With AI (Artificial Intelligence) gaining speed in 2019 it becomes imperative for businesses to improve their customer service and customer experience. Google, Facebook, Amazon’s Alexa, government agencies, and businesses of all sizes are all embracing new technology tools such as chatbots, RPA, and virtual agents.


Chatbots are the most common of these tools. Short for “chat robot”, a chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation using AI.  Chatbots are built to imitate human conversations by using a pre-determined script.

Without the ability to use context or customer intent, a chatbot conversation is not like that of real human-to-human interaction. Chatbots are usually given a structured script of responses to cover all possible angles of a customer’s inquiry. These canned responses can be effective, but often they fail to accurately answer a customer’s questions, which negatively impacts the customer experience. It’s irritating to ask a question and have the chatbot keep giving the incorrect response over and over — an important fact to keep in mind when selecting AI technology for your goals.


What is RPA? RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation — the automation of repetitive, simple tasks such as data entry, calculations, employee onboarding, licensing, and procurement.

In the past, RPA has been primarily used by the financial services industry, but now many health agencies and government offices are also using it. RPA can increase accuracy, speed, and standardization, which can save a company between 40 – 70% in labor costs.

The future looks bright for RPA as it is considered the workhorse of AI and machine learning. While AI and machine learning uses cognitive techniques, RPA provides solutions to the more complex problems of “fuzzy logic, image and pattern recognition”.

Virtual Assistants

One might ask “Will robots take over the world someday?” The answer to that question is yes, and that someday is now. Virtual Assistants (VA), or Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVA) take chatbots to a whole new level of advanced learning and customer communication. AI is also creating virtual assistants that have their own faces, names, and overall personas.

Virtual assistants have been defined as “a conversational, computer-generated character that simulates a conversation to deliver voice- or text-based information to a user via a Web, kiosk, or mobile interface.” Does this sound familiar to anyone who has used Alexa, Siri, or Google Maps? With AI technology, a virtual assistant can capture a user’s behavior and intention and it will adapt how to interact with that customer.

There are many differences between chatbots and virtual assistants, but the three main ones are:

  1. Understanding

As mentioned above, chatbots do not have the intelligence to understand human conversation but use a built-in script to produce responses. Virtual Assistants use an artificial intelligence that can emulate human interaction to perform tasks through advancements in neural networks, AI, and machine learning.

  1. Context

Chatbots do not have advanced dialogue capabilities. They rely on structured, pre-determined scripts to answer basic questions. The conversation flow is controlled by the bot and when the bot doesn’t understand the intention of the customer, the conversation flow is broken.

Virtual Assistants have a dynamic dialogue where the conversation flow can switch from being controlled by the user or by the technology. Virtual Assistants, unlike chatbots, are better able to understand the intent of the customer and act with greater nuance and precision.

  1. Persistence

Brands must be present on multiple channels, but able to maintain consistency across those channels. For example, when a customer starts a conversation over the phone using virtual assistants, they are able to pick up where they left off via chat, email, or text. Chatbots don’t have the intelligence to maintain this context or consistency across channels, so the customer has to start from the beginning. This can become very frustrating to the customer and can thus negatively impact your business and brand.

Be sure to select the proper AI tools for your business needs and you’ll be rewarded with cost savings, satisfied customers, and a positive brand image.

As we look further into 2019, chatbots, RPA, and virtual assistants are ushering in an age of automation that will improve the way businesses do business. Let’s hang on for the ride!

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