Businesses today feel like they must implement some type of artificial intelligence application or be left behind. One of the most popular is the chatbot, a process that uses natural language processing and company data to deliver either text-based or voice-based information to users via messaging, text, or speech.
A survey by Oracle found that 80 percent of respondents were already using or planning to use chatbots by 2020. Chatbots are used in banking, insurance, travel, and service support and are being created for proprietary functions in industries including HR, retail, and media. So what are the latest uses and trends that you can implement in your own business processes?
- Customer Service
Chatbots are an important piece of the digital transformation because they’re the ideal customer-service employees: they’re available 24/7, they’re unfailingly professional and ready to serve, and they react quickly. Furthermore, they can free up your agents to handle more complex issues. In fact, the potential around chatbots is so high that some major brands are phasing out their customer service email channels in favor of chatbot interaction in real time, expecting to lower costs and speed resolutions.
Current best practice for chatbot efficacy seems to be human and AI working in tandem, where agent desktops reflect previous chatbot interactions and, at the same time, the chatbot learns from actions taken by the agents. Customers get quick answers and never even know AI is involved.
- Handing Sensitive Information
The customer-service applications don’t stop with the most basic self-service functions; chatbots are expected to help save billions of dollars a year in ecommerce, healthcare, and banking by 2022. Banks worldwide are already combining AI and machine learning with chatbots to automate some of the less complicated banking procedures like IT support questions, card issues, and account queries. Nordea Bank in Denmark uses about 150 software bots to handle more than 300 rule-based processes; their chatbot can answer about 2,000 different customer questions across their website and mobile services. RHB in Malaysia is hoping to grow their personal loan business by 60 percent through their new chatbot; consumers can apply for a loan at any time and be notified of their eligibility status by text within 24 hours.
- Functioning Within Messaging Apps
Business Insider has reported that the four top messaging apps surpassed the top four social networks in terms of global monthly active users as far back as 2015 – and text services, SMS, and messaging apps are right in the wheelhouse of chatbots’ capabilities. This has led to the rise of third-party chatbots that businesses use to interact with their customers on Facebook Messenger or similar apps; users can now do everything from order a pizza to schedule an Uber to analyze and order the perfect new hair color, without having to call anyone or download an app.
Today’s best customer-service personalization tools treat your customers like individuals, recognizing them and recalling their history with your brand. Because chatbots can gather so much customer data and process it so quickly, they can deliver personalized service that only improves over time, answering questions in seconds rather than the minutes or hours required for other channels. Chatbots also hit deeper levels of personalization when they work proactively or act through conversational commerce, making product recommendations, providing in-store assistance or augmented repair, and alerting customers to product updates.
Almost as much as in customer service, personalization is key to the most successful marketing efforts. Because they have access to your data, chatbots can analyze a conversation and tell each prospect a story customized just for them, leading customers back to your site and providing solid lead conversion. A new addition to chatbot marketing is visual communication through packaged images and videos that drive traffic to your YouTube channel or other site. Chatbots also function well in combination with location-based marketing, which is a boon for tourism and neighborhood-based businesses.
While the technological landscape of chatbots is exciting and sees advances almost daily, it is far from mature. Chatbots are not skilled at sensing human emotion (yet), and they’re not currently being programmed as multilingual. Perhaps more importantly, any bot is only as good as the supporting documentation you can give it, so it’s good to start slowly with a common but simple process like password resets. Companies that are willing to make the effort to implement successful chatbots yield the strongest ROI when they plan for their agents and bots to work in tandem.
Finally, there is the considerable challenge of gathering together your best data to educate your chatbots. This process becomes a lot less challenging with a proven agnostic product like VHT Navigator, which integrates all your existing infrastructure, from oldest to newest systems and front to back-office applications, and leverages the APIs already in place. Furthmore, it is not dependent on any technology, channel, or interaction type.