Where do bots live? It’s a common misconception that bots live on your Echo Dot, on Twitter, or on Facebook. To the extent bots call anywhere their home, it’s the cloud. Objects and apps like your iPhone and Skype are the “channels” through which people communicate with your bot.
Azure Bot Service Channels
Out of the box, Azure Bot Service supports the following channels (though the list is always growing):
- Microsoft Teams
- Skype for Business
Through middleware created by the Bot Builder Community, your business’s bots can reach additional channels like Alexa and Google.
With Direct Line, your developers can also establish communications through your bots and your business’s custom apps on the web and on devices.
Companies like Dixons Carphone, BMW, Vodafone, UEI, LaLiga, and UPS are already using Microsoft Azure Bot Service support for multiple channels to extend their Bot reach.
UPS Chatbot, for instance, delivers shipping information and answers customer questions through voice and text on Skype and Facebook Messenger. UPS, which invests more than $1 billion a year in technology, developed its chatbot in-house and plans to continue to update its functionality, including integration with the UPS My Choice® platform using Direct Line. In just the first eight months, UPS Bot has already had more than 200,000 conversations over its various channels.
LaLiga, the Spanish football league, is also reaching its huge and devoted fan base through multiple channels with Azure Bot Service. It is estimated that LaLiga touches 1.6 billion fans worldwide on social media.
Using an architecture that combines Azure Bot Service, Microsoft Bot Framework and multiple Azure Cognitive Services such as Luis and Text Analysis, LaLiga maintains bots on Skype, Alexa and Google Assistant that use natural language processing. NLP allows their chatbots to understand both English and Spanish, their regional dialects, and even the soccer slang particular to each dialect. They are even able to use a tool called Azure Monitor anomaly detection to identify new player nicknames created by fans and then match them to the correct person. In this and similar ways, LaLiga’s chatbots are always learning and adapting over time. LaLiga plans to deploy its chatbots to almost a dozen additional channels in the near future.
Because social media endpoints are always changing, developing for a single delivery platform is simply not cost-effective. Channels provide businesses with a way to develop a bot once but deploy it to new social media platforms as they appear on the market and gain influence. At the same time, your core bot features can constantly be improved, and these improvements will automatically benefit the pre-existing channels people use to communicate with you.