Buzzwords, De-buzzed: 7 Other Ways to (Not) Say Chatbot

Call Center | 3 minute read

Chatbots have earned a number of pseudonyms over the last few years. Some are accurate representations of the technology; others are just downright wrong. I mean, you wouldn’t call your customer service agent by a different name other than the one they gave you, right?

It’s important to understand that not everything that comes under the umbrella of artificial intelligence is considered a “chatbot”. Let’s explore the most frequently used inferences of “chatbot” and dispel some of the confusion around the terms. You might have been calling “chatbots” by the wrong name all along (not that they’ll really mind).

Here are 7 terms that are often used as an alternative to “chatbot”, and what they actually infer:

If you use the word “bot” to refer to “chatbots” you’re probably a tech blogger, and way too cool to use the whole word when talking about them. You would, however, be right in calling them bots, as this is the most popular, and obvious alternative to the chatbot name.

2. Conversational Commerce

Tech evangelists unite, the term “conversational commerce” was dubbed by some guy (who apparently invented the hashtag) named, Chris Messina. Anyway, conversational commerce uses technologies consumers enjoy using (chat, messaging, etc.) with artificial intelligence, so that people can interact with brands or services through bots. So technically, in this respect, conversational agent is an appropriate alternative in referring to bots.

3. Brand Agent

A brand agent is defined as an artificial representative acting on behalf of a company, product brand, or governmental organization. It is well defined and no other, significant meanings exist, so its popularity is growing in reference to “chatbots”.

4. Virtual Agent

Calling chatbots “virtual agent” is actually doing virtual agents an injustice, so please stop doing this. Virtual agents actually have a much broader use. An up-to-the-minute virtual agent is able to perform tasks like doing research and comparing products, among other advanced capabilities. Unlike chatbots, which are programmed to complete single purpose applications like customer support, customer engagement, or automated purchases.

5. Virtual Assistant

The term “virtual agent” sounds a lot like “virtual assistant”, which is probably why the two get confused. However, virtual assistants are actually considered a profession, and are generally self-employed and provide professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients remotely from a home office. If you look up the term “virtual assistant” there are actually a significant number of job postings available, and last time I checked, robots couldn’t apply for jobs. This improper use is frequent and might never end.

6. Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Wrongo. The standard IVR experience involves calling a company, hearing endless options, and eventually pressing “0” to speak to someone. However, chatbots do play an important part in the evolution of the IVR. Chatbots are better at deciphering the intent of a conversation so you can directly tell the bot what you are looking for and it will take you to the applicable option. This context is not understood by an IVR, but the chatbot.

7. Natural Language Processing (NLP)

This is a term most commonly used by computer scientists, as it refers to the ability of a computer program to understand human language as it is spoken. Again, it would be unfair to interchange “NLP” with “chatbot”, however, there is an NLP component to chatbots. NLP can be used to interpret free text and make it analyzable, which is a fair and frequent use case for chatbots. So, as long as its used in the proper context, and with the proper chatbot, NLP is a valid term.

Can you think of anymore words for chatbot that need to be debunked?


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