(Article is written by Khairani Afifi Noordin /The Edge Malaysia)


Hi, my name is Ann. How may I help you today?” The user asks a question using the website’s Live Chat feature and ‘Ann’ provides an instant reply. She then asks if she has given the correct information and whether the user would like any other assistance.

Ann is, in fact, a bot deployed by the website to communicate with users. Generally, a chatbot is a software that responds to queries in a natural and human-like way. It is powered by rules, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to perform its tasks.

Meanwhile, NLP is the ability of a computer programme to understand human speech as it is naturally spoken. According to Dr. Mazlan Abbas, CEO and co-founder of Favoriot, which specializes in the Internet of Things (IoT), the development of NLP applications had been challenging as computers traditionally required humans to speak to them in a precise, unambiguous and highly structured programming language.

“Human speech is not always precise. It is often ambiguous and there are so many factors that can make it complex such as slang and regional dialects,” he says.

“It is even more challenging in countries like Malaysia, where there are two predominant languages — English and Malay — used for customer service. But it is not impossible. With enough samples, the chatbot and the underlying technology should be able to process natural language requests better.”

This trend is likely to gain traction. According to a report by customer experience management solutions provider Servion, 95% of all customer interactions, including live telephone and online conversations, will be powered by AI by 2025.

Additionally, customer expectations that businesses use visual technologies such as virtual and augmented reality are set to skyrocket. Businesses that fail to prepare for this eventuality face a severe risk of being left behind. However, there is always a concern among business leaders that such an investment is too big to bear, especially for smaller companies.

Mazlan says there is no reason for businesses to worry about the high cost of adopting such technologies as it is not that expensive to use basic chatbots. “Different levels of intelligence can be incorporated in a chatbot. Simple rule-based ones, which answer basic questions, are affordable. The more intelligence it requires, the more expensive it becomes,” he points out.

“But there is no reason for businesses to shun the technology completely. They can try out basic chatbots before determining whether they add value to the company.”

Mazlan says in future, chatbots will help companies have better customer relationships. It will be able to have human-like relationships with individual customers and take customer service to the next level. “With more intelligence, chatbots can be more customer-centric. I believe it will not be long before I only need to give my name and the bot will know everything about me and be able to provide better-targeted service.”

(This is an edited version. You can find the full article HERE)

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