ChatBot — to be or not to be

When it comes to Artificial Intelligence, you’ll find numerous opinions flying around. A lot of those opinions LINGER on to the belief that AI is the next best thing.

There is a lot of evidence to this as well because AI has long been part of tech hiding in plain sight, everywhere. On the contrary, there are others who think AI would be the end of us all, because AI opens a lot of doors to a lot of opportunities we didn’t even think we had.

As history dictates, we have always feared things we did not fully understand.

It will be unwise to unlock the depths of AI in this article, so for now I will be only talking about Conversational AI. Why so? What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word AI? I am pretty sure it’s some really advance robot talking with a straight face or maybe Tony Stark’s Jarvis?

Conversational AI is the science behind these fictions. In simpler words, Conversational AI is what bestows a machine or some computer program the ability to converse as naturally and ‘human like’ as possible. Why go to all that trouble? Because, believe you me, it’s no run of the mill job.

Have we run short of humans to talk to? Or is there some real benefit behind chat bots and other Conversational AI implementations? Let’s explore.

What is a ChatBot and Should You’ve One?

A chatbot is a computer program designed to talk to us like a person. You will mostly find these on websites, messenger applications or so. In fact, having a chatbot greet visitors on a website has become quite the norm these days.


According to a research by GlobeNewswire, the year 2017 yielded 369.79 million US dollars from the chatbot market and is expected to reach 2166.28 million US dollars by the year 2024.

Lucrative and profiting, that is one sure shot reason why having a chat bot could do you good. But How?

Since all chatbots serve the basic purpose of conversing with a human, their conversation is unbiased, and free of any prejudices or unintentional mistakes. Chatbots have been very successful in getting targeted responses by leaning the conversation in a desired direction, without the users knowing.

They are apt at offering compelling conversation, which helps maneuver people to your content directly. With the help of some natural Language Processing techniques, the chatbot could offer relevant backlinks mixed in with normal conversation. This leads to an increase in organic traffic and better customer acquisition as well. Wouldn’t that be great now?

Oh and did I mention, chatbots don’t require any holidays? Or sick leaves? Or even a salary and bonuses. They are always available and no matter how many people they need to talk to, they do not tire or give monotonous responses. If you are using a good enough chatbot, generating personalized responses will be very easy and fruitful.

It has been observed that more than 50% people prefer messaging rather than calling a company before making any kind of purchase. Having an intelligent chatbot sitting on the messaging end of your side will get you good numbers in terms of traffic, customer satisfaction and more brand-loyal customers as well.

But like all good things, chat bot benefits do come to an end. You see, just like unintelligent people (this is me being nice to the dumb bunch) there are dumb chatbots as well. Since chatbots are an amalgamation of algorithms and techniques we put together, there are good chances of a chatbot not performing what it was meant to do.

Epic Chatbot Fails

Everybody knows how cool Alexa and Siri are. Ever heard of Philip the android? He had learned beautifully and evolved very gracefully but not in the way his creators actually might have wanted him to. This might come as a shock for those of us who fear AI taking over the world one day. In an interview, Philip was asked a question, what happens if robots would take over the world one day and what he replied, was astounding.

He said,

Don’t worry, even if I evolve into Terminator, I’ll still be nice to you. I’ll keep you warm and safe in my people zoo, where I can watch you for ol’ times’ sake.

Philip K. Dick Android

This is a response an intelligent person would give, and a robot equaling that is groundbreaking and shaking, pun intended.

Let’s talk about a not so fun faulty chatbot, the CNN chatbot. It could not understand a request for unsubscribing unless users specifically stated the word ‘unsubscribe”. That just shows very average Natural language processing capabilities.

CNN ChatBot

This shows the bot not really understanding what is asked, but just picked up on the word story and shows the latest story at the time.

CNN ChatBot: Unsubscribe

This is to show the bot not understanding an “Unsubscribe” request, other than the user specifically saying “Unsubscribe”.

And then, there was this Wall Street Journal bot, also known as WSJ, which was actually very annoying. Even when a user unsubscribed, it would still keep on sending stories, which felt extremely spammy.

WSJ ChatBot: Unsubscribe

But the gravest of these was the Microsoft’s experiment with the Tay bot. They designed it to grow and converse with people on twitter and it turned into a racist bot with a lot of appeal to the negative, like calling Hitler a swagger and denying the holocaust. Read here what The Tay bot tweeted before it was shutdown.

Concluding Thoughts

Now why did I tell you all that? Even though this happened in 2016, two years is a lot of time for progress and we have! Talk with Alexa and you will see a very clear difference. The point is, having a chatbot is neither beneficial nor poor for you. That depends on two things, how smart your chatbot is and whether you really need it or not.

If you are a business offering services to clients, and specially dealing in commerce, then having a chatbot makes sense. I would even go far enough to say Bot-powered Commerce will soon be the new trend. However, if your customers don’t really need to converse with a company representative repetitively, then it’s just an extra accessory and a waste of good money and resources.

So, the crux, Chatbots are taking over the world of business and commerce. As time goes by and we embark on new AI endeavors, they will get better and feel more natural. It will be like comparing high definition DSLR pictures today to poor quality analogue photographs.

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