Are chatbots really transforming business?

Are chatbots really revolutionary? We look at what the fuss is about and whether they will really transform business in the coming years?

Artificial intelligence may be in the early stages, but its impact is already being felt in everyday life. And if there’s one area of this technology that’s blossomed in recent years – the chatbot. They’re essentially intelligent computer programmes that are capable of having conversations with humans.

Using natural language processing techniques, chatbots can develop convincing conversation exchanges with people. When conversing with human beings, they will either use audio or methods. Whatever the case, they usually serve a helpful process. For instance, many businesses use chatbots as part of their customer service strategies. So if someone has a question about a product or service, instead of ringing up the company or sending a lengthy email, they can just send queries over an instant messaging service –Facebook Messenger, for example, has adopted chatbots. In these types of scenarios, consumers can get answers fast - but customer service representatives can also boost productivity because they no longer need to spend time answering simple questions.

Chatbots are already making an impact on the business world. Research from Gartner suggests that 25 per cent of customer service operations will be using them by 2020. But while businesses clearly see potential in these technologies, there are concerns; a new study from PointSource claims that 80 per cent of consumers don’t trust chatbots when companies use them for after-sales support. So the question is, are they really revolutionary?

What is the future of chatbots? Check out: The weird and wonderful future of AI chatbots

Plan carefully

Businesses are increasingly adopting chatbot systems as part of ambitious automation strategies. Rob Brown, who is associate vice president at Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, believes that they’re rising in popularity on the back of an expanding artificial intelligence and app ecosystem. “Chatbots are gaining in popularity in a number of industries as an important customer service tool, with financial services and insurance particularly keen to roll them out. Their rise is being driven by several converging trends: the popularity of messaging apps, the explosion of the app ecosystem, advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive technologies, conversational user interfaces and a wider reach of automation,” he says.

At the same time, Brown takes a somewhat sceptical view. He says that if businesses rush to implement chatbots into their customer service departments, then they risk upsetting customers rather than helping them. “However, the current hype around the chatbot phenomenon may not prove to be sustainable over time without a stronger business rationale and better short-term results. In the context of chatbots, it is actually not about ‘the robot’ at all, it is all about how easy the end-user finds it to use, and simply whether it works or not,” he tells us.

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