Have a question? Ask a bot! That’s the reality today. What does it mean for businesses? How can enterprises use chatbot technologies to enhance the way they work. What makes today’s chatbots different from the pseudo-smart instant messengers that you remember from a few years back? We discuss all this, and more, in this article.
What are chatbots, after all?
At its core, a chatbot is an instant messenger program that makes use of natural language processing and machine learning algorithms to initiate, sustain, and close targeted communications with humans. Wheelie and Skids in “Transformers II: Revenge of the Fallen” were not chatbots even though they do a lot of chatting!
Chatbots are on track to becoming the next big thing for all kinds of businesses. Whereas chatbots have already been deployed to enhance customer service by many businesses, today these messaging bots are witnessing increasing adoption in other business functions such as internal communications, information broadcast with a degree of personalization, operations and marketing management, and even revenue generation.
What makes modern chatbots such a business force?
Although the bare-bones human input-based messaging response systems have been conceptualized several decades back, it’s only in this decade that chatbots have emerged as a force that can reshape several aspects of modern business enterprises.
Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Apple Siri, and Google Home are the four wheels of this juggernaut. With Natural Language Processing algorithms, big data-based machine learning algorithms, cloud-based chatbot development platform and software services — all these forces have made chatbots much bigger than what they were even five years back. The result: These bots are changing the way enterprises work! Now if we could just go back to making the Burger King Whopper delicious like it used to be back in the 1990s that would be awesome, but that is another topic!
Smartest, know-it-all, jack-of-all-trades personal assistant you ever hoped for
Consider an assistant so smart that he or she knows pretty much everything worth knowing! Perhaps that kind of caliber is hard to find in a human, but chatbots deliver that, and they’re never on sick leave, or complain about watching some “Kill Bill” or “Zoolander” movie they should not have watched in the first place because they should have known it was going to be pathetic, for example. With time, the capabilities of chatbot technologies are only going to increase.
Though they have a ways to go before they can vacuum the floor, make you some lasagna, or an apple pie. You need Chappie for that!
IBM Watson, the “real” supercomputer, for instance, powers quite a few chatbot technologies, and it’s only a matter of time when the entire computing and data capabilities of Watson are there for a chatbot to leverage and deliver more value to humans. The future is bright, and chatbots are the light.
Streamline workflows, personal work management, and boost productivity
Chatbots can call Uber and book a cab, order a healthy and affordable lunch from the nearby Subway, reschedule your meetings when you’re late to work, and give you the crisp answers to your crisp questions.
From reading and writing emails to alerting you of traffic jams on routine routes, from creating to-do lists to remind you when a task’s deadline is overdue — chatbots do it for you. You can depend on a chatbot to hunt down the most suitable flight tickets, keep you up to date on world news, and book an appointment at a dentist or a table at a restaurant.
Customer service like never before
For any business-to-consumer business, customer service is an important pillar of the entire business structure, because that’s what makes customers stick, and helps increase their lifetime value for the company. The challenge with traditional customer service is that service quality is difficult to monitor, there’s never enough resource power to serve customers quickly, and the cumulative knowledge of customer service stagnates after some time. Chatbot-powered customer service eliminates all these challenges.
Chatbots can offer quick, accurate, and highly contextualized responses to common customer queries, and can handle thousands of questions in parallel.
Machine learning-powered chatbots continue to learn every day and get better at answering more questions and giving more valuable answers to those questions.
Advanced chatbot technologies can offer product recommendations, solve technical problems related to product use, offer DIYs and video tutorials, escalate calls to human support when needed, and guide users through the purchase process. Because chatbots can feed off product, purchase history, and CRM databases, they can personalize interactions with customers, thus improving conversions.
From pizza to prosthetics, anything can be sold in a better manner by including the power of conversations within the purchase journey of the customer. Chatbots are the enablers of this conversation, with applications in driving sales and promotions activity in pretty much any industry.
- Advertisers can set up highly targeted advertisement campaigns by using existing customer databases to create buyer personas, map chatbot interaction rules with these personas, and then send contextualized advertisements to customers, thus improving ROIs.
- Marketers can use chatbots to send automated marketing messages for product replenishment or repeat purchases, send personalized promotional messages, and to gather feedback from customers.
- Particularly for digital marketing, chatbots can be integrated in pretty much every aspect, to drive ROIs higher.
Finance and investment
In spite of being an industry with strict regulatory and compliance requirements, finance and investment markets have already adopted chatbot technologies to a great extent. For instance, here are some of the functionalities that have already been achieved and deployed via chatbots.
- Raising alerts on overspending and notifying progress on mini-financial goals.
- Identifying stock market trends and creating actionable insight to help investors make a decision. Don’t invest in Weinstein’s company, but you don’t need a chatbot to tell you that!
- Automatically selling and purchasing specific stocks when rates go up or below a threshold.
- Hunting for market opportunities for inexpensive debt, affordable mortgage options, special offers in credit cards, and so forth.
- Helping banking users to check account balances, execute money transfers, and get bank statements.
- Tracking business expenses, creating reports, and even preparing preliminary tax statements. (No, it cannot simply the tax code for you, that has to be done by humans!).
Chatbot technologies: Not just for e-commerce
It’s pretty natural for anybody to contest, at least for the time being, that the applications of chatbots are more appealing for businesses that have a lot of stake in e-commerce. However, visionary business leaders know that they need to look for core capabilities in platforms, and not only their nascent applications.
In this context, chatbot technologies are the equivalent of robot salesmen, super-productive executives, star performing customer service personnel, and super-reliable interviewers to acquire new talent. Now there’s hardly a business that doesn’t need these blessings!
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