You may, or may not, be familiar with natural processing language (NLP), but chances are you've been benefiting from it for several years. From autocomplete and autocorrect functions on various digital platforms to messenger bots, NLP is all around us today.
Here we briefly explore what NLP is and where it is commonly used.
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What is natural language processing?
Natural language processing (NLP) is a branch of artificial intelligence, and linguistics, that enables computers to understand, interpret, and manipulate human language. NLP, at its core, is used to fill the gap between how humans communicate and how computers understand it and respond.
It incorporates many other disciplines including, but not limited to, computer science and computational linguistics.
Some of the main challenges NLP is attempting to overcome are speech recognition, natural language understanding, as well as natural language generation by computers.
A few examples are as follows (we will go into more detail later in the article):
- Spell check
- Voice text messaging
- Spam filters
- Related keywords on search engines
- Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant
While conceptually it is a fairly straightforward technology, its application is a complex endeavor, to say the least. Working NLPs today need to identify the appropriate word, phrase, or response by using context clues much the same way a human does.
Humans are adept at this naturally, obviously, but computers can outperform us, theoretically, due to the amount of language and data they can process in a given time. For this reason, NLP has great potential in the future that could make tasks possible that humans would take months or even years to accomplish.
Who knows, films like the 2013 "Her" may, one day, become a reality.
What are some of the ways that natural processing language is used?
And so, without further ado, here are some of the ways that natural processing language is used. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.
1. NLP is used to help support knowledge bases
One of the main ways that natural language processing (NLP) can be used is by providing knowledge base support. In fact, chances are you are quite familiar with using them on websites.
Things like chatbots are often employed on websites to help customers with common requests for more information. By using NLP in this way, human support staff is freed up to tackle higher-level or more complex issues instead of being bogged down with mundane issues.
In most cases, NLP functions like this can refer to a query or issue to a live agent if the customer is not satisfied.
2. Automated customer and technical support services
Another way natural language processing is used is to help automated customer services and technical support for companies. While there is a lot of overlap with point 1 above, more sophisticated programs can actually answer questions directly and/or file case data to assist a live agent.
Many of these systems also learn over time from past interactions with customers to further improve their effectiveness. This not only speeds up the service it provides but also saves the company using it a lot of money over the long run.
3. Customer or user feedback monitoring and feedback
Natural language processing is also employed to help with customer and user feedback monitoring. From social media, reviews, contact forms, support tickets, and any other form of communication, companies receive feedback constantly from their customers.
A wise company will take note of this feedback and attempt to analyze it for any common issues or complaints. NLP can be used to help aggregate and make sense of all that data.
Not only that, but it can also turn this information into actionable insight that can be used to help improve the company.
4. Spell checking is a common use of NLP
Another way that NLP is used is spell checking of forms or other written digital formats. Usually unobtrusive, and toggleable, not to mention easy-to-use, spell checking NLP functions can help users save a lot of time.
When employed on things like feedback or contact forms, NLP spell checking can make users and a company's employee's lives a lot easier. By eliminating, as far as reasonably practicable, errors in customer messages it makes them easier to interpret and reduce miscommunications and frustration for all involved.
5. NLP is often employed for autocomplete and autocorrect for searches
Another use of NLP ıs autocomplete and autocorrect on search functions. For anyone who has ever used a search engine like Google, you are probably more than familiar with it.
But, of course, it is not always foolproof as these hilarious autocorrect "fails" attest.
For companies, this kind of functionality is also very useful indeed. It not only improves user experience on websites but also helps them provide a better service for their customers overall and keep them on a website longer.
The more sophisticated versions of this also autocorrect a user's input into a search box to help the search function better generate results relevant to the users' request. Or, for that matter, find anything at all.
6. NLP is used to provide "smart" searching functions
Further to autocomplete and autocorrect functions, NLP can also be adopted for so-called "smart" searches. Sophisticated solutions, like those provided by a company called Klevu, can help turbocharge search boxes.
Not only that, but these kinds of programs are also self-learning and improve exponentially over time. While usually incorporating autocomplete and correct functions, "smart" searches also include contextually relevant synonyms to help catalog results with even more depth than usual.
By self-learning, this kind of function can also "remember" what a customer(s) has previously searched for or provide results for things that popular.
7. Messenger bots is another common use of NLP
Another common use of natural language processing is via messenger bots. Widely available on many social media platforms today, messenger bots are a great way for businesses to keep in contact with their customers.
NLP helps supercharge their usability by not just advertising or promoting products and services but by actually interacting with customers by simulating actually sales or customer services personnel -- to an extent.
8. Machine translation services are another common use for NLP
For E-commerce companies, there is a growing need to service customers whose native language might not be their own. For this reason, machine translation functions are becoming ever more popular.
NLP is the cornerstone of these programs and, in some cases, form the company's prime service like many translation apps you might even use yourself.
9. NLP helps power virtual assistants
Yet another common use for NLP is virtual assistants. These fairly complex programs are able to complete various functions on behalf of the user with little to no effort.
A good example was the one produced by Mastercard a few years back. It could provide various tasks for customers like giving them insight into their spending habits, or letting them know what benefits their current card provides, to name but a few.
10. NLP is also used to help developed Alexa skills
Amazon's Alexa works in a similar fashion to a messenger bot with the exception that it has an almost limitless number of possible skills. These are, according to Amazon: -
"Alexa provides a set of built-in capabilities, referred to as skills. For example, Alexa's abilities include playing music from multiple providers, answering questions, providing weather forecasts, and querying Wikipedia. The Alexa Skills Kit lets you teach Alexa new skills."
NLP is critical to making Alexa skills actually possible.
11. Survey analytics also makes use of NLP
And finally, yet another use of NLP is for survey analytics. By using the computational power behind the tech, companies can analyze data for things like keyword frequency and trends from customer surveys.
This can not only provide an analysis of customer feelings about a brand but also help identify new products to develop or ways to improve their existing products and services.