AI chatbots: an overview

AI chatbots: an overview

July 5, 2023

If you ever pictured the future filled with talking robots, that reality is becoming closer
each day with the rise of AI chatbots. Designed to help with customer service requests
and lighten the load on the human workforce, chatbots are becoming a popular way to
boost a company’s customer service function while keeping costs down. But what is AI,
what are chatbots and how do they work?

What is AI?

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a type of computer science focused on machine learning.
Programmes, or ‘machines’, can be programmed to fulfil a number of roles and perform
tasks ranging from basic IT functions to complex mathematical predictive calculations.
One thing AI is becoming increasingly skilled at is impersonating humans. Thanks to
natural language programming and machine learning, AI can be trained to deliver
customer service interactions via chatbots.

What exactly are chatbots?

A chatbot is what it sounds like — a robot that can chat! If you’ve ever spotted a text
box appear on a website with an automated greeting from a customer service
representative, the chances are that it was a chatbot. The bots are programmed to
respond to basic customer service queries, which can range from something as simple
as answering frequently asked questions to helping a customer solve a complex

How do chatbots work?

Chatbots, and all AI, must be programmed to perform tasks or to communicate in an
understandably human way. This programming is done via a language — but perhaps
not the language you’re thinking of. Rather than English or another spoken language,
these programming languages include:

  • Python
  • Java
  • Ruby
  • C++

These languages all help AI programmes to learn language via a system called Natural
Language Processing, or NLP. NLP helps AI to understand both written and spoken
human language. With the right programming, AI chatbots can learn to interact with
humans by processing and analysing language, then learning to formulate a response.
Chatbots including ChatGPT and Google’s LaMDA model have already passed the
Turing test, a test devised by mathematician Alan Turing in 1950 to test a machine’s
ability to “exhibit intelligent behaviour” and be indistinguishable from a human.

How does the BPO industry use chatbots?

BPO services often include customer service functions. These functions can include
customer support, contact centres and even HR functions. And in the Philippines, many
offices are working 24/7 to support teams around the world in helping customers solve
problems ranging from login issues to processing insurance claims. And chatbots are
forming part of these multifunctional teams. Chatbots can be a helpful ‘first line of
support’ by dealing with simpler requests that don’t need escalating to a human
customer service agent. And chatbots can also be used to filter higher priority customer
service requests to a customer service agent, saving them time by only responding to
the most urgent or complex requests.

Programming and NLP can assist chatbots in dealing with customer requests in many
languages. Chatbots can even be integrated into other services, such as the American
Express chatbot that can be accessed via Facebook Messenger and Amazon Alexa.
This kind of integration shows a promising future for customer service chatbots around
the world, and especially for those in the BPO industry.

While programmes like ChatGPT and Bard are making waves in the online world,
programmers still need to develop software to ‘feed’ the programmes and keep them up
to date. According to Nimble Work, chatbots can save up to 30% in customer support
costs, and 95% of consumers believe that “customer service is going to be a major
beneficiary of chatbots.”


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