Provoke – An Introduction to Chatbots

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The ever changing world of digital technology brings new possibilities to drive improvements, solve problems and empower customers. An example of this is the growing use of chatbots, to address customer challenges and enhance branding reputations.

Last month, Mando Group in Liverpool hosted one of their Provoke knowledge events, on the subject of chatbots. The purpose of this was to explain about how they can be used by businesses, and of the benefits involved. Working in technology with a deep curiosity to learn how technology trends can be used to help others, I was keen to find more for myself. The event lived up to my expectations, as well as having the opportunity to listen and speak to fellow attendees.

As you begin reading this, I know you are asking yourself the question below:

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is a computer program that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to simulate conversation with a person, via auditory or visual medium e.g. the Internet. As I discovered from the event, chatbots are not science-fiction, but a reality, and increasingly becoming commonplace, as part of the Internet of Things (IoT). Examples of chatbots include Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon Alexa. Chatbots are also used by companies such as RBS, CNN, Disney and Domino’s Pizza.

The event consisted of three speakers, who were Jon Seal and Gary Pretty from Mando Group, as well as Alex Fawcett from Sage. Each one gave a brief, but informative insight into how chatbots worked, and how they can be used by businesses. What was pleasing was that Jon, Gary and Alex spoke not only clearly, but demonstrated their technical knowledge concisely in simple terms, with good body language.

I learned plenty of interesting facts from the event. These were related to how chatbots are used, the purpose of them and what needs to be considered when implementing chatbots into a business. As I listened and learned, I could visualise and understand how they can be used, to benefit businesses and organisations.

Some of the facts I learned about chatbots included:

  1. They will be able to serve customers better and simplify communication.
  2. Interaction with a customer is a conversation and not a transaction, meaning they are about emotional and deeper storytelling to engage with customers.
  3. Chatbots are used on multiple-platforms, meaning it is used with social media, devices, apps and other channels.
  4. The purpose of chatbots is to make life easier for people and businesses, by simplifying processes, which helps to drive down operating costs.
  5. Provides 24/7 real-time information to customers, and can also check and retain information learned, though AI.
  6. They do not solve all problems, meaning that a default fall-back position needs to be in place, to allow customers to directly interact with a human advisor.
  7. Employees can use chatbots for better engagement with brands, allowing for improved retention and attraction of talent.

I came away with a clear understanding of what chatbots are, and of the potential they carry. They provide a unique experience in assisting customers with their problems. If they are implemented well, they will be able to successfully interact with customers and employees on a human level, which will positively enhance a brand’s reputation. Implemented poorly, the effect will be the opposite, meaning detailed technical planning, strategy and successful execution is required.

Reflecting on the event, I was taken with the layout of the unique working environment of Mando’s office. I was particularly captivated with The Curious Room, which is a small technology-free room with leather chairs, shelves filled with books and a table with a chessboard, used for brainstorming of ideas. I was even able to sit inside, and I found it to be relaxing, as well as an ideal place to think (just like a conservatory).

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In conclusion, I was deeply interested and impressed by Jon, Gary and Alex’s knowledge. The best compliment I can give, is that I came away educated, having taken a small step into a new and exciting world. Therefore I would like to thank everyone involved.

You can watch the films, and view the slides of the event on Mando’s website.

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