A chatbot or a chatter is a computer program and a software application developed and implemented to simulate conversation with humans through a text-based user interface.
There are two types of chatbots: rule-based chatbots and artificial intelligence-based or AI-based chatbots. A rule-based chatbot responds to a user input following a pre-defined set of rules and decision trees. An AI-based chatbot uses machine learning algorithms and models to learn from a training dataset and its interaction with users while improving its responses over time.
Advances in computer programming and the different subfields of artificial intelligence have enabled the practical and more accessible applications of chatbots.
Looking Into the Different Applications of Chatbots
A particular chatbot can be programmed to perform a particular task. Some can even be programmed to perform several tasks. These include answering basic questions, providing detailed responses to complicated prompts, and automating complex processes.
They can also be used as a standalone software application or integrated into different platforms such as websites, within messaging apps, and voice assistants. Part of their advantages also includes using and responding to multiple languages.
Advances in different subfields of AI and related concepts such as machine learning and deep learning, natural language processing or NLP and large language modeling, and artificial neural networks have advanced the capabilities of chatbots.
The American AI research lab OpenAI has demonstrated the power of deep learning and NLP through its ChatGPT application. This AI-powered chatbot can generate human-like responses. It can even write prose or a poem and debug codes.
Other tech companies have also launched their respective AI chatbots. Microsoft has rolled out its Bing Chat as part of its Bing search engine and Microsoft Edge while Google introduced Bard to compete against ChatGPT and Bing Chat.
Nevertheless, considering the aforementioned capabilities, chatbots have become increasingly popular across different sectors and industries. Businesses and other organizations gain a competitive advantage from using one.
The following are the more specific applications of chatbots across different sectors and industries:
1. Business Operations
Chatbots can be used in the internal management and operations of a business organization. A particular business can utilize a chatter programmed to answer inquiries from employees based on an internal knowledge base of a particular organization.
Human resource management has several more specific applications. It can be used to screen applicants through an automated question-and-answer discussion. It can also aid employees in recurring training programs and gather internal feedback.
These software applications can aid small businesses or individual freelancers when used as comprehensive virtual assistants. Chatters can schedule appointments or set and send reminders for internal and customer relations requirements.
2. Marketing and Sales
Using chatbots as a first point of contact with potential customers can supplement the functions of a customer relations management platform. The data collected from conversations can help in generating leads and qualifying prospects.
A particular chatter can also be programmed as an autonomous AI agent to automate the sales or order fulfillment process or complement promotional activities such as sales promotion. It can also provide various after-sales services such as customer support.
Chatbots can also form part of the digital marketing strategy of a particular organization. They can replace email marketing and resolve its disadvantages. Businesses can trim down costs associated with operating a team of marketing and sales professionals.
Nevertheless, considering the aforementioned, these software applications have become a staple in electronic commerce websites or those with digital storefronts such as banks and financial services firms, airlines and hotels, and online-enabled services.
3. Healthcare Services
Another application of chatbots is in improving the delivery of healthcare services. They can reduce administrative burdens on healthcare providers and improve efficiencies while also improving personalized medicine and patient-centric care.
A more specific application is telemedicine. This involves using an online-enabled platform for remote consultations, remote care management, connecting with specialists or healthcare facilities, appointment scheduling, and providing health education.
Some aspects of mental health services can be delivered through an automated platform. Chatbots can provide immediate support and advice for patients with concerns related to their mental health. This improves access to mental care.
4. Learning and Education
The education sector has conflicting views about the applications of chatbots. The popularity of ChatGPT has raised concerns over its potential for abuse and misuse such as in the case of plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty.
Others have also become apprehensive about the relevance and accuracy of information provided or generated by chatbot-based generative AI applications. Some have worried about their potential to replace human teachers and mentors.
However, considering its capabilities, several learning institutions have used it to improve relationships with their students and improve the delivery of learning. It can be integrated with an online learning platform and aid in distance learning.
More specific applications include providing student support, improving student engagement, and automating administrative tasks. It can be used as a platform for delivering learning such as tutorials, standardized testing, and language training.