A chatbot is a software application that runs an automated task – usually over the internet. Therefore, in its most basic form, a bot is a computer program that, without human intervention, is capable of automating a narrow written conversation with a person within a social messaging application, a smartphone app or a website.

As well as an application, chatbots should be considered an interface. They sit between the user and a service, just like tapping on a button in an app, clicking on a menu with a mouse, or dialing a phone number. Because chatbots are a conversational interface, they offer a sense of control and greater ease of use than navigating an app’s menus or searching through a website’s pages. It’s a user experience more similar to speaking to a customer service representative.

This is especially true of intelligent chatbots that leverage areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning to understand a user’s request, pull data from a host of different sources and shape it into a response that sounds human.