Are Chatbots the tip of the artificial intelligence iceberg?
Whilst currently geared towards customer facing applications, Chatbots could have a big impact in the enterprise.
Artifical Intelligence (AI) has had some famous detractors in recent press commentary, with the likes of Bill Gates and Elon Musk both urging caution.
While the real impact of AI remains to be understood, Chatbots, services that use Artificial Intelligence or rule bases to interact with users via a chat interface, have had support from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Skype as a potential business tool.
We can already see the beginnings of Chatbots in automated IVRs and outbound calling systems. Most of us in the UK have experienced accident related compensation and PPI insurance claim calls from automated systems.
While these are generally considered nuisance calls and annoying, studies such as this one show how personalized experience increase the success of human/artificial interaction. This demonstrates a use case for Chatbots as an extended sales channel focused on laborious and low margin prospects.
Another use case is extended sales cycle support and marketing automation. Imagine you are hovering over a product for purchase on a website, not sure whether to commit to buying it. Then you are engaged by a Chatbot designed to help you complete the sales cycle.
It could ask you for information about your needs, what information you require to support your decision such as warranties, or recommend alternative purchases that may be better suited to your requirements.
As with most new methodologies, the focus is on enhancing the current sales model to increase sales at a lower cost. Combined with powerful data analytics , it could offer an unprecedented personalized experience.
Retailers seem very keen to leverage this new technology with Amazon being the latest in announcing acquisitions or executive appointments in the AI field.
This approach could be a double edged sword though, as a poor experience could have disastrous consequences for the company or the brand if perceived to be invasive or untoward.
There is also the question of data privacy – what data should a Chatbot have access to? This raises even more questions if the bot is run by a third party. With data privacy becoming even more stringent with the looming 2018 GDPR compliance deadline, companies have to review all data flows and potential impact. They need to ensure proper data governance and thorough testing before handing their sales channels to an army of bots!
Some issues will no doubt only become apparent when the technology becomes more widespread, such as the risk of hacking or impersonation of a company’s bot.
Whilst currently geared towards customer facing applications, Chatbots could also have a big impact in the enterprise, for example as IT support systems. Features such as being available 24/7 and the ability to scale at peak times make them very well suited to the enterprise environment.
Advances in machine learning and analytics also mean that the technology can trawl through thousands of knowledge articles and databases, allowing the bot to recommend the best fix to any problem encountered by business user, with minimum productivity loss.
Looking beyond, it is not far fetched to imagine that Chatbots could potentially call other Chatbots, so that a personal assistant bot could call your car dealer to book your car service (and likely to work through the use of APIs). With the advent of driverless cars, it could even drive itself there.
So whether Chatbots promise a revolution or a mere natural progression of automation remains to be seen. Obviously, like any disruptive technology, we will witness once again the creative destruction at work, where job titles will disappear only to be replaced by automation and AI.
Conversely new ones, not yet thought of, will emerge. One certainty is that to maximize adoption and reap the benefits it promises, companies will require capabilities for optimized development and testing whilst ensuring the right level of governance and maintaining the security of customer data.
Want to find out more about the rise of the Chatbot Economy? Check out our new infographic on Rewrite.