For several months now, chatbots have been in the minds of all entrepreneurs and are now becoming a major focus for discussions in leading businesses, even in France. Despite their name, they are not a new viral video trend about cute robotic droids. Today, mechanics are being swapped for algorithms: together, let’s discover these revolutionary software, these conversational agents that will play a key role in tomorrow’s web.
Presentation of Sosh’s dialogue search engine: “le bot”.
Artificial intelligence that is able to intuitively understand people’s gestures and actions is not a new idea. Back in 1964, several researchers from MIT’s research labs created ELIZA, an IT programme designed to be an interactive “psychotherapist”, reformulating patients’ words with a therapeutic goal. With time, and in the web age, these complex algorithms are being refined and adapted for different uses to discover another area they can benefit: customer relations.
Chatbot dialogue services stand out by connecting user requests with various services or databases to find answers. Why? To provide a relevant response to requests as quickly as possible, 24-7, directing users to the service or web page they are looking for, or even providing a relevant response following an “FAQ” section that has already been filled out by a customer service team.
This means that users no longer have to wait to be put in touch with a correspondent. These technologies are gradually being brought to life, as explained by François Rondeau, Head of Customer Experience 2.0 for Orange and Sosh at Orange France, who has overseen work to design Sosh’s new online support.
“In its simplest form, a bot can be summed up as three components: a choice of interface for dialogue with customers, a disambiguation intelligence that makes it possible to translate and interpret customer questions with keywords, then a knowledge base to provide answers”, explains François Rondeau.
“Since June 2016, we have set up a searchbot with Sosh, the first step towards a future, more elaborate chatbot. We have chosen to focus on this search interface first because, while behaviours may change very quickly, we believe that a search engine is the interface that our customers find easiest to take on board”.
Mission accomplished: one month after being launched, this after-sales service solution developed with the startup Do You Dream Up was able to independently answer 65% of the questions put to it. By February 2017, after several months of learning, the searchbot was answering 95% of users’ questions.
With results like these, we might ask ourselves if the user experience can still be improved. But the answer is definitely yes! “We think we can do better”, confirms François Rondeau. In 2017, the true potential of chatbots is dependent on their ability to establish real dialogue with users.
By allowing developers to work with the technology from its chat application Messenger, Facebook has opened up possibilities for a wide range of services. Examples include ChatShopper, a personal shopper that finds clothes and accessories to suit your tastes, or even Poncho, a fun little weather cat.
In terms of customer relations, the airline KLM launched a messenger bot in March 2016 enabling travellers to get instant access to information about their upcoming flights directly in Facebook Messenger.
The Head of Customer Experience 2.0 for Orange and Sosh at Orange France notes that the most widely used smartphone applications today are messaging apps.
“By the second half of 2017, we will be replacing our searchbot with a new messaging interface”, explains François Rondeau. “If customers are waiting for their SIM card, rather than just pointing them to the address of the page for tracking their order, the chatbot will be able to intuitively ask them the right questions (their identity, order number) and search our web services so it can provide them with this information directly in the messaging interface”.
For such a robot to work efficiently, the current technical structures or “business applications” need to be adapted. This stage takes time and will move forward gradually for Orange and Sosh.
While it is difficult to imagine what the future might hold for customer relations, entrepreneurs and research and development departments are convinced that chatbots are a relevant answer, and they are already looking ahead to the next steps: a smart super assistant that will be able to reply to not only our fingers… but also our voice.
“Let's discover chatbots, these revolutionary software that will play a key role in tomorrow's web.”