Just within the last couple of years, the popularity of chatbots have exploded. There are already thousands of chatbots spread across dozens of messaging platforms. Chatbots are different from the AI assistants that we interact with on our mobile devices. While digital assistants are programmed to work more broadly across a wide range of mobile applications, chatbots are narrower programs that typically work within a single application. In short, it can do one thing very well rather than many things not as well. But what really sets chatbots apart from virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa is that they can more realistically simulate conversation with a human. Though chatbots are still in their infancy, businesses have already found many different ways to put them to good use. Here are four things a chatbot could do for your business, and one thing it can’t.

It can…

  • Aid with customer support. The most common use for chatbots in the world of business is customer support. Instead of going online or calling a customer service line, customers can shoot a quick text to open a support ticket. A chatbot can attempt to resolve the customer’s issue unassisted by using natural language processing to understand the nature of the issue or question. Chatbots lighten the load for live customer service agents by answering simple questions and resolving issues and only transferring people to live agents when necessary.
  • Help analyze conversational analytics. Another great use for chatbots is conversational analytics. While calls with live agents are recorded and can be reviewed for the purpose of finding and correcting inefficiencies, chats between customers and chatbots can all be saved already in text form. These archived conversations can then be used to improve the effectiveness of future chatbot-customer interactions so that chatbots are actually learning and adapting to be more effective over time.
  • Assist with accounting tasks. Accounting is one of the most boring and time-consuming side-tasks that a small business owner has to manage if he/she can’t afford to hire an accountant or secretary. There are chatbots can can do accounting tasks for the business owner whether that’s pulling up invoices, creating and sending invoices, or compiling financial information.
  • Provide automation for ecommerce. Businesses are also finding that they can use chatbots to boost their ecommerce. Since many prefer to shop online from the comfort of their homes, chatbots that can act as in-store associates in offering suggestions, narrowing down choices based on the shopper’s preferences, and completing the transaction.

It can’t…

  • Replicate the human touch (yet). One thing that chatbots can’t do is pass the Turing Test. In other words, humans can still tell they’re talking to a bot and there are many people, especially among older generations, that don’t like it. As the artificial intelligence that goes into programming chatbots improves, chatbots may be able to reach a point where they can perfectly simulate human conversation but for the time-being they still have a lot to offer even with their limited conversational abilities.