Chatbot Capabilities: Essential Characteristics of Great Bots

bot, chatbot, satisfied user

What makes a good chatbot great? With so many bots launching to engage with customers and as business/market understanding of what makes a good bot improving, there has never been a better time to launch a bot that succeeds and delivers in the right places to benefit both the company and end-users.

Chatbots are just one of the technologies evolving fast that can help a business improve their performance in a matter of days or weeks, not months or years as with legacy IT projects. Even so, the early days of bots were littered with failures or businesses showing a lack of ambition.

As artificial intelligence takes a bigger chunk of the IT landscape and business mindshare in 2020 and beyond, creating bots that are best for your business and will develop with the company are key factors when it comes to improving both customer satisfaction and business outcomes. 

What can chatbots actually do?

Bots started off life mostly replicating common customer service scripts, following a simple tree of conversation to deliver basic information. But the arrival of AI and integrated chatbots that work with APIs and other services creates a world where the bot can be more of a virtual or smart assistant and partner for customers or clients. Bots now readily offer CRM integration or analytics tools to provide a broader service with real-time analytics to ensure on-the-spot quality checks and issue management.

Typical chatbot features lists include natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) to help the bot better follow what people are asking, while deeper AI and links to other services can provide information to wider sources. API links can pull in data from sales or record resources to help bots provide the customer with more detail, but in most cases, the bot is a simple service following.

The best bots have the following features that businesses can use as guides to providing a great customer experience:

  • The ability to demonstrate conversational maturity and never leave the user confused or at a dead end, with variable welcomes and conclusions, or the ability to recall previous conversations to engage.
  • Good bots are omni-channel capable and can shift the conversation across devices or platforms as the user moves.
  • Chatbots should integrate with business tools and applications such as ERP, CRM, RPA or social media tools to enable access to business data, analytics, and to evenly monitor engagement.
  • Some bots, especially for health services or non-profits, need to display a level of emotional intelligence around the difficult subjects they might address and  …
  • Some bot use-cases are best served by a narrow approach with button-based simple choice. Others need to be free to explore or build engagement and the business needs to be able to choose the right one for the appropriate task.
  • Chatbots with AI features need to be well-trained and tested, while behind the scenes the company or team need to be ready to update the bot with changes in factual detail, business issues or incidents and should always be able to scale to handle heavy workloads.
  • And, as a fallback, users should always be able to talk to a person when there’s a mission-critical or serious issue at stake. Hiding the company behind a bot for major problems is not an option. 

The power of new chatbot features

New (or newer) Chatbot features in advanced bot services like SnatchBot include the ability to be omni-channel, appearing wherever you need them to be from social media, messaging platforms, apps and devices like smart home speakers. Bots don’t just rely on text anymore but can work with emoji, voice-to-speech and speech-to-voice to provide the most natural or appropriate way of working (public kiosks or train quiet carriages requiring very different approaches).

Chatbots are also getting smarter both in conversational terms and the depth of knowledge they can provide to a subject. There’s still plenty of debate if a chatbot has, can or ever will pass the Turing Test, but most do a good enough job to achieve high customer satisfaction which is more of a key goal for most businesses.

Advanced chatbots with NLP understanding can have a conversation with multilingual capabilities using different conversational models to best meet the needs of the customer, going from professional and businesslike to colloquial and chatty depending on the objective of the chat and the type of customer involved.

From conversational commerce to high-volume customer service, chatbots increasingly deliver and the ability to operate where the customer is, using omni-channel is key to bots expanding to meet their changing needs, and placing the bot higher up the food chain when it comes to customer engagement. Plus, as new social media channels or business platforms emerge, future bots will need to be easy to switch on in these places, while adapting the experience to each fresh channel.

Whatever your business needs, from a fresh chatbot for your website to manual process automation for internal processes, the recent and future generations of chatbot can help deliver these faster and more efficiently than earlier versions. As with most cloud and as-a-service products, the conversational user experience will only continue to improve while chat AI will continue to improve producing more intelligent chatbots

The race to build the best bots

Building a chatbot is technically easy thanks to the tools available, and with plenty of examples out there, business leaders might think building a good one is just as simple. However, with the rise of AI, the need for training, good training data and bias analysis can easily be overlooked in the race for success.

Similarly, some companies can forget why they need the bot and push then out as an everyone-else-has-them feature. Chatbots are just as serious a business tool as the application suites that drive the organization and require the same deft touch that the smile on your sales/receptionist’s face first thing in the morning provides for customers. All these issues need to be considered in planning, development and delivery to ensure the bot meets the company needs while being adaptable to future requirements.