Chatbots: What They Are and Why They Matter

Christy Walters


October 13, 2021 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

If you’ve ever interacted with some online customer service features, you may have been communicating with chatbots that sound human. More industries have incorporated or switched to artificial intelligence (AI) to run aspects of business, like conducting tutorials and answering customer questions. Chatbots have become popular because of advancements in machine learning and language processing technology. In this article, we discuss:

What Is a Chatbot?

A chatbot, also called a conversational agent, is a software application that can mimic human speech and conversation when interacting with an actual person. Developers have made it easier to make chatbots without a vast background in specialized coding knowledge. This makes the technology more accessible for a variety of businesses. Companies use chatbots for purposes like customer service, surveys, booking and scheduling, and entertainment. There are two different types of chatbots available:

  • Web-based applications: This type of chatbot operates on the web and doesn’t require special downloads to use them. You can operate web-based applications through a website or messaging program.
  • Standalone apps: This type of chatbot comes as a single download for your phone or mobile device. They operate independently of other software and systems.

How Do Chatbots Work?

Chatbots use a technology known as natural language processing (NLP). This is also the primary component in voice-recognition systems like Siri, Alexa, Google Home, Microsoft’s Cortana, and voice-operated remote controls. These systems take in the language as you type or speak and parse or segment words to make sense of what they mean. This allows the program to run a more complex algorithm that takes all that data and understands what it means in context. From there, chatbots generate a response or a series of choices for the user.

As engineers and scientists further develop NLP, chatbots can also become more advanced. One of the current challenges facing this technology is its ability to recognize subtle differences in language, like dialects. For example, when you speak into a voice remote and say “Hulu” it might recognize the word as “YouTube” in a certain accent. In written text, using dialect-specific words like the Pittsburgh “pop” instead of “soda” or “sweeper” instead of “vacuum” might create the same issue. However, as the technology gets more sophisticated, someday chatbots may understand these nuances.

Should I Be Using a Chatbot App on My Website?

Instead of asking yourself if you “should” use a chatbot on your website, the better question may be in what way can chatbots benefit your company? You don’t have to use a chatbot to stay competitive in your field if it’s not actually a useful tool for your business. If you’re looking to automate some of your more mundane or repetitive processes, chatbots could be helpful.

Using one on your website may be beneficial if you want a quick way to answer customer questions or provide guidance for how to navigate the side. Chatbots can also help with booking and scheduling tasks by taking information from customers and making the appropriate arrangements and syncing them with the proper calendars and systems.

Are Chatbots Dangerous?

Some people may worry that chatbots are dangerous because humans “teach” these programs to think and respond like humans. It sounds like something out of a science fiction story, so, understandably, you may have concerns. But, no, Chatbots as a tool aren’t dangerous. Like other internet programs and apps, they carry no more of a risk for viruses or other system issues than anything else you do online.

Though Chatbots aren’t dangerous in the sense that they harm people or technology, it doesn’t mean they don’t have any flaws. Some chatbots, especially those used for entertainment, have user-created repositories. This means the public can “teach” the program inappropriate words or phrases that it can repeat. This might not be a problem for every chatbot, depending on how it’s created or coded.

10 Examples of Chatbots You Can Use

Here are 10 examples of chatbots companies have created for a variety of uses. Some serve business purposes, while others are purely for entertainment:

1. Prisma

Image via ThinkMobiles

The Prisma Bot runs on the Telegram app. This messaging service works on Android, iOS, Mac, PC, and Linux devices. It lets users transform their regular photos into works of art using filters. The creators based the bot on an app called Prisma, which also uses filters to edit photos. The biggest differences available through the chatbot are the exclusion of a watermark on each photo and that you can leave Telegram and receive a notification when your photo is ready. Want to test it for yourself? Consider using the program to create images for your social media campaigns.

2. Andy – English Speaking Bot

Image via Medium

Andy is a chatbot app that lets you learn English right on your phone. You can practice conversational English, grammar, and vocabulary. Created by ZTO Labs, the company says the bot makes studying easier for those learning English as a second language because the bot doesn’t “judge” your performance but provides guidance based on mistakes. This chatbot can help people learning to speak the language or serve as a refresher course for native speakers.

3. Lark

Image via Medium

The Lark chatbot functions as a digital weight loss coach. Users take a short health quiz to enroll, then the bot assigns missions to help them reach their weight-loss goals. Motivation comes from smart scale compatibility, Fitbit activity tracking, and in-app badge rewards. The program can personalize the coaching and health content for each user with AI to make the most relevant and effective suggestions for meal planning, exercise, and wellness.

4. Digit

Image via Tearsheet

Digit is a chatbot for people looking to control their spending and budgets. Its goal is to help you save money and learn to be wiser in your purchasing. AI allows the chatbot to recognize your spending and saving habits. If you provide access to your bank accounts, the program can determine how much money to move from checking to savings each month. Through a series of prompts, you can teach the program about your income, bills, and lifestyle.

5. Joy Messenger

Image via VentureBeat

Joy is a mental health chatbot for Facebook Messenger. It asks questions about your mood and feelings each day to keep track of your mental health status. The program can give you tips to help cope with stress or anxiety. It can also help you better understand your emotions. By integrating with Facebook Messenger, the program doesn’t require a separate download to use.

6. ChatterBot

Image via Read the Docs

Chatterbot is a social chatting app. It runs on a Python library and actually lets app developers create their own versions of the chatbot for personal use. Each new bot can be language-independent, making it popular to create different chatbots in multiple languages. To get started, you can install ChatterBot from PyPi, GitHub, or the source website.

7. H&M Bot

Image via Chatbot Guide

The H&M personal styling chatbot runs through the platform KIK. It asks users questions about their style, then shows images of pieces from different H&M collections. You can respond to prompts to further specify your tastes and develop an entire look. If you’re satisfied with your outfit, you can buy it right through the app. You can also save your looks for later.

8. Casper

Casper’s Insomnobot3000 keeps night owl users company until they can fall asleep at night. If you suffer from insomnia, you might want someone to listen or something else to get worries off your mind so you can sleep. If you don’t want to ask a friend or family member to stay awake with you during this time, this chatbot can solve that issue. It provides an AI conversation system that can listen and respond until you’re tired enough to fall asleep.

9. MedWhat

Image via Orange Fab

The MedWhat chatbot can help you make medical diagnoses about your symptoms. It can make discovering and treating illnesses and ailments easier, faster, and more transparent for patients and physicians. Unlike Googling or searching WebMD, this program can answer questions about certain conditions and review symptoms to determine what your illness could be. This bot uses medical research and peer-reviewed scientific data to expand its knowledge platform and offerings.

10. Roof

Image via LinkedIn

The Roof chatbot can help brokerage companies get more leads and generate new revenue from existing customers. Some of its specialties include warranties, insurance, mortgages, and relocation. The program can automate the lead generation process through Facebook. The app prompts leads for more information about their needs, then assigns them to a sales agent to handle the processing. Roof can help expedite responding to leads by allowing the bot to collect some of the information before passing it to a human.

5 Chatbot Builders To Use for Your Business

After browsing some of the available chatbots online, you may decide that building one is right for your company. These five chatbot builders can help you create one for your custom needs with easy, visual creators.

1. Tidio

Image via Tidio

Tidio offers not just a chatbot platform, but also live chat options and mailing to help provide the most tools for connecting with customers. It integrates with platforms like email clients, Facebook Messenger, Shopify, and WordPress. The visual editor has templates for different uses, like welcoming visitors, answering questions, and generating leads. Tidio has a free version and paid plans to access premium features.

2. Chatfuel

Image via Tidio

Chatfuel lets you build bots for Facebook Messenger. It’s popular for in-person businesses, nonprofits, and e-commerce stores. The program has tools like A/B testing to help you determine what features are most popular with your audience. It also allows for customization with the option to add audio and video and import from RSS feeds. Chatfuel provides a live chat feature that allows someone to pause interaction with the bot and talk to an actual person. Users must have Facebook Messenger to talk to you using Chatfuel-built bots.

3. MobileMonkey

Image via Tidio

MobileMonkey’s OmniChat technology lets you engage with customers across channels. These include messaging apps, websites, and text messages. Its drag-and-drop interface makes it easy for non-coders to prepare a functional chatbot. You can use widgets to provide extensive information, such as text, images, photos, video, attachments, and GIFs. OmniChat allows you to set keyword triggers. With these, the bot can react a certain way when people enter certain prompts. For example, if a customer asks for your hours, you can use that keyword to trigger the bot to respond with a list of your current business hours.

4. ManyChat

Image via Tidio

ManyChat’s builder is good for small businesses and online stores. It lets you create automated text messages and Facebook Messenger communications. The business must have a Facebook page to create a chatbot, but users and customers don’t have to be on the social media platform to use it. You can launch ManyChat bots with a QR code, link, or button. It integrates with other apps, such as PayPal, Shopify, and Google Sheets.

5. SnatchBot

Image via Tidio

SnatchBot is most useful for online stores and medium-sized businesses. It works with many channels to handle chats and to complete simple tasks. Creators can send bulk messages to a specific audience and target people by their last conversation, name, or user channel. SnatchBot offers a live chat option similar to ChatFuel, where representatives can pause bot interaction and instead converse directly with customers. You can take advantage of bot templates for different types of businesses, like online stores, banking, or customer service.

There are many chatbots and builders you can use to make your online business easier. Choosing the one that’s right for you may depend on your individual company needs and customer preferences.

Author Image - Christy Walters
Christy Walters

CopyPress writer

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