Top 5 Chatbot Trends in 2022
By jake ellis | Jan 25, 2022
Most internet users have encountered a chatbot at some point in their lives. How can any of us forget the frustration of “sorry I don’t understand” prompts? Indeed, chatbots are far from a new kid on the block and are still evolving, and yet to realize their full potential.
While they’ve faced many operational and technological hurdles since their debut, 2021 marked a turning point in chatbot technology. It became the year that new Artificial Intelligence (AI) training and Natural Language Processing (NLP) advancements swept away many of the earlier technological shortcomings. The ‘class of 2022’ bots—are better able to understand the intentions of enquirers, and be generally more useful. For this reason, the use of chatbots is predicted to skyrocket this year.
How chatbots are understood to work (or not work) today
While chatbot technology has been around for a while, the two forms of chatbot that are currently most readily available to the market are scripted and freeform bots. The main difference between these two types is that scripted bots require the user to select a distinct and predetermined answer for the chatbot to continue the conversation. Whereas, freeform bots allow the user to respond in their own words and intelligently respond as if the interaction was with another human.
At least, that’s how they’re supposed to work. Instead, many earlier iterations of the freeform chatbots (that have not been trained) struggle with missed intents—i.e., They misread the user’s prompt causing the infamous “Sorry, I don’t understand” prompts. This could be why the promising and somewhat overreaching initial predictions for chatbots have been missed.
In 2016, Business Insider predicted that chatbots would reach adoption rates of 80% by 2020. This proved to be woefully wide of the mark.
How the early-stage shortcomings of chatbot functionality have been redressed
While some businesses have stuck with the less intelligent but previously more reliable scripted version of chatbots, adoption rates for freeform bots have been catastrophically low. In one study by INTNT.ai, adoption rates were found to be just 6.75% at their lowest in the insurance industry, despite the fact that the early bumps in the road have been ironed out. Indeed, chatbot training through the power of AI and NLP has dramatically improved chatbot performance.
In one study, it was shown that bot training reduced customer requests for transfers to human agents from 21% to 6% by maintaining bot response accuracy rates at 90% and above (from an original 35%). Despite this, many businesses have yet to reap the benefits of these new advancements.
The big things to look out for in 2022?
Developments in AI and NLP training regimes represent the next step in chatbot technology. However, these will be implemented alongside other significant digitalization priorities in 2022. Therefore, we have listed the 5 biggest changes that will affect chatbots and the chatbot market alike over the next year.
1. A Widespread Chatbot Training Programme
While 2021 saw the introduction and advancement of AI and NLP technology, it is still yet to be implemented in a large proportion of the chatbots currently in use. While adoption rates are low overall, many of the bots that are currently in service have yet to be upgraded to the newer technology. Therefore, 2022 will see the mass deployment of training programmes for chatbots that are currently in use. This will allow them to better understand the freeform requests of users that may use different wordings and dialects to convey the same prompt. This itself will see a marked and significant reduction in the amount of “Sorry I don’t understand” prompts and will help to reinvigorate business confidence in commissioning chatbots.
2. Increasingly Demanding Customer Service Expectations
While it may seem that the pandemic has been going on for a long time now, the effects on business and customer service are only just starting to be felt. With cases at all-time highs and absenteeism due to self-isolating and general illness means that staffing numbers have been increasingly under pressure. This has developed alongside a shift towards working from home and hybrid working business models that have put considerable strains on customer service demands. As more people choose to abandon the high streets for the safety of online shopping, the number of customer service requests increases. This twin effect of decreasing staff availability and increasing demand means that businesses will be challenged to look for new ways to handle customer service requests. This will only push more businesses towards chatbots and increase the adoption rates across the board.
3. Conversion of Scripted Bots to Freeform Bots
One of the main reasons that scripted chatbots have stuck around for so long has been the past patchy reliability of freeform bots. No one would doubt that freeform bots are the more advanced technology, after all, who can forget the annoyance of being faced with a limited multiple-choice selection that doesn’t include what you are looking for. This is not to say that scripted chatbots are doomed to retirement, but rather that the industries that would largely benefit from having a much more intelligent, better trained, and more capable chatbot will start to shift and update their bot technology.
4. The Decline of Live Chat
Another temporary remedy for the technology debt of freeform chatbots has been the adoption of live chat. This has previously ensured that no requests or leads would go unanswered as it removes the role of the bot altogether and requests are transferred directly to human agents. While the use of live chats can be industry-specific, with the car industry particularly utilising the technology for high value and low turnover product lines, a personal connection can now also be achieved by a well-trained bot. This, coupled with the increasing demand for customer service, can help to save not only time in dealing with requests but also the money that it takes to staff a live chat operation. Therefore, as the technology of chatbots begins to shift towards new training methods, so will the use of live chat decline.
5. The Rise of the Voice Bots
Alongside the advancements to text-based chatbot technology, AI and NLP will also allow the development of Voice Bots. This will be a real game-changer for AI and bot deployment as they will no longer require text-based inputs. Indeed, we are already no strangers to voice searches through our smartphones and computers. The new technology will therefore expand their deployment to include specific functions and use cases within a customer service department. Here, different dialects and wordings can be translated from voice searches to make the bots understand speech better. This not only will mark an end to the annoyance of a numbered menu in customer service calls, but also the woefully long wait times to get through to a human agent. Here, some requests will be easily handled by the bots, reducing the burden and strain on increasing customer service demand.
Why kickstarting adoption needs to happen sooner rather than later
While the delay in getting these new advancements may seem disappointing compared to the early predictions, it is no reason to misjudge the chatbot market. While previous iterations have been plagued with missed intents and bad reputations, now is the time for companies to fully embrace the new wave of technology. Specifically, AI training and NLP will open chatbot technology up to a new world of understanding and competence, while broad shifts in the chatbot market in 2022 will demand a dynamic and intelligent response. While the questions for customer service requests are still the same, we now have all-new answers.
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