There’s a less frequently talked about aspect of what advanced natural language processing technology allows us to do that will have a big impact on our daily lives.
This is what we’re calling “Agent side bots”, or technology that’s deployed between different pieces of software that helps the human with their daily work.
The need for these sort of products comes from a few different things. Namely:
1) Fully automated chat bots are… not really delivering on the initial promise. Low response rates, user creep-outs, bad experiences have scarred many customers, and in return are scaring away companies from deploying them.
2) There’s simply no way to beat human decision making when it comes to human to human interactions.
3) Software that helps the user, especially in business environments, is always a winning strategy.
If you think of the evolution of modern business interfaces, it’s all about giving us more and flexible control over what we want to do and how we can do it. Search engines changed the world for a good reason, to the extent that much of our daily lives consist of searching for things on the internet (and our work: searching for things on the intranet).
Customer support process is not ideally shaped
But let’s break down a typical process in a business environment:
Alice asks Bob a question (through chat or e-mail or the phone),
Bob looks up the information for Alice in the system only he has access to,
Or Bob tells Alice the answer based on Bob’s knowledge of the subject.
We’ve seen a lot of attempts at trying to replace Bob in this transaction, either by turning Bob into a wikipedia or a fully automatic agent.
But typically, Alice’s question might be unique only from Alice’s perspective, while Bob has to handle the same question 10-100 times a day!
Technology is here to solve the issue
And because we have logs of these interactions, and advanced enough technology, we can build Agent Side Bots to help Bob. Add a layer to the software that they both use, and the agent side bob can interpret Alice’s question, and recommend Bob the answer or the action – based on previous cases.
The task of interpreting, searching and replying becomes as easy as clicking a button – basically accepting the suggestion made by the Agent Side Bot. You can also design these systems in a way that Bob can customize the answer: but you significantly cut down the time it takes to handle such a task.
Moreover, the personal assistant gets better and better with every conversation: making better suggestions over a greater variety of topics.
One early and useful example of such technology was Google’s smart replies: but thankfully, now we can build these kind of solutions ourselves, tailored to our own products.
Businesses globally are helping their workers with technology on a varying degree, because state of the art technology has been historically expensive to implement and difficult to customize: so in some cases, the Bobs and Alices of the world are using Notepad or approved templates or literal sticky notes to help them with these sort of routine communication tasks.
We hope that by the proliferation of agent side bots, their lives will be much easier in the future.