Chatbot technology has caught up quickly with other buzzworthy tech terms such as the Internet of Things, natural language processing, and machine learning. The reason, probably, is that it incorporates at least some aspects of the latest game-changing technologies. For sure, natural language processing and machine learning have a huge role to play in the sudden surge of “smart instant messaging apps.” There are more reasons, of course.
- Almost every tech company in the Fortune 500 has invested in chatbot technology or is on track to do so.
- Even companies that were just startups a couple of years back have invested in chatbots. Slack, for instance, has spent $80 million to get chatbots on their platform.
- Collectively, the top four instant messaging apps get more monthly active users than the top four social media platforms.
- Facebook’s Messenger enjoys more than a billion active users every month.
- UK’s Juniper Research suggests that chatbots could save $8 billion annually for enterprises by 2022.
Currently, chatbots are deployed by many businesses, primarily for customer interactions, basic virtual assistance for internal users, and natural-language-based information search service. However, the future will bring about more sophisticated applications of chatbots.
Applications in customer service
Chatbots as customer service agents — that’s probably the No. 1 use of chatbots by most several organizations already. An instant messaging program, connected to your chatbot technology on the other side (instead of a human customer service rep manning it), can bring about massive transformations in the quality, accessibility, and costs of customer service delivery for enterprises. With their natural language processing capabilities, chatbots are able to initiate, sustain, and manage conversations with humans in a natural language.
Repetitive queries can be easily handled by these bots, because they are connected to the enterprise’s database of information collected from years of real customer interactions with customer service reps. Helping consumers with product delivery timelines, assisting them in finding the right product from your catalog, answering basic questions about product use, connecting users to helpful resources such as buying guides — chatbots can easily manage these interactions.
Of course, there are limitations as to how chatbots react to complicated or vaguely articulated inputs. To address this challenge, chatbots are being programmed to quickly identify interactions where the user is getting frustrated with their responses. In such cases, chatbots can quickly connect the user to a human support agent.
Chatbot technology to deliver preliminary medical support
Web-based medical care resources are used by millions of Internet users every day. With voice capabilities of services and platforms offered by the tech giants of the world improving every day, the scope for chatbots as a voice-activated medical care expert clearly comes to the fore. Chatbots have made health care more easily accessible for patients, made it easier for health-care professionals to gather information and drive diagnosis, and provide a platform wherein anyone can use natural language to get medical advice.
Medical professionals have to adopt a consultative approach to patient interactions, to be able to extract the insight they need to be able to arrive at a quick and accurate diagnosis. In hospitals, the wait time that separates a patient from a doctor can be reduced by letting chatbots take down all the information from patients and send it to the doctor’s computer before the patient and doctor meet. Of course, chatbots (at least as of now) can’t help with a physical examination (for obvious reasons). Also, the results shown by chatbots, at the end of the day, are only as reliable as a Google search on your medical symptoms.
Chatbots and recruitment and hiring
Enterprise chatbots can bring about a major transformation in how companies manage recruitment and hiring. A chatbot connected to the human resource information system of the enterprise can be used to:
- Shortlist job applications based on them meeting minimum qualification criteria.
- Answering frequently asked questions from applicants.
- Helping employees explore other roles and opportunities within the enterprise via chatbot queries.
- Free up a significant portion of HR resources to take care of more value-adding activities such as employee engagement.
Chatbots as digital virtual assistants
The average employee in the modern workplace, invariably, has to work with several applications, each storing specific information related to the routine tasks to be performed by the employee. Instead of letting them fend for themselves to extract the info they need, chatbots can make their lives easier. Enterprise chatbots can also automate some of the repetitive tasks performed by employees.
Imagine the elation of employees who don’t have to open a new application via a VPN, log in, key in a specific document number, and update its status. Instead, they can just type in “change New Orleans Hotel’s delivery status to processed.” Apart from taking care of repetitive tasks, chatbots can help employees by giving the highly personalized productivity tips, along with guidance on improving their work quality.
Where’s it heading?
The applications and use cases sound super-impressive alright, but where are enterprise chatbots headed to? Like we briefly mentioned, voice-activated chatbots are lined up, making interactions even more engaging, quicker, and rewarding for users. Also, as AI algorithms become smarter, and it becomes easier for enterprises to assimilate data from all their applications, the capabilities of chatbots will only improve. From proactively arranging and setting up meeting invites to following up with clients, from reporting potential security breaches and process violations to delivering quick bites of training and education to knowledge workers, chatbots will be able to do it all.
Becoming more productive
Chatbot technology is already changing how we work today, and in the process, it is certainly shaping the future of work. Though there’s a whole lot of paranoia in the markets about how chatbots are coming to take the menial worker’s job and to slowly make even knowledge workers redundant, the truth is that these programs, like every technology, are meant to help everyone become more productive.
Photo credit: Flickr / James Royal-Lawson