The Next Wave of Interactive Software: A Chatbots Conversation with Beerud Sheth
In recent years, chatbots have become a staple in online interactions between consumers and companies. While their implementation is still relatively fresh, more and more businesses are taking advantage of the innovative software to give users a more immediate, intuitive experience. In an exclusive interview, PaymentWeek had the pleasure and opportunity to speak with Mr. Beerud Sheth, founder and CEO of Gupshup with over 20 years of relevant experience, about the rise of chatbots in business and the future of this inventive software.
Michael Millington: To begin, simply put, what are chatbots?
Beerud Sheth: Chatbots are software programs that can have a conversation with users. Another way to think about it is that chatbots are the latest re-incarnations of websites and apps, but with a more natural, intuitive, conversational interface. While chatbots may do the same things as websites (e.g. ecommerce, media, entertainment, order food or taxi etc), they do it in a more user-friendly way. While websites and apps force humans to behave like computers, chatbots force computers to behave like humans.
MM: What drew you to the world of chatbots?
BS: I was drawn to the power of messaging apps to be much more than just a tool for person-to-person communication: it could be a platform for enabling a rich variety of advanced services. On small-screen mobile devices, messaging is by-far the most heavily used service. If that’s what users like to do, if that’s where the users are, then it makes sense to deliver the whole internet through messaging apps. The way to do that is by creating software programs that can communicate with users through messaging apps: chatbots. Chatbots enable messaging apps to do much more.
MM: Chatbots are becoming commonplace in the world. Why have chatbots taken root in multiple platforms and what are their benefits?
BS: Chabots are simple, easy, natural and intuitive. Using chatbots is just like chatting with people – no training required. In fact, chatbots are the ultimate invisible technology. In many instances, users will neither know nor care whether they’re talking to chatbots or humans, so long as their work gets done. Therefore, chatbots are rapidly gaining in adoption – by both businesses and their consumers.
MM: Many companies have implemented chatbots in their consumer offerings. What makes chatbots so versatile in their application that this is possible?
BS: Chatbots are really just the interface, the front-end. It can be put in front of just about any backend service. That makes them very versatile. Virtually anything that we do today through websites and apps, we will likely be doing through bots very soon.
MM: It seems as though chatbots are one of the more popular instruments in tech that nobody’s discussing but that everyone has questions about. What’s one question that you get about chatbots the most often?
BS: The most frequently asked question I get these days is: how do you build a good chatbot? Businesses are convinced of the use of chatbots, and have often created basic prototypes as well. Now they want to create delightful experiences and need help. My company, Gupshup, among others provides the tools that make it easy for businesses to build advanced bots.
MM: Given the use of chatbots in business and how quickly they are finding their way across various industries, is it possible that they might become a replacement for the human element? (Are the A.I.s taking over?)
BS: Yes, to quite an extent. For example, in customer support roles, many of the frequently asked queries will get automated. However, we don’t have to worry about AIs “taking over” just yet. They are going to take over routine, repetitive tasks which they can perform well, tirelessly. Over time, though, there will be broader implications for society.
MM: On a more serious note, there have been reports linking the malicious use of chatbots to messagings services and to simulate matched individuals in online dating services. What would be your actionable solution to mitigate such deleterious use of chatbots?
BS: Like with any new technology, we’ll have good bots and bad applications of the technology. A practical solution will be to design good bots that hunt out and neutralize the bad bots. Like we did in the web ecosystem, there will emerge services that verify and authenticate bots so you know which bots to trust.
MM: Finally, as the world is ever evolving, so to does tech and our ability to manipulate it. What do you see as being the future for chatbots?
BS: I am optimistic about our future with chatbots. Chatbots will make it easier for us to get things done easily and conversationally. Chatbots will make life simpler and easier for humans since we will be able to delegate many tasks to them. They will amplify our capabilities by leveraging cloud computing to do tasks on our behalf. We’re heading towards a future where computers will become our friends, assistants and guides.