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Early last year, Kia disclosed that its use of a Facebook chatbot had produced impressive results from among visitors of the company’s more than 800 websites.

Since then, the relentless pace of innovation is continuing, yet chatbots have recently been subjected to strong criticism. Some industry observers say that certain chatbots have failed to provide appropriate answers and have frequently made statements that are unrelated to their conversations.

Kia, however, appears pleased with results. In March of last year, Kia disclosed that its Kian chatbot and messenger service has a 21% conversion rate while Kia.com has a conversion rate of only 7%, according to DigiDay.

At the time of the article, Kian had exchanged 600,000 messages, thereby increasing engagement by more than 50 times. The service can help users shop for a new car, inquire about services such as roadside assistance, and find parts or other items at local dealers.

Yet, not everyone is impressed with chatbots, or at least, not impressed with certain chatbots. In February, for example, ZDNet ran an article with the title “Why chatbots still leave us cold.” It discussed interactions with a technology platform that won the "Second Conversational Intelligence Challenge," which was a competition between chatbots that took place at the NeurIPS artificial intelligence conference in Montreal in December.

ZDNet maintains that conversations with the winning platform, developed by Lost in Conversation, were comparable to what you may find online. In one conversation, the platform said “I love to paint.” When asked what it likes to paint, it responded that it “loves to draw portraits of my favorite cars.”

So, in addition to not answering a question about painting, it also claimed to make portraits of cars even though portraits typically refer to images of individuals.

In another example, a chatbot user said she didn’t feel good and the chatbot responded by asking "Is anything in particular making you feel so positive?" So reports TechTarget.

Yet, many chatbot users appear to be overlooking the technology’s glitches. In one survey by Uberall, 80% of consumers that have dealt with AI chatbots said their experiences have generally been favorable, according to Retailwire.

Yet, when asked about areas for improvement, 43% of survey respondents said chatbots need to improve their accuracy of understanding what customers are looking for. Among respondents, 27% said chatbots need to do a better job of getting human service representative when needed and 19% of respondents said chatbots need to do a better job of conducting more human, or life-like, sounding conversations.

Developing natural language chatbots is challenging because there are many ways that speakers can express an idea or concept, explains Gökhan Tur, director of conversational AI at Uber's AI Labs unit. In a recent TechTarget article, he provides an example of an artificial intelligence chatbot at a pizza restaurant asking a customer what kind of toppings should be included on a pizza. 

The chatbot might expect the customer to list toppings, but instead, the customer may respond with a question, such as “what kind of toppings do you have” or “what kind of olives do you have.” In such an instance, the unexpected response from the customer could result in the chatbot not responding appropriately.

Among other attributes, Chatbots are substantially less expensive than hiring additional human customer service representative. According to one recent study by Juniper Research, the adoption of chatbots in the finance industry is expected to save banks $7.3 billion globally each year by 2023, according to The Internet of All Things. The technology is also expected to save millions of work hours.

As demand for chatbots continues to grow, providers of the technology are likely to continue researching ways to improve upon the technology. It is likely that sometime in the foreseeable future chatbot technology will advance and result in natural conversations that are free of glitches.  

Last modified on Saturday, 09 March 2019
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