What are Chatbots and how do they work?

Chatbots are computer programs that use artificial intelligence to imitate verbal or written human conversations. They are a form of automated service that clients can interact with, and they are hosted on many major social platforms such as Facebook Messenger.

Typically, a chatbot communicates with a human being in the same way another human being would, and many companies are already using them to automate their customer support functions. If you have used Siri, Google Now or Cortana, then you have definitely interacted with the most common types of chatbot.


  • How do Chatbots work?

Chatbots work just like human beings replying to queries on the other end of a chat line. When a customer opens a chat dialogue or asks a question in verbal form, it is the chatbot that responds on the other end. For example, if a customer wanted to know what products are currently on offer at a store, they could type or ask “what products do you currently have on offer?” Using the information available to the chatbot at the time, it would respond just like a human being and list the products on discount.

  • The two categories of Chatbots

All chatbots are a form of artificial intelligence interface supported by complex programming, but they can be categorized into two depending on how their programming is done.

Scripted and Structured Chatbots – These chatbots are programmed to offer answers according to how they have been scripted. Such chatbots have a small skill set and knowledge base, hence only provide output to queries structured in a certain way.

For example, if you were using a scripted weather chatbot and asked: “Will it be windy tomorrow?” The answer can be provided easily. However, if you asked “Will I need a jacket tomorrow,” the chatbot may not be able to interpret your intent if the programming is not there. It will only tell you it doesn’t understand the question asked. That means this type of chatbot is as good as its level of programming.

Machine Learning Chatbots – These chatbots harness the power of machine learning to understand language and hence be able to interpret queries. They grow a broader knowledge base as more users interact with them. In our query above, this type of chatbot will be able to figure out that your question is related to the weather being rainy, cold or windy.

Chatbots are an excellent way for businesses to automate communication with customers. They can not only help them improve customer service and response rates, but also automate repetitive tasks and streamline the shopping process.