As we sweep into the 4th Industrial Revolution driven by artificial intelligence, organisations are scrambling to implement Chatbots to be the face of their new machine-driven operations. Here are a few things you should know about them.
More than Chat
Chatbots are often just seen as an automated text chat channel, replacing a human to support customers on a website. But Chatbots are capable of much more. By adding a voice interface to a chatbot platform it can answer phone calls, replacing traditional Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and speech recognition technologies. Chatbots can also respond to emails making them truly multi-channel. More importantly, they can run messaging channels (e.g. Facebook, WeChat) and open these up to being full order taking channels that attract new revenue streams from younger customer segments.
Clever and Cleverer
There are three species of Chatbots emerging:
- Informational Chatbots provide simple explanations to customers based on simple underlying logic. An example application of these systems is automated FAQs on websites.
- Personalised Chatbots are integrated with backend systems and allow users to transact and get personalised responses. For example, this type of Chatbot can return a customer’s account balance or order history.
- Intelligent Chatbots contain Artificial Intelligence (AI) that enable them to learn from previous interactions and become steadily more accurate and responsive. Rather than actioning requests from simple keywords (e.g “balance”), they increasingly are able to interpret language and therefore the accuracy and breadth of their deployment becomes much greater.
Chatbots need education
When a baby is born, they cannot speak, read or write. They need to be educated. Chatbots are the same. They need to be trained in the unique products, process and procedures for a given organisation in the same way that new staff need induction. The type of training depends on the level of intelligence of the Chatbot platform. Informational Chatbots require programming with rules and content whereas sophisticated AI driven Chatbots can be fed thousands of previous customer transactions so that they can start to learn the correct responses to queries themselves.
Internal and external facing
Chatbots allow consistent and automated responses to questions raised from not only customers but from internal functions in a business. A chatbot for example can be used to automate certain escalations from customer service to back office teams like technical support and finance. The technology can therefore boost the efficiency of these functions by eliminating interruptions from other departments.
Not instantly scalable
Chatbot technology bucks a general rule that once tech is installed, it should easily be rolled out globally, achieving an investor’s demand for “scalability”. Chatbots however, need to learn the linguistic skills for each application in each language. This makes the process of implementing an international Chatbot much harder than an international website, app or business application. At the backend, the challenge for AI is getting data from legacy systems who don’t talk to each other. At the frontend Chatbots face ‘legacy’ humans who can’t talk to each other. English and European languages are generally easier to implement through a combination of the relative maturity of the technology and the inherent nature of these languages. Some Asian languages including Japanese on the other hand are currently much more challenging.
Chatbots are not about cutting heads
If a Chatbot initiative becomes seen as a tactical headcount saving programme, the strategic benefits of the technology are lost. Instead, the introduction of a Chatbot should be a key part of an organisation’s move to being an AI driven business. The Chatbot creates the opportunity to deliver a consistent brand experience across multiple channels. It improves the customer experience by reducing wait times, providing 24/7 service, reducing hand offs and providing consistent answers to queries. In addition, a Chatbot opens up new revenue streams through messaging channels. By automating routine transactions, staff can focus on higher value activities that can increase the quality and enjoyment of their work. If positioned correctly, Chatbots are a win-win for customers, staff and the company alike.
Companies that fail to embrace AI will suffer, just like those that failed to adapt to the arrival of the internet and digital business. Chatbots will without doubt become the interface between new AI driven business processes and the outside world.