The chatbot and AI assistant market remains on a ballistic trajectory, with tech giants Apple, Facebook and Microsoft along the leading lights, expending great resources investigating the possibilities. Yet, Amazon’s new Alexa Prize (https://developer.amazon.com/alexaprize) shows how much even super smart companies are relying on academia to create ever-smarter automated services. Beyond the big names, many specialists also have bots on the market dedicated to customer or business support.
The truth is that any company could have a chatbot installed and working in their operation within days or weeks, and many businesses are already reaping the rewards. When it comes to business usage, chatbot software can be deployed as a solution to a growing number of issues, including customer service, simpler search and smart analysis tools, and can work alongside business phone systems and call centres to add an extra dimension to corporate communications.
Consumers and clients are already aware of virtual assistants through smartphones and smart home hubs, helping them manage their calendars, other devices, communications and social media across their day-to-day lives. Soon, they will be an increasingly common sight across doctor’s offices, hotels business reception and on every website or device.
Most businesses already have a customer support line, an email address and perhaps social media accounts to help manage customer queries. In the multimodal age, customers expect to be able to contact a business at the time and means of their choosing.
The key benefits created for any business by a business include:
Another reason for having a chatbot is that they will be soon considered as an essential item, and ubiquitous in any business going forward. As soon as your rivals or other companies start using them, any business that lacks one will be left looking increasing old fashioned.
Another of the primary benefits of a chatbot is their high impact vs. low cost for the business. Many chatbots are provided as simply another cloud service that can be acquired on a low-cost basis. Even on-premises or built in services are available as COTS products, and require minimal training to provide users with information or resources relevant to your business.
Chatbots can be sourced from a range of specialist vendors, with the likes of Pandorabots providing easy API links to integrate them into apps or websites. While any business with social media will can use Facebook’s Messenger bot to communicate. The options are many, and can be tailored to your businesses and information needs.
Recent research suggests over a quarter of people think robots would be better at customer service than other people.
The benefits of a chatbot are manyfold. For a start, they can create a new way as to how you view your business. Finding out the questions that people will ask the chatbot can provide insights into details that may be hard to find, products that aren’t defined or described accurately or are buried in hard to find places. In the training process, you could learn as much about your company as the chatbot does.
The chatbots are also surprisingly to install and train in a company scenario. Facebook’s Bot Engine learns through artificial intelligence what to say (http://venturebeat.com/2016/04/12/facebooks-bot-engine-lets-you-teach-chatbots-what-to-say-with-ai/). Others simply look for the relevant triggers in text or conversation, such as a product name, type of query or task trigger. They quickly help to whittle down the number of options to find out what a user needs.
Once a chatbot is trained, it can be deployed in a range of scenarios, depending on the business need. Many are located on a company homepage as a point of contact, but the same engine can also be used in a mobile app, at a kiosk within a store or as part of an IP phone system. Deployment opportunities will grow rapidly as customers and consumers become more used to dealing with AIs and chatbots.
The nature of a chatbot makes it easy to monitor for business value, user satisfaction and other metrics. Most conversations end with “Did I help you find what you were looking for?” and the answers to any well-developed system should create a healthy level of “yes” responses, with the “no” answers creating opportunities for product improvement or adjustment. User satisfaction levels are higher with a bot as most users know they can’t argue or feel as aggrieved as they would talking to a human agent.
Businesses can also monitor time and monetary savings to demonstrate that the chatbot is proving its worth, allowing workers to concentrate on more valuable or important calls or contacts. Recent research suggests over a quarter of people think robots would be better at customer service than other people (https://econsultancy.com/blog/68359-10-top-notch-marketing-stats-from-this-week).
Chatbots will soon dominate many areas of customer service including technology and service support. Many bots will be integrated or connect via the product, saving on digging out the warranty to find the customer support number, to wait on the line for an hour because your call is valuable to them. Stores will also use them to help locate or order the right product in the right colour or size, freeing up staff for more complex enquiries.
Removing that level of consumer angst will increase the perceived value of the bot. They will also appear increasingly in government and public service roles, fielding bus timetable enquiries, tax or benefits questions for the general population. Within larger companies bots will also appear on intranets to help new hires and others locate resources or learn about the company without wading through dense induction manuals or labyrinthine sets of digital documents.
Any company with a significant customer facing business can benefit from a chatbot, and the pressure to deploy them will only grow as the market demonstrates their worth.