Why do we need chatbots? By Léon Smiers


Chatbots are the talk of the town with the announcement of Facebook to launch their Messenger platform with chatbots in April 2016. Here a short summary of why we need it, what shapes and forms a chatbot can take and where to start with it.

Why do we need chatbots? Simple answer is simplicity; When I want a simple question answered, I do not want search for my specific App and search within the App for the information I need, or browse through a set of pages on a website.

A couple of years ago I was working abroad, and with a phone with roaming costs you do not have internet always continuously at hand. I’m supporting my football team Ajax, and wanted to know the scores whenever they played. So I used a (Dutch) tool (NOS teletext), punched in 818 (games played today) and got me at a blink the game scores at bare minimum network.

Chatbots are about the same, just give my information or help me with an activity in the most basic configuration, what is my flight info, what are opening hours, I’d like to transfer money etc. This is all done from a command line type of interface, which could be Facebook messenger, Slack, Telegram, Text Messages, etc.

In summary a chatbot delivers a simple chat interface, and enables a conversation that can be guided by rules and potentially with artificial intelligence.  
Just like Apps and Websites, chatbots can take different shapes and behaviour. The three most common forms a chatbot can take are Reactive, Scheduled and Predictive:

Reactive chatbots deliver their info in a predictive mode, just like the Airport service bot shown below.  These reactive chatbots are guided by a fixed menu or a Rule engine, delivering answers based predefined questions. Upfront the chatbot designer tries to de define the questions that need to be answered by the chatbot. This works fine in the majority of customer questions, or simple transactions protocols. Read the complete article here.

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