You have heard of bots, so by now you probably know they are applications that perform automated tasks. So how can the new Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Bot Framework help you build one for your small business?
Microsoft wants to help you build a chatbot that the company says will, “Interact with your users naturally wherever they are.” It wants the bots to easily interact using Skype, Facebook Messenger, text/SMS or other services from your website or app.
This can be another way for your business to engage with your customers digitally on their smartphones, tablets and PCs and make your brand available 24/7. As a small business owner, paying for a contact or answering service may not be an expense you want to invest in right now. However, a well-designed bot can answer the vast majority of the questions people ask.
If the query is too complex for the bot to answer, it can be routed to your phone number or voicemail so you can respond. This in a nutshell is what a bot can offer your small business. And because it uses Microsoft’s machine learning, it will continue to improve as more people use it providing valuable data with insights so you can use it to make informed decisions.
Using the Microsoft Bot Framework
Microsoft has made the Bot Framework an open source platform, and if you are a developer, you can get the Bot Builder SDK, Bot Connectors, Developer Portal, Bot Directory and an emulator, which is included to test and use your bots.
Using the Azure Bot Service and the built-in templates, you can use the integrated environment to build, test and scale the bots you create in the cloud. Having the Microsoft Azure cloud ecosystem means, not having to worry about infrastructure and scale. What’s more, Azure has a pay on demand system that only charges for the resources you use. As a small business this means not having to enter into lengthy and expensive contracts.
Some of the bots that are readily available so you can add them to your channel are:
- Skyscanner: A world travel search engine
- AzureBot: A navigation system for Azure using natural language
- Spock: A bot that teaches Vulcan logic from the TV show Star Trek
- Hipmunk: A gopher bot that digs through tons of travel options quickly
- Jessie Humani: An AI you can have conversations with
- SI x GameOn NFL Bot: A bot offering coverage of the NFL with Sports Illustrated
Once the bot has been created, you will be able to reach your customers on multiple channels to gain deep insights on every interaction.
I’m still not sold on bots, but maybe I’m starting to show my age.
Once small businesses realize it is a way to make themselves available at all times, they will start appreciating the technology.
Bots are helpful for repetitive tasks. It may not be for everyone and it may take some time to learn. Humans are always better but nothing bad will happen if you try this out.