Chatbots are 50 years old, so why do they Only Matter Now?

WayBlazer
The Intersection of AI and Travel
Cover of magazine with title 'Amazing Artificial Intelligence Simulation'

1966—the year programmers first created the technology that would become today’s chatbots. Her name was Eliza, and she mimicked human conversation. The first real attempt at using an AI-based bot, however, was in 1988 with Jabberwocky. Siri came along in 2010. Alexa in 2015.

Then in 2016 Facebook launched bots for Messenger; by the end of that year, there were 34,000 bots available on the app. But those bots weren’t necessarily smart. They were only able to handle basic or repetitive customer service questions.

Today we have chatbots fueled by AI, chatbots that can return intelligent and personalized answers based on natural conversation.

Why the explosion in the last two years when the foundation was laid over fifty years ago?

Because where there’s demand, there’s growth. Consumers want it. Frequently, the change in the way people communicate is attributed to technology, but it’s not a one-way street. People must be willing and wanting to adopt what technology has to offer. And when it comes to messengers, chatbots, personal assistants, natural language AI and so forth, adoption is high. While these are different mediums with different outcomes for the user, they are part of the same cultural communication shift.

Here’s how much this new way of communicating matters to people:

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Source — Twilio

Thirty-percent (30%) of people would give up phone calls to use messaging, 20% would abandon their morning coffee, and an astounding 10% of people would forfeit sex.

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When it comes to business, however, almost 90% of consumers desire messaging to communicate with companies. According to Facebook, 56% of people would rather message than call customer service. Hence, the rapid explosion of Messenger bots in 2016.

Chatbots, in particular, are booming when it comes to customer service, but consumers also see that chatbots can handle complex and detailed questions. Thirty-eight percent (38%) of baby boomers report that among the benefits of chatbots is the fact that they can answer complicated questions; 37% of millennials say they offer expert answers. Consumers already know chatbots can go much further than rudimentary, automated tasks.

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Source: Salesforce

But there’s a wrench. Inc.com reports that consumers hate your chatbots. “The study, focusing on customer experience and commissioned by PwC, shows 59% of customers globally (and 64% in the U.S.) feel brands are so myopic about automation and trendy design, they’ve ‘lost touch’ with the human element of creating a great customer experience.””

The truth is that consumers don’t hate chatbots. The PwC report merely identifies the next wave in communication. Consumers are ready for smarter chatbots. They welcome personalization that can be processed and delivered in a way that humans just aren’t capable of offering.

However, chatbots aren’t a replacement for the human touch. They are a service that can go above and beyond by way of understanding and analyzing natural language and returning customized responses (from concierge recommendations to enhanced reservation sales), one that allows invaluable humans to more of what they do well with guest service.

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