This is my continuing series on emerging technology trends and libraries. This week’s trend explores the world of Chatbots.
What’s a Chatbot? Chatbots are called many things besides just “chatbot.” You might also know them as conversational agents, intelligent chatbots, interactive agents, or talkbots.
Chatbots are pretty much apps that talk back to you (my definition). Here’s a better definition from Wordstream: “… software applications that mimic written or spoken human speech for the purposes of simulating a conversation or interaction with a real person.”
This interaction is mostly done via chat boxes on websites. But they can also be found in call centers. In a call center environment, chatbots take care of very low-level transactions, like changing a password, requesting an account balance, or scheduling an appointment without having to talk to a real person.
The same basic transactions can be handled with a text-based chatbot on a website.
Chatbots use Natural Language Processing, much like virtual assistants such as Google Assistant, or Apple Siri. They attempt to sound (or read) very “real,” so the transaction has a more human feel to it. Very different from a phone tree in a call center or typing answers to questions on a web-based form.
Examples of Chatbots include:
- Health-based. Some chatbots are used in medical diagnoses, dementia patient monitoring, and basic information gathering.
- Facebook Messenger and Twitter DMs – these are both good places to see chatbots in action.
- Chatbots within mobile apps. My bank app has one (Erica in the Bank of America app). The Starbucks app has a chatbot that helps you order coffee. Lyft has one that works with Facebook Messenger and Amazon Echo. Fandango also has a app that works with Facebook Messenger.
- eBay’s chatbot works with Google Assistant.
Chatbots in the library?
How about having a chatbot for the library? Chatbots answer basic, always-asked questions. A library chatbot could answer a variety of questions, like:
- Questions about hours, locations, and upcoming events. Maybe it could even capture event registrations.
- With a good API connection, a chatbot could tell a customer when their books are due, or take fine payment information.
- Facebook Messenger chatbots. You could build your chatbots to operate within Facebook Messenger. If you get a lot of questions there, it’s definitely something to think about.
- Chat-based reference. Have a chat-based reference service? It’s very possible your chatbot could answer basic questions, freeing up your staff’s time to answer harder questions or focus on other tasks.
Articles for more information about Chatbots:
- The Complete Guide to Chatbots in 2018
- How to Build Your Own Facebook Chatbot in About 10 Minutes
- Infotabby – The Cybrarian’s and Librarian’s Assistant
- We Reviewed The Most Popular Chatbot Platforms: Which One is Right For Your Business?
Build your own chatbot! Here are a couple of chatbot builder tools to check out (all mostly built on the Facebook Messenger platform):
- Octane AI
- Facebook Messenger: If you use Facebook a lot, and know how to code, you can make your own chatbots without using a 3rd party tool.
Does your library use chatbots? Please share!