How Chatbots Transform Banking, Healthcare, Retail, and Travel Industries

Introduction  

Chatbots are “the thing” in today’s marketing trends and their presence continues to grow. Implementing a chatbot is one of the essential components in developing a business app focused on customer service. But what is it about chatbots that makes them so popular?

A chatbot is a program which imitates conversations with users. In the word “chatbot” “bot” is short for “robot” which is exactly what it is – a virtual chatting robot. Chatbots communicate via a text messenger or voice interface and can perform a variety of tasks of different complexity. Simple chatbots can give you a weather forecast or news stories, while more complex ones are programmed for customized requests, for example, selecting goods according to the user’s description.

Why are chatbots so hot today? According to the analysis by Business Insider, we are now witnessing a unique phenomenon – for the first time, messaging applications are getting more users than social networks.

Of course, business always follows the customers, because customers mean money. Hence, the chatbots.

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[Image source: Business Insider]

How Do Chatbots Work?  

Chatbots fall under either of the two categories – rule-based chatbots and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based chatbots.

Rule-based chatbots are built on a set of rules configured during chatbot development. The rules determine the chatbot response to predefined requests – if the request contains certain words or phrases, the chatbot responds with the specified action. Of course, such chatbots can only be used to perform simple tasks, for example, tell the time or return weather forecasts. As they only recognize the rules programmed by the developer, they are limited in the request formats they can respond to. For example, if a weather chatbot is programmed to respond to phrases “What is the weather tomorrow?” or “What is the forecast for tomorrow?”, it will be unable to answer you if you ask: “Will it rain tomorrow?”

On the positive side, rule-based chatbots are easier to create, faster to deploy and generally less expensive than Artificial Intelligence chatbots.

In Artificial Intelligence chatbots, the functionality rests on a solid foundation of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. In a nutshell, a chatbot can learn from previous conversations and use the gathered data in further chats. It sounds simple but, in fact, there is a lot of complex programming behind it.

AI chatbots can hold lengthy conversations where user may get a complete illusion of communicating with another human being. AI chatbots are created with the ability to understand the sense of phrases and are not managed by strict rules. This approach to making a chatbot may involve Natural Language Processing techniques which parse the language into recognizable categories, like intents or actions, which chatbot is able to process.

AI chatbots are much more complex than rule-based ones, which means that they take longer to create and consume more resources. However, they can be used for a longer term than rule-based ones and can perform a wider range of tasks. Besides, they are just more fun to chat with.

Related story: Workable Strategies for Engaging Your App Users

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How to Build a Chatbot  

Building a chatbot starts with determining its purpose and goals you wish to achieve with implementing it. This will help you decide whether you will use a rule-based chatbot or opt for Artificial Intelligence.

All chatbots work on one of the available messenger services, like Slack or Facebook Messenger, so you need to decide on that, too. When you get to actual chatbot programming, you can choose from lots of available chatbot building platforms many of which are free, for example, Chatfuel, Pandorabots or even create it using simple Node.js.

What Can Chatbots Do?  

Chatbots are used for quite a number of purposes. Depending on the nature of the application, chatbots can be used to:

  • Provide weather forecast
  • Set up appointments
  • Control personal finances
  • Select and purchase goods
  • Provide news stories
  • Create and suggest cooking recipes

In general, you can incorporate a chatbot into virtually any customer-serving application. Let’s see how chatbots can be used in some important industry sectors.

Chatbots in Healthcare Industry  

In healthcare, chatbots are gaining ground with every passing month. If you have ever visited a doctor, you know that such visit can easily turn into a nightmare – an appointment scheduled weeks ahead, a queue in front of the doctor’s office, another appointment with a medical specialist… For that reason, people avoid visiting a doctor even if they are not feeling well. Using a chatbot can help you understand your symptoms and run some basic self-diagnostics. The bot which is a sort of a medical encyclopedia can suggest a diagnosis and help you set up an appointment with the doctor. A Facebook-based HealthTap chatbot gives recommendations based on the symptoms you describe:

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Note that a chatbot should never be used instead of a personal visit to a doctor! Chatbots only provide information and basic recommendations.

After your treatment has been prescribed, the chatbot can remind you to take your medication or help you schedule a follow-up visit. And voice chatbots can be appreciated by weak-sighted people who can actually talk to the device and hear it answering.

Chatbots in Banking Industry  

We have already got used to online and mobile banking and make dozens of banking transactions without visiting the bank personally. Now we are witnessing a growing presence of chatbots in the banking sector. Chatbots help us manage our finances, make payments and even shop.

Many leading banks and financial institutions have implemented chatbots as one of the services available to their customers. Bank of America released a bot named Erica to analyze customer’s spending trends and habits and help to better plan their finances. MasterCard supports an AI chatbot working via Facebook messenger and allowing to access accounts, perform transactions and purchase goods.

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[Image source: MasterCard]

Chatbots in Retail Industry  

Retail industry is the sector where chatbots truly thrive. We live among the abundance of online stores selling everything – clothes, groceries, furniture, domestic appliances and much more. Many online stores implement chatbots to act as shop assistants. Through a chatbot, you can get a detailed description of an item which is especially useful while choosing a domestic appliance. When shopping online, you will more often than not leave the shop website to google which of the two coffee machines performs better or search the website looking for return conditions. With a chatbot, you can do it from a single point.

The most known retail chatbot serves H&M clothing store. The bot is designed to create complete outfits using one item as a starting point. The chatbot will discuss the style and occasion, the customer’s preferences and suggest a complete set of clothes according to their description.

Related story: How to Innovate in E-Commerce Industry: Tips for 2017 and Beyond

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[Image source: BusinessCloud]

Another example is the Dinner Ideas chatbot which sends you a new recipe every day, suggests a recipe for the ingredients you have and creates shopping lists.

chatbot-cooking-bot

[Image source: Food Network]

Chatbots in Travel Industry  

When we travel, especially when we travel for leisure, we want everything to be perfect. This is why we pay such close attention to our travel arrangements and pester our travel agents with questions about the airline, climate at the destination point, hotel grounds, beach, cancellation policy, etc., etc. This is where chatbots can become a good solution.

Chatbots will suggest tour offers, show hotel availabilities and book rooms, list places of interest near your destination, remind you of the upcoming trip.

One of the best-known travel chatbots is Skyscanner, a Facebook-based bot helping you search for flights, look up their schedules and prices, book seats on the selected flights.

Related story: Five Innovations in Travel Industry: How to Make Your Startup Stand Out?

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[Image source: Skyscanner]

If you are searching for hotels, try Expedia chatbot on Facebook Messenger or Skype. Just feed it enough information about your hotel preferences, and it will suggest broad options in compliance with the description. You can even make a reservation through the chatbot.

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[Image source: Expedia]

Benefits of Using Chatbots  

For a business, usage of chatbots brings multiple benefits:

  • Cost-saving. Maintaining a chatbot is less expensive than employing people to perform the same tasks
  • Increased conversion rate. With chatbots, customers are more likely to make a purchase as they do not need to leave the website for additional searches or operations
  • Service improvement. Using a chatbot, you minimize the human factor in your communication with customers. The chatbot will be always polite and attentive, it will not get tired and start making mistakes. Besides, chatbots can work 24/7 and do not need vacations or days-off
  • Expanded market presence. A chatbot creates an additional channel of reaching out to your customer which can eventually raise your sales rate

To sum it up, chatbots are a great tool of digital transformation for your business. If you use a chatbot, you will be exactly where your customers are – in the universe of instant messaging.

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