A chatbot is a virtual assistant that helps businesses automate the execution of main business functions like sales, support, and marketing. These artificial intelligence (AI) assistants help reduce customer service friction and can save time for both customers and employees, while increasing productivity across the enterprise.

Oftentimes, when a user submits a query through a chatbot, the AI application identifies keywords from that query and tries to match it with relevant solutions or internal processes. This is a rule-based approach that works best when you have specific knowledge of the kinds of requests your users will make. For example, a user that asks “where can I find your office hours?” will expect to see a list of open times and not an address.

The next type of chatbot is one that combines keyword identification with menu or button-based navigation for customers to select options if the AI application cannot identify an inbound query. This allows you to provide a broad range of self-service options for common customer inquiries, so you can avoid redirecting live agents to these requests and instead focus their efforts on more complex cases.

A third type of chatbot is a more advanced form that combines symbolic AI with natural language processing and semantic understanding. This approach is based on an expert model that is trained to understand human intention and extract the most useful entities from a given request. This is an ideal option for companies with a large volume of customer data and a well-defined set of questions that you can use to train the bot to accurately identify customer intent.

Many brands are finding that chatbots offer a number of benefits that can improve the buyer experience and reduce operational costs. For example, they are available for 24×7 engagement and can be used to quickly and efficiently respond to common inquiries from customers without requiring human intervention. This can save your company the cost of staffing a call center day and night or implementing a new customer service line.

These digital assistants can also be used to qualify leads by asking qualifying questions and directing them to the right team for further nurturing. This can help you reduce your sales cycle and drive higher conversion rates.

Finally, you can deploy a chatbot that connects to your existing customer case management systems to automatically route questions to the right person or resource. This can be especially helpful in high-volume situations when you would otherwise have to divert limited live agent resources away from more critical issues. Regardless of what type of chatbot you implement, it is important to keep in mind that these applications are still tools that need to be maintained and optimized regularly. The buying process is continually evolving, and you need to ensure that your chatbots are aligned with the latest customer expectations. This requires regular maintenance and a process for identifying the most effective ways to utilize your chatbot to achieve your goals.