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How AI Chatbots Can Potentially Change User Engagement

Flat illustration of a human and a chatbot having a text conversation on a mobile device
February 9, 2023

Chances are, you’ve experienced the frustration of a chatbot that fails to answer your question—and sends you responding to the same prompts over and over, as though you’re running in circles.

Today, hope for a better solution is on the horizon.

Last month, we looked specifically at how recent developments in generative artificial intelligence led to the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT and DALL-E 2. Now, we want to look at how improvements in chatbot technology are opening doors to new possibilities in customer service and engagement efforts. Done well, these new and emerging bots have the potential to create a more user-friendly experience for the people who visit your websites, apps, and social media platforms.

How are chatbots changing?

While the first chatbot, known as ELIZA, came on the scene as early as the 1960s, a flood of chatbots entered the market in the last decade based strictly on scripts and rule sets written and developed by humans. These script-based and rule-based bots, though used widely across many industries, frustrated users and developers alike, leading many pundits to deem the chatbot revolution “a major disappointment” or “complete failure.” As customer service expert Christopher Elliott put it in a Forbes article from 2018:

“Chatbots [of this era] are killing customer service. Obliterating it, maybe.”

But that was then. And this is now—a time when huge leaps in artificial intelligence are promising to make chatbots more conversational and less disappointing to users. Thanks to machine learning, AI-based algorithms, and natural processing language, AI chatbots can (potentially) learn and improve how they function and work with every customer interaction. Like humans, they can (theoretically) train and get better over time.

This means, for instance, that they can do a better job at figuring out user intent—and get better at interpreting the nuances and complexities of natural language (i.e., how people actually speak and craft queries), without requiring your team to write endless perfect scripts and rule sets.

What, though, does that mean for those of us who work in the association, nonprofit, government, healthcare, and education spaces? How might the new AI bots help us?

To make information more accessible

Wading through a website’s navigation, and the endless reams of content it contains, can take time. The search function, done well, can certainly help, but imagine being able to chat with a bot that actually understands what you’re looking for? Enter the new AI chatbots.

Over time, with AI chatbots, you’ll be able to “assist” users with a wide variety of needs. Say, for example, that a user on a government website wants to apply for a particular license or find out how much it costs to apply. The user could simply enter the query into the chatbot—How do I apply for X license? How much does it cost to apply for X license?—and the bot would then generate a response.

For professional and trade associations, AI chatbots can potentially handle questions about everything from memberships to events and jobs.

For example, associations could use bots to answer questions that relate to:

Healthcare organizations might use a bot to give patients information about any number of topics, including:

The list can go on. The key, of course, will be to train your bot to deliver accurate information in the voice and style of your brand. Most script- and rule-based bots couldn’t pull off such a tall order previously. But these new developments in AI promise (and are starting to deliver) something altogether different.

To gather information from users

It’s easy to think of bots delivering information to users, but what about the opposite: How can AI chatbots give you information about your users?

Chatbots are, by nature, interactive, and you can use them much like you would a survey: to find out what users think. For example, if you’re a trade association or healthcare organization, in the process of planning your next webinar series, you might ask users to vote on a particular topic or share suggestions about a topic they’d like to see discussed. Likewise, if you’re planning an event, you might have people who register use a chatbot to submit questions ahead of time.

With the new AI chatbots, the bots could potentially follow up on user responses, allowing you to garner even deeper insights. Again, it all goes back to the bot’s ability to interpret user intent and engage in conversations that actually go somewhere (instead of just running in circles).

You could also use AI bots to gather data—on dates that work best, on the number or age span of employees within their organization, on the amount of exercise they get each day. The sky’s the limit, and in this Wild West of AI development, we encourage you to start thinking creatively about how a conversational AI bot might help. Consider, for instance, that the World Food Program utilized chatbots to gather data about food prices, food security, and weather from communities in Nigeria. How, then, might you use an AI bot to advance not just your marketing goals but also your overall mission?

With major breakthroughs happening right now in AI, chatbot technology is evolving quickly into something practical, groundbreaking, and affordable for associations and nonprofit, government, education, and healthcare organizations to implement and adapt to their needs. If you’re looking for a partner to help you find the right chatbot or other technological solution, know that our team at Astriata can help. Reach out to start the conversation.

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