I must confess, I am a bit of a nut about chatbots.
I have been doing AI and related technologies (including NLP and bots-like tech) for quite some time and was a firm believer in the early waves of chatbots (back then we called them virtual agents – this is circa 2000 and was just starting to enter the realm of large enterprises).
Still am a firm believer, despite the bad name that they engendered through the early parts of this century due to lack of quantifiable results. I mean, the worked – they just didn’t register well enough with the metrics we needed to justify them (read: too complicated, expensive, and cumbersome to maintain).
As we evolve with these technologies I am more inclined to believe that it is one the viable paths to get to full automation (which continues to be my dream for customer service) – or close to it. But, to get there we need to simplify deployments and the maintenance.
This is why I was excited to hear that one of my clients, NoHold – one of my oldest and dearest clients with good virtual assistants / chatbot technology, was thinking of doing that – making it simpler, cheaper, and easier to deploy them. We had been talking for a while about their plans and the research they prompted via an inquiry eventually became the latest linked-in blog post I wrote: Chatbots for the Small Business.
In that post, I claim that simplicity and democratization of the resources inherent to chatbot’s world can be used by small business easily to fulfill their needs. I also make the statement that if this works for small businesses then anyone and anything can leverage chatbots. My hope is that we can all, for professional or personal reasons, create and manage an army of chatbots that, easily and with limited or no maintenance, will allow us to focus on the real needs we have and simplify the easy interactions with others.
- Democratization of Chatbot Technology. This the most interesting point to me: bringing the complicated components necessary to run chatbots in a simple manner to all organizations. In my past post, I looked at a handful of companies that are working on that – but this launch is a tad different. NoHold has lengthy (read, over 15 years) doing this and they have evolved not only their chatbot tech but also knowledge management components to deliver complex bots. Their new QuickSmart platform, a subset of all those components, emphasizes the ease of deployment and lack of training for a chatbot. It has all the large scalability and powerful language and intelligence processing elements that are provided in a simpler turn-key (or almost solution). There is no easier way to democratize technology than to make the complex simple and to allow organizations access to high-tech that would otherwise be unavailable to them. This is one of those moves.
- Platform Based. For small businesses, the ability to do little and get lots of value is a preternatural pursue; having limited resources to begin with they are always looking for better ways, and cheaper/faster/easier/simpler ways, to accomplish what they need. Using platforms, and their inherent ability to both leverage other elements as well as easily customize and personalize the outcome, is a natural – and one of the reasons cloud computing has been growing steadily among the SMB crowd. From their early days, NoHold had relied on their SICURA platform to deliver ever-easier implementations of chatbots for their customers and now they have extended that modus operandi to their new QuickStart platform for small businesses. This means that SMB organizations can now – for the most part, there are some differences – create and deploy similar complexity chatbots in their service setups. This is not only good for the SMB, but also for the large enterprises that benefit from the lessons learned in using platforms more efficiently.
- No Coding. SMB needs are easy and simple. The lack of resources becomes an insurmountable issue if, as with most enterprise chatbots, a few months of work are required to deploy. Removing the need for complex configuration and simplifying or eliminating coding is the easiest way to serve the needs of the small business – but also the needs of large enterprises that may have business workers creating chatbots as needed. NoHold QuickStart uses word documents, with minimal formatting and structure, to create a chatbot. This is a tremendous advantage over the traditional way to train and implement a chatbot – where mostly a set of Q&A is loaded one by one via an interface – and one that can leverage documents already created by the company for other purposes. This is a critical sine-qua-non in my opinion for small businesses to embrace this technology as — well, anybody in the business world knows how to use Word.
There is a lot more to cover in this release: more features, more functionality, more use cases, and more examples – but I think the points above are what make my interest in this launch so. If there is a way to leverage existing, complex technology and deliver a simplified model of the same to democratize access to the technology – to me that’s a good day.
disclaimer: NoHold is a client, one of my oldest clients, and I have received compensation along the way to help them with this and other launches. I was drawn into drafting my Linked-in post based on research I had to do to answer their inquiry. I am solely responsible for this content and the opinions expressed herein and no one at NoHold attempted to tell me what to say or do. if you disagree with my position, that’s good if you have the data to back it up. if you agree, that’s better. I do believe we are just tapping the surface on what we will be able to do with chatbots and will continue to cover this as it becomes available – a large part of my research going forward is about artificial intelligence. if you have any worthwhile announcement, launch, or something interesting to share with me in this field – please contact me.
(Cross-posted @ thinkJar)