Rethinking Chatbots: They're Not Just for Customer Support
Not so long ago, many industry watchers dismissed chatbots as an overhyped piece of programming. However, a number of businesses who backed it are reaping the rewards now. Chatbots are already solving a majority of customer service queries across industries and it is estimated that by 2020, they will be handling 80-85 percent
of all customer support interactions.
If this statistic made you believe that customer service is the only use-case for chatbots, you are not alone. The recent rise in technologies, such as Machine Learning, Data Science, Robotic Process Automation, and Artificial Intelligence, has empowered chatbots to handle more complicated tasks and emulate human behavior more closely.
Before we explore other applications, let us understand what is a chatbot — it is a computer program capable of conversing with users via text and audio messages. This ability is very useful in letting computers handle high-volume, routine tasks whereas human beings can focus their attention on complex assignments.
What Makes Chatbots Special?
The secret behind chatbots’ popularity is their unique way of solving a customer interaction problem that has persisted for decades. Customers often visit a business website or call its toll-free number to ask some basic details — business hours, exact address, contact person’s phone number, etc.
These details sometimes get very difficult to locate on complex websites and are buried deep within never-ending IVR options.
Enter the chatbot — all a customer has to do is to type away his query (or just speak to the bot) and he gets an instant accurate response! Imagine how useful this can be when a customer is driving and wants to track the status of his order, make an appointment, or book tickets.
These properties make chatbots capable of taking customer experience to the next level by exceeding their expectations rather than just meeting them.
As we will see in the next section, a bot can be configured in a number of domains and functions and completely transform them. Here are the prime motivators that drive the interest in bots:
✔ Productivity — Business is about money and bots go a long way in improving accuracy, efficiency while reducing costs.
✔ Risk Management — Businesses have several risk factors associated with them that have zero tolerance for error, such as requirements around finance, audit, regulatory reporting, etc. In addition, there is seasonal variation in customer inquiries making it difficult for operations managers to keep the lines optimally staffed with human beings. Bots are well-equipped to handle these scenarios.
✔ Entertainment — Modern-day bots come equipped with AI that allows them to customize their behavior to suit the user. They can play songs, tell jokes, add items to your shopping list, read out news and weather reports, etc.
✔ Exploration — People get drawn to the technology that simplifies their daily lives. They want to try it out and push it to the limits to see what it can and cannot do.
✔ Social — Working people are often lonely. They look to bots and digital assistants to kill time. Bots keep them company and can engage in meaningful conversation.
✔ Easy to track metrics — based on the outcome of an interaction between a user and a bot, it is easy to measure its effectiveness. This makes it easy for businesses to work the associated numbers such as Return on Investment, efficiency, accuracy, etc.
Chatbots also provide:
✔ Round the clock service
✔ Instant response
✔ Easy communication
Chatbots Beyond Customer Support
Healthcare – It is an essential sector where deploying bots can make an instant, direct impact on the quality of people’s lives. Bots can be used both by doctors and patients for a number of functions such as:
✔ Scheduling and checking appointments
✔ Locating clinics
✔ Retrieving medical reports and history
✔ Gathering medication details
✔ Helping with insurance
Education – Given its sensitivity, education is one sector globally that has traditionally been slow to experiment with innovation. Thanks to the deeper internet penetration and the advent of portable connected devices, the education sector has become receptive to innovation in recent years. Here is how chatbots are making a positive difference in the Ed-tech world:
✔ Automated evaluation — Bots take decisions based on pre-programmed rules. This makes them ideal for evaluating objective type questions. Recently, they are being trained using ML and AI techniques, allowing them to evaluate subjective responses such as essays.
✔ Insightful feedback and ratings — Bots are gathering quantitative and qualitative feedback from students and teachers. The results are in a standardized format and can easily be analyzed to incorporate improvements. This is more efficient than traditional, time-taking ways of gathering feedback.
✔ Campus assistant — Students often have a lot of questions about the college they are going to. Bots have all the answers and can pull them out in a second.
✔ Better engagement — CourseQ is a chatbot that brings students, alumni, teachers, and all other related groups to a common platform. They can socialize, exchange ideas, plan events and engage in an efficient manner.
Shopping — Chatbots are helping shoppers with all the information they need about products. They provide price, availability, store location, warranty information and much more instantly, improving the overall experience for the customer.
— Whether you want to track your monthly expenses, automate bill payments, manage your smart devices or plan your next vacation, chatbots like Digit
and Hello Hipmunk
are there to simplify your life.
Communication management — Application-specific bots are experts at doing the job at hand but we are now seeing a wave of next-generation chatbots that can handle multiple functions.
Multipurpose bots, such as the one from AIBRO
, are capable of handling all your messages from different sources. If you are looking for an affordable communication manager that can manage messages from multiple friends, respond to Facebook Messenger contacts just like you would.
AIBRO is a fully-customizable personal communication bot that can:
✔ Speak on your behalf when you are busy with driving, cooking or — you are trying to avoid the messages!
✔ Stay in touch with friends while you are on a digital detox break
✔ Absorb the negativity that other people are trying to dump on you
✔ Identify aggressive vocabulary and act the way you tell it to
✔ Update its database continuously and analyze your choices, and emulate your behavior more closely, with time
Fitness and Sports – The world is witnessing a fitness revolution, where more and more people are buying smart wearable devices to track their workouts. Statistics say there are 67% of Americans who take gym memberships do not visit it regularly. Chatbots are serving the purpose here, sending various reminders and helping people manage their fitness programs better.
Global Market Insights
expects the market size for chatbots to be over $1.3 billion in the next five years. Chatbots have indeed added a lot of value to organizations and individuals alike. However, they do have the following limitations that chatbot developers are trying to overcome:
- Misinterpretation and misunderstanding – Chatbots lack the inherently human nature of identifying the intent of the customer. This leaves room for misunderstanding the tone of the customer or interpreting his query differently.
- Nuances of human language – Bots do not understand the subtle nuances that are a part of human conversations and end up missing the context.
- Setting off false alarms
- Inability to identify and adapt to accents
- Detecting abusive content
Organizations are investing in building the next generation of bots that can mimic human behavior closely in order to meet rising customer expectations. Technologies like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing (NLP) have made rapid progress in recent years, promising a bright future for human-like chatbots.
(Disclaimer: The Author is the Founder and CEO at AIBRO)
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