12th February 2019

The rise of the chatbot

There is no escaping the rise of the chatbot.

What may have once been perceived as a gimmick is no longer the case as businesses are waking up to the significant benefits of having a chatbot.

Drawing on the latest developments in artificial intelligence (AI), the chatbot is one of many tools changing the business landscape.

Chatbots use AI and machine learning to receive and respond to messages on chat mediums like SMS text, website chat windows and social messaging services across platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook, which owns WhatsApp and Instagram and is pioneering the chatbot across its platforms, recently released data from its Messenger service that backed the value of bots for businesses. Its findings noted:

  • 2 billion messages are sent between people and businesses monthly
  • 56% of people would rather message than call customer service
  • 53% of people are more likely to shop with businesses they can message

Given the high volumes of traffic and the willingness of consumers to use chatbot, then adopting a chatbot makes business sense, as it streamlines the process of engaging customers, as well as cutting down costs and activities.

An article by Chatbots Magazine, identifies seven ways that chatbots will improve business efficiency and productivity.

At the top of the list is process automation. For customer service teams, this enables the mundane or often asked questions to be dealt with online, leaving staff to use their time more efficiently dealing with more complex matters. By automating the process, it also reduces the element of human error, while the chatbot is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – ensuring customers can always get an answer, which is the number one reason consumers use a chatbot.

But it isn’t just customer service teams benefiting, as research by PWC showed business executives expected AI to improve processes by 67 per cent, while 34 per cent think using chatbots would reduce their workload, enabling them to focus on new business initiatives, as opposed to dealing with routine enquiries.

Chatbots are also assisting in driving sales and revenue, primarily through social media and messenger app channels.

The likes of Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram all have business platforms to enable companies to develop chatbots and use for marketing purposes. Facebook Messenger showcases success stories from Lego, Allianz France, Just Eat UK and KLM of how chatbots are increasing sales or engagement.

There is a clear business case for chatbots, but as with any new technology, it is assessing if this is right for your business. It is also about working out how it be utilised – will it be website based or through social media platforms.

Ensuring the chatbot delivers the customers’ needs and the business benefits is essential to establishing its suitability. Sprout Social looks at the options and the processes available – including business-based bots, while Chatbots Magazine adds more to the decision-making process in this article.

But a word of caution, respected organisation Forrester has warned of a backlash by the public over chatbots and AI as they seek greater human engagement.

In its article, Predictions 2019: This Is The Year To Invest In Humans, As Backlash Against Chatbots And AI Begins, it questions the usefulness of chatbots and likens them to poor-performing call centres; sheds doubt over the validity of sales figures from the sales workforce and ultimately expects consumers to ‘lead a community-based revolt against corporate chatbots’.

The Forrester article hasn’t pulled any punches in its assessment but that is unlikely to see a slow-down chatbot adoption.

So, will you be joining the chatbot revolution?