Hybrid chatbots—merging Artificial Intelligence with rule-based efficiency

The term hybrid chatbot is used to market chatbots with a live agent hand-off feature these days, and they're not actually hybrid in the truest sense.

Now, we all know that chatbots can’t beat human intelligence, so agent hand-off is a basic chatbot feature. We kept this in mind while building Zobot, our rule-based chatbot platform, and Answer Bot, our AI chatbot builder that uses your chatbot knowledge base to answer customer queries.

The term hybrid refers to a combination of two different elements or varieties of something. So by definition, a hybrid chatbot has to be something that combines two types of chatbot technology. Let's look at what constitutes a hybrid chatbot.

What is a hybrid chatbot?

A hybrid chatbot combines AI elements and rule-based logic to leverage the strengths of both types of chatbots and make the interaction more efficient, adaptable, and user-friendly.

Hybrid chatbots to enhance customer service

But before going into the details of Zoho SalesIQ’s hybrid chatbot, we’ll look at the basic types of chatbots.

Types of chatbots

There are two basic types of chatbots:

  • Rule-based/guided flow chatbots: As the name suggests, they respond to customer queries using ready-made responses, predefined rules and decision trees fed to the chatbot. They can be built either using a codeless chatbot builder or a programmable chatbot builder based on the user’s expertise.
  • AI chatbots: AI chatbots use machine learning/natural language processing (NLP) to understand the intent of a customer’s question and answer using the resources available to the chatbot. Answer Bot, our smart AI chatbot, works in the same way. It comprehends customers’ questions using NLP,  understands industry-/company-specific lingo using business terms, finds answers to customer queries from your FAQs and articles, and interacts with customers in a friendly manner using small talk from a library of engaging phrases.

Unique advantages of rule-based and AI chatbots

Rule-based chatbotsAI chatbots
  • You have complete control of chatbot conversations as the flow and responses are all predefined.
  • They're perfect for straightforward requirements like data collection, booking a table at a restaurant, booking a test drive, or pick-up and drop-off.
  • A rule-based chatbot can push and access data from integrated services or servers.
  • AI chatbots can be used as a screening layer between agents and visitors with basic/ redundant questions.
  • AI chatbot responses feel more natural and less robotic.
  • An AI bot understands customer queries no matter how they’re phrased.
  • They help you keep the resources updated by auto-recording questions that aren’t answered.

What’s best for you: AI or rule-based chatbots?

The scope of a rule-based chatbot is limited to data collection, pushing the data to your CRM or internal server, answering simple scripted questions, performing simple tasks like booking an appointment, and connecting website visitors or customers to a live agent. So if that’s your requirement, a rule-based chatbot is what you need. Keep in mind that they can’t answer questions that aren’t already in the flow, nor can they answer customer queries phrased differently than what has been defined on the backend.

AI chatbots, on the other hand, can understand customer queries and respond to them using your internal knowledge base. There are two main benefits to using AI chatbots. One, conversations with an AI chatbot feel more human-like and natural. The second important benefit is that, because users often phrase their questions in many different ways, AI chatbots can understand and respond to multiple versions of a single question. So if you’re serving a huge customer base and need a chatbot that understands that “Which cell phone plan would be best for me?” and “I need help choosing the right mobile plan” are both the same question, a conversational AI chatbot is your best bet.

But if you serve a large, diverse population and need a chatbot that can handle a wide range of user queries and also perform actions like pushing customer data to your CRM or helping prospects book a demo, you’ll need a guided chatbot that also doubles up as an AI chatbot—in short, a truly hybrid chatbot. This is now possible with Zoho SalesIQ's chatbot platform, Zobot!

Enrich your rule-based chatbot with AI to get a hybrid chatbot

With Zoho SalesIQ, you can now get the best of both worlds! Simply plug Answer Bot, our AI-driven smart assistant, into your rule-based chatbot created using Zobot, our guided bot-building platform, to turn it into a hybrid chatbot.

Advantages of hybrid chatbots:

Hybrid chatbots offer several advantages due to their combination of two different technologies. Some of the key advantages are:

  • Chatbot flow can be scripted, and the AI element takes care of FAQs.
  • Hybrid chatbots have unlimited scope, like AI chatbots.
  • Helps keep your resources updated by auto-recording questions that aren’t answered.
  • Understands customer queries irrespective of terms used.
  • Can perform actions like booking appointments or reservations, or pushing/retrieving data from integrated tools and external servers.

How can you improve your customer experience with hybrid chatbots?

Both rule-based and AI chatbots have unique advantages and limitations. While many people believe that AI chatbots are here to take over the chatbot market, they can’t serve all the requirements of a customer service team.

Let’s explore this with an example.

Zylker Tourism is a privately owned travel planning company that helps visitors plan their vacations with ready-to-book and customized packages. They have a chatbot set up to interact with their visitors and provide them with the necessary information.

To start with, tourists from all over the world would access the chatbot, which means that a variety of questions would come up. Setting up a guided chatbot in this scenario won’t serve the purpose entirely. The agent who set it up may have provided an answer to “Are meals included in my booking?” But the chatbot won’t be able to understand that “Is breakfast free with my booking” or “Does my booking cover food too?” also have the same intent.

While the Answer Bot will be able to answer all three questions above and even record questions that aren’t available in the resources, it won’t be able to help a customer change their booking to a different date by checking availability on the hotel’s database. For this, you’ll need a rule-based chatbot.

Now, you can’t have two bots on the same page. So what’s the solution?

Combine the benefits of both into a hybrid chatbot! Sign up for a free trial of Zoho SalesIQ to build your first hybrid chatbot now.

In addition to this, our codeless chatbot builder, and the AI-powered Answer Bot, Zoho SalesIQ comes with a host of benefits to help boost your customer engagement. Sign up for a 15-day free trial today.

Related resources

What is Generative AI and how does AI improve customer experience?


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