Exploring chatbots and virtual assistants
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Difference between chatbots and virtual assistants
"You all know that chatbots are a new technology altogether. It’s like the early age of the Web. Things are still shaky yet growing at the speed of light.”–Rashid Khan, Build Better Chatbots.
Did you ever notice that chatbots and virtual assistants are designed differently? To say more, their purposes vary as well! Chatbots, built by AI-inspired businesses, areusually company-oriented,and virtual assistants(Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant,etc.),created with digital passionby Silicon-Valleygiants,on the contrary, are beingsophisticated to a user.
Virtual assistants andchatbotstransforma human interface mechanism butdiffer from each other.
Comparing virtual assistans
To determine the best virtual assistant,the study by Peter Gentsch (see the Reference) discovers Siri, Google Now, Cortana,and Alexa tested for everyday routine fortwo weeks.
Different question categories resulted ininsides about Alexa enjoys shopping, Now demonstrates an impressive range of knowledge, Siri ensures versatility,and Cortana shows outstanding intelligence.
Comparing assistants according to question category
Amazon’s Alexa is leading.
1-st place: Alexa – empathetic, smart, and aimed to shop.
2-nd place: Google Now – expert and precise.
3-rd place: Siri – many-sided, friendly, and funny.
4-th place: Cortana – intelligent and timid.
Building chatbot from scratch
Let’s consider building a bot on the example of a mobile banking app. Such a chatbot saves customers’ time when paying for the services online. The chatbot cando this in a blink of an eye.
Step 1. Parsing
To train thechatbot, developers need to compile a dictionary withthe named entities—bank locationsand transactions plustheir variations (abbreviations or short names).As there is an ending number of populated locations and transactions, developers write a script to parse them all.
Step 2. Dividing entities into groups
Developers split the obtained entities (locations and transactions’ names) into categories so that the chatbot could recognize the categories. For this, developers use a parser that,by certain rules, obtains structured data from unstructured text.
Step 3. Creating intents
Based on the generated categories, developers create a list of user intents and chatbot responses to them.The chatbot responses are straight forward and aimed toobtain the necessary information from the user —the location and transaction names. After theuser intent is covered (required information is received), the chatbot makes an inquiry containing the transaction name and the user location to a database.It returns the transaction that matches the inquiry.
The simple chart below showshow the chatbot works
It is not a universal way on how to write a chatbot because every project in unique and requires considering all its highlights, teamwork, and management to become successful, but now you have the guiding star.
Best practices for building chatbots
“Chatbots are important because you won’t feel stupid asking important questions. Sometimes talking to someone can be a bit intimidating. Talking to a chatbot makes that a lot easier!” – Petter Bae Brandtzaeg, Why People Use Chatbots
And now, the time to grab some takeaways for creating attractive chatbots.
• Build with a clear goal. Before you start developin gyour bot, identify the tasks foryour tool. No matter what it be –ITbusiness automation (customer support, transaction processing), marketing (customer engagement, retention, experience personalization)–your bot should bringa tangible value.
• Document conversation flows. Unless you are building a super-smart virtual assistant, you need some predefined scenarios your bot will use :onboarding, missing inputs, relevant requests, verification, changing terms, etc. The more cases, the better
• Remember what people are doing in the app you selectfor a bot (for example, the audience of Messenger and WhatsApp istalking with friends and having fun). Adapt the bot to your audience’s mood by using extraordinary GIFs and memes or illustrating some parts of the chatbot conversation so users no need to type the name of the color-size-dishthat userswant.
• Create an inspiring experience. Your chatbot may have a personality and even a world where it lives. For example, the Star Wars Chatbot is the droid from rebellion; therefore, it may be decisive and bossy. Cultivating an atmosphere reflecting your brand will charm your audience!
• Guide users. Interactions with chatbots can be frustrating, and needless to mention that proper onboarding, useful tips and examples will make users happy with your bot. Such comfort will grow their engagement in your product.
• Roll, test, and learn! Chatbots are not dry math. Real experience comes with the first steps: the more you experiment, the better you understand the bot.