep learning technologies as Alexa.
- The IBM Watson™ Conversation service combines machine learning, natural language understanding, and integrated dialog tools to create conversation flows between your apps and your users.
- Bots for Facebook Messenger allows you to directly build chatbots for Facebook Messenger.
Chatbots 101: How Much Does A Chatbot Cost?
Asking how much a chatbot costs is similar to asking, ‘how much does a car cost?’ The answer, of course, is: ‘it depends’. A Lamborghini costs more than a Honda Accord, and a chatbot like Alexa is going to cost more than a simple chatbot that can handle 10 requests.
With that said, a government agency that wants to add a medium to full-featured chatbot to their public-facing website can expect to pay anywhere from $20,000-$100,000 and above depending on the number of scenarios the chatbot can respond to and the complexity of these scenarios.
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