By Rashmi Mishra, VP- Product, ACL Mobile Limited
Chatbots can today be seen everywhere, be it websites or social media channels. In fact, smartphones are proliferated with chatbots, including Allo, Siri or Alexa, making life easier by bringing instant answers to all of our queries.
In a research study conducted by Business Insider exploring the growing and disruptive landscape of chatbot, it was concluded that businesses could increase their annual savings by utilizing bots to take over their customer service operations and sales representation activities.
Facebook launched bots for its Messenger Platform in April 2016 to give developers the ability to build bots for different types of content. Prior to that, Microsoft had also launched its bot framework. Skype further got into the game, rolling out its Skype Bot Platform in March, and now claims over 30,000 developers have started building bots. These agile assistants are attracting big buzz from consumers and enterprises alike.
Bots have enormous potential for business scalability and growth, and enterprises are beginning to invest in the bot economy with several brands already implementing bots for messaging. While still in its early stage, industry experts believe that chatbot revolution will take off and gain mainstream prominence in the near future.
Used Cases & the Chatbot Ecosystem
Chatbots are helping towards providing fundamental communications, e-commerce, travel plans etc. Brands have further shown an increase in using chatbots for drive e-commerce. Via smart and articulate assistance, chatbots attract purchases and increase the number of items in user’s shopping cart. While chatbots can reduce the activities of a customer service representative as well as sales associates, it gives a bigger opportunity for customer engagement and personalization. For instance, Amazon’s chatbot called ‘Echo’ has completely transformed the paradigm of conversational commerce by straightforwardly answering shoppers’ queries.
Messaging apps, which are very popular amongst mobile app users, could be a suitable platform to promote chatbots. Facebook is also encouraging the growth of bots. Microsoft has recently released ‘Tay’, a chatbot that discusses with Twitter users; while it was amidst some controversy as people taught the software to repeat racist and offensive remarks. But SatyaNadella, Chief Executive of Microsoft still promoted chatbots saying these bots could be a new method of customer interaction.
Some of the popular messaging app chatbots include:
IcelandAir: helps users to search and book flights.
Growbots: created the first all-in-one outbound sales platform.
Uber: you can order a taxi ride.
KIPS: assists in shopping
TryWarrenandAnd Co that aim at becoming business support systems for freelancers.
Burberry showcases its fashion during London Fashion Week.
Dominos and Taco Bell, for ordering food for home delivery.
HelloVote helps users register for vote
Bots could also help futuristic and ambitious enterprises in automating a lot of mundane tasks, weed out inefficiencies, strengthen human abilities, and help employees focus on what really matters in accomplishing their goals and enhancing job satisfaction.
Momentum for chatbots is growing as companies seek to develop services on top of the data that’s available to them, industry observers say. Companies from KLM Airlines to Taco Bell, Sephora, Whole Foods and Expedia, among others, have all rolled out chat-bots to let users order food, book flights, inquire about services and browse online stores.
The complete ecosystem of a chatbot is robust, comprising various third-party chat bots, native bots, distribution channels, and other enabling technology companies.
BI intelligence report predicts that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has reached a stage where chatbots have a great potential to engage customers. Enterprises can leverage this inexpensive and global technology to engage effectively with their customers across locations. In fact, messaging apps stand at a cusp of massively gaining from chatbots.
Bots for Enhanced Communication, Support & Decision-Making
Bots bring the endless possibility to increase the conversations amongst enterprise communication apps with the intent to enhance user experience. Some of the bots like To-do bots, reminder bots and poll bots are giving enterprises an edge over other traditional methods of communication. For example poll bot help teams gather inputs on almost everything, from deciding where to go for lunch to which policy changes have to be implemented.
Let’s look at some examples of bots that are doing just that:
Assistants like x.ai and Clara reduce the tribulations of having to schedule meetings. Zoom, a multi-platform assistant, takes it a notch ahead by aspiring to become a full-fledged support mechanism for employees regardless of their positions in the organizational hierarchy.
Slackbots like CareerLark, Lattice, and Growbot aspire to automate feedback loops, check-ins, and work recognition for instilling an enhanced sense of camaraderie and collaboration among teams.
Furthermore, Chatbots offer tremendous opportunities for marketers. From deeply understanding customer behavior, buying pattern, decision process, to enumerating their likes and dislikes bots can be used by marketers to craft customized communication for various segments.
Via artificial intelligence and deep learning, bots can help in customer acquisition and effective engagement and can further be trained over a period of time with self-training algorithms to give a delightful experience to customers. Moreover, open API developer platform will give enterprises the ability to build their own apps and chatbots.
Gradually, this will create an entire ecosystem, a paradigm shift, allowing enterprises to create all the essential aspects of the work world around the app.
Rise of bots and the Road Ahead
All the excitement surrounding chat bots in enterprise messaging raises one question – is it wise to jump on the chat bot craze just because chat bots are in the spotlight? And although the value of chat bots cannot be downplayed, shouldn’t it be treated as a bonus rather than an end-all feature or product?
Chatbots offer brands an opportunity to reach an audience that is currently active in messaging platforms and engage them in dialogs that might translate into immediate actions. It is really interesting to see what role chatbots plays in transforming well-established customer acquisition models like web or mobile advertising.
Although chatbot technology is still at a nascent stage, there is a hype that there will be a paradigm shift from app to bots as has happened from desktop apps to browser apps and browser apps to mobile apps. Though I feel this is highly unlikely, and bots and apps are going to co-exist. Instead, apps are going to play a far more important role, until the next big shift comes along.
The most anticipated course for the future will probably be the overlap of Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing and Bots Platform that will bring a richer user experience for team communication. User experience, however, will be of prime importance, with ease of use and functionality being the primary motivators. The future of enterprise messaging is still developing and has a huge and unexplored potential, making it a ripe area for developers to leverage their creativity, skill and knowledge.