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Picking the right bot platform – where to start?

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By Purushottam Darshankar, Principal Architect, Persistent Systems

Are you struggling with where to get started selecting the right chatbots (or conversational agents or smart personal assistants) for your business?

It’s recognized as one of the most popular AI technologies and customer service automation is usually the most talked about application.

AI-powered chatbots can automate the usually mundane and repetitive tasks currently handled by humans- order placing, billing and payments, enquiry of different products and services. They can increase productivity, free humans up for more valuable work and above all, provide an enhanced customer service experience.

But with plenty of chatbot platforms to choose from, the task of selecting the right bot platform has become trickier than ever.Here are a few key areas to consider:

– Natural language understanding, processing and learning
– Ease of dialog development, deployment and integration
– Scalable architecture with administrative portal
– Security and audit
– Flexible pricing models

Let’s take a closer look at what each of these areas needs to offer.

#1 Natural Language understanding, processing and learning
An effective bot is one that understands the user’s intent and the context of the conversation throughout the interaction. While this is immediately apparent to a human being, it is difficult for a machine to comprehend.

It takes years for humans to learn a language. To imitate human behavior and response is a daunting task for bots. It is difficult for it to replicate the irrational aspects of human behavior, which is why bots are developed to perform only specific and usually repetitive tasks.

Platforms with advanced AI and NLP (Natural Language Processing) capabilities provide the bot with an ability to break down complex language and execute the complex tasks. It involves modelling the entities, intents and actions of the user within the given context.

Another important criteria is the ability of chatbots to learn automatically with each conversation, reducing the burden of including humans for training purpose. The newer chatbots employ deep learning to analyze human input and combine learning, understanding and training to generate a natural response.

#2 Ease of dialog development, deployment and integration capabilities
Designing a conversation between a user and a bot is one of the most challenging exercises. The platform should provide a bot builder IDE (integrated development environment) tool that should ideally be able to help an organization create complex user-to-bot interactions without the need to write code.

By providing suitable API support, the platform should also allow the organization to host multiple channels. The most notable ones are Facebook, Slack, Skype for Business and Telegram. A few other categories to consider include speech recognition, language translation and multi-device support.

To be able to satisfy end users and carry out meaningful interactions, a bot should be easily integrated with backend transaction services, analytics data and other knowledge resource databases.

#3 Scalable architecture with administration portal
A big factor behind the growing adoption rate of AI chatbots is their ‘always on’ nature. Once deployed, however, the volume of interactions may not remain the same at all times. The platform should provide dynamic scaling properties that allow it to handle fluctuating demand volumes with ease and also keep the infrastructure costs low.

It is also important to keep a check on behavioral performance as a bot continues to refine its natural language understanding through regular training. A good administrative portal will provide administrators with a convenient way to manage and train the bot and manage user access.

#4 Security and audit
As people often share personal, sensitive and confidential data through bot interactions,there must be security measures to prevent unauthorized access to such information.The platform should allow organizations the flexibility to build their bot either on-premise or in the cloud. Some enterprises may prefer an on-premise delivery model as it allows them to have full control over the chatbot experience and securely manage all chatbot conversations within their enterprise environment.

The underlying platform should let administrators monitor the activities happening on a chatbot, as well as have the option of logging and manage auditing.

#5 Flexible pricing models
Finally, we know what is on every decision maker’s mind when deciding a new chatbot platform – pricing. Most of the bot platforms today provide a free-to-use basic plan, and the charges are based only on the actual usage of the bot. They use a combination of fixed, pay-as-you-go or outcome-based pay-per-performance models.

Based on budget, business requirements from the bot, and shortlisted features of the platforms – you can make an informed decision.

The presence of so many chatbot platforms has, without doubt, made the task of evaluating an enterprise chatbot platform challenging– but with due care and proper research, you can zero in on the platform that would be best suited for your purposes.

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