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Chatbots: The Modern Artificial Intelligence Helper

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It can be difficult to keep up with everything that is being published on hyped, futuristic technologies. Nevertheless, the internet sheds light on buzzwords like blockchain, cloud and artificial intelligence, machine learning and cognitive computing, as I touched upon in my previous blog. But it’s not all about the future – a majority of the technologies are already available and applicable in a number of ways – you just don’t notice it. Currently, one of the hottest topics is chatbots.

A chatbot uses natural language processing that enables understanding and interpretation of human language as it is spoken. In this way, it is possible to program a chatbot to perform clearly defined tasks based on a regular conversation with a human being.

When you program a chatbot, it’s vital to be transparent in what customer experience you wish to give your customers. Today, chatbot technology is mainly used either to optimize customer service experience or to guide the customer through a sales process.

Win-win for the customer service experience

We have all experienced poor customer service in one way or another. This can often be a product of a customer service employee repeatedly answering the same questions and therefore losing the urge to provide good service.

By having a chatbot that is trained in eg. a company’s FAQ, you avoid that the customer service employee is asked simple questions over and over again. Furthermore, customers will also be able to quickly have their questions answered, whenever it suits them. If the chatbot cannot answer their questions, customers can be redirected to a service representative who can assist further with their inquiries. Industriens Pension has implemented this option and their chatbot Roberta (in Danish) has been a great success so far.

In addition to being a company’s first respondent to customers’ questions, a chatbot can also be programmed to perform other customer-related processes in a company. Previously, this required substantial human assistance. For instance, these chatbots can aid companies in identifying the best possible solutions to customer issues and needs. In collaboration with IBM, Arbejdernes Landsbank made such a chatbot system called ALbot (in Danish), in which both the customer experience and the employees’ efficiency in relation to serving the customers have been improved significantly. In this case, the bot helps customers finding the perfect location for their next home by asking questions to the customers’ preferences and options in proportion to income, work location, availability of highly-ranked schools, etc.

The chatbot as your digital agent

Several experts point out that the future chatbot interface will be controlled on a conversation basis, either as a speech- or text-chat. Ted Livingston, CEO of the text-chat app Kik, has said: “Chat is going to be the next great operating system. Apps will be considered as new browsers; bots will be the new websites. This is the beginning of a new internet.

Chatbots can work as a digital assistant, who doesn’t have other customers to look for. In this way, customers can be guided, rather than having to navigate through filters and sub-pages on company websites. A company that already applies chatbots on a large scale, is Royal Bank of Scotland. With their IBM Watson-powered chatbot Cora, you can freely write what situation you are in or what help you need. By interpreting the text, the chatbot enters into a dialogue to make recommendations for you. Whenever the chatbot is in doubt, it will transfer you to an employee who will take over the dialogue and assist in completing the tasks that require human interaction. Try it here! (In English)

As mentioned, several companies have also started to drive customers through a sales process via conversation. A leading company in the market of conversational commerce is Amazon with its virtual assistant Alexa, secondarily followed by Google. According to a report by OC&C Strategy Consultants, sales via assistants such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are expected to rise from $2 billion to $40 billion by 2022. Whereas the market for SmartSpeakers has been dominated by the US and China in the past, according to IDC Europe has grown rapidly as of the end of last year.

What’s next for chatbots?

Once mastering the text-based chatbots, proceeding to voice-based chatbots is the next natural step. This opens up several new use cases, such as listening to customer phone calls, which augments the call-center employees to provide even better service. Clearly, a huge market is waiting for the retail and service industry. The question is now; who will be the first-movers that can enjoy the ride from the get-go?

A chatbot is not difficult to program however requires thorough considerations to become truly great. It is really about being focused on what customer experience you want to provide your customers. Start there and when you know it… Don’t wait to begin your journey!

Would you like to learn more about chatbots and other new creative solutions that IBM offers, please check out IBMiX.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at peter.sommer@dk.ibm.com

Partner - Industry Executive, Global Business Services

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