A major discussion, whatever your industry, is how artificial intelligence will impact work in the future — for better or for worse. However, much of this conversation is still hypothetical, as AI, for the most part, is in its early stages. One exception that stands out is chatbots.
Chatbots have taken the world by storm, as they begin to enter every aspect of our lives. Many of the most familiar bots comes from large corporations, but there are also some popular bots from few midsize businesses here and there. When you actually consider where we are with chatbots in 2018, it is obvious that everyone, even small businesses, can benefit from this technology.
Big Business and Chatbots
The growing trend toward using chatbots began in 2015. By the middle of 2016, Facebook Messenger already had more than 11,000 bots. A year later, this number was up to 100,000 bots — all this from just a single platform.
Other big brands have also jumped on the bot bandwagon. Google has been both acquiring tools to support chatbots and creating its own technology, such as its analytics platform Chatbase. Amazon is helping brands create chatbots through Lex, a platform that provides developers with the same tools Alexa uses.
In fact, well-known brands are fast becoming just the tip of the iceberg. Already, hundreds of brands have created their own bots and 80 percent surveyed say they plan to have one by 2020.
Types of Chatbots
We currently have two types of chatbots: those that work according to a rules engine and those that use machine learning and natural language processing. The first are programmed to respond to common queries. They are inexpensive to develop, but their limitations mean that they can only perform a few functions at most. The second type are able to learn and understand queries beyond what they are programmed. They can have a wider variety of interactions.
Most chatbots are still rules-based, but some entering the picture now use machine learning to handle complex requests. A prime example is M, an AI butler bot from Facebook. It uses an algorithm to perform tasks as a virtual assistant. Even M, though, still requires human support when a request is too complex.
Chatbots in the Future
Experts believe that chatbots are here to stay and that they will only become more predominant in the future. For instance, a Gartner report predicts that 85 percent customer communications will take place without customers needing to interact with a human by 2020. Today, that number is 30 percent. Furthermore, by 2022, chatbots may be saving organizations as much as $8 billion a year.
To reach this expansion, we’ll need to see developments to bots in the near term. The first challenge to overcome is creating a seamless experience for users. Currently, bots are confined to a single platform, which limits their learning capabilities. If chatbots could function on a variety of different platforms, they could remember users’ past interactions, preferences, and behavior.
Another challenge is discoverability. Chatbots could be helping users to a greater extent if people were simply more aware of their existence.
Finally, chatbots need to overcome problems that deter users from interacting with them. A major concern is security. Developers need to figure out how to assure users that it is safe to hand over their sensitive data — and this means keeping up with ever-changing privacy standards.
Developers also need to figure out how to provide users with consistently fast resolution to problems. It is critical that bots supply users with the right information to move forward quickly, switching to human support if the bot is incapable within a reasonable timeframe. When bots are too slow, users avoid them.
What All This Means for You
If you are still unsure as to whether chatbots would be the right decision for your business, consider a couple key statistics: 49 percent of consumers shop more frequently when AI is part of the experience. Plus, 38 percent of consumers share their experiences interacting with AI with others.
You should also bear in mind that retail is just one way to use chatbots. Bots are also useful for other types of customer service, such as answering FAQs, making personalized recommendations, and receiving payment for services.
There’s no need to wait for chatbots to become the norm. In fact, if you decide to wait until your competitors adopt chatbots, you’ll be a step behind. By utilizing chatbots now, you can increase your sales, improve customer satisfaction, and grow your business.
In 2018, chatbot technology will be more accessible and affordable than ever before. This means that, whatever your business, you can easily create your own bot. Furthermore, chatbots are still not quite mainstream. By exploring the possibilities for your business now, you can find ways to stand out and show prospects your creative side.