By Neil Thurston, Chief Technologist, Logicalis UKI
Chatbots are all around us. Visit any eCommerce website today and the chances are it’ll instantly present you with a ‘How can I help you today?’ pop-up. The global market for intelligent virtual assistants is expected to grow at a CAGR of 28.5% from 2021 to 2028, and social media is full of amusing stories of parrots and small children wreaking havoc via Alexa.
Chatbots are emphatically mainstream technology, and an important component of any automation strategy. The question for any digital business is how to derive maximum value from them.
This blog considers the benefits of chatbots, along with factors that need to be taken account to implement in ways that deliver the greatest business value.
A chatbot is a computer program that can simulate one side of a conversation between two human beings. Just as human conversations vary from the very simple to the highly complex, chatbots can range from basic, deterministic automated flowcharts to sophisticated, artificial intelligence driven tools capable of learning individual preferences and behaviours and interpreting language and tone.
Widely available chatbot templates and other tools mean chatbots can be created quickly and without specialised programming capabilities.
Direct and indirect benefits of using chatbots
Key direct benefits of using chatbots include cost efficiency, instant 24/7 availability and service consistency.
Using chatbots instead of humans for repetitive, mechanical functions, such as password resets or simple ordering, can free staff for higher value tasks and greatly increase efficiency for customer-facing departments.
Chatbots offer an ‘always on’ capability that takes pressure off call centres and improves customer experience by virtually eliminating call waiting times.
A chatbot will respond consistently every time, something that is hard to guarantee with a human interaction.
Intelligent chatbot technology creates a foundation for delivering a range of indirect benefits, from the actionable insights it creates by capturing and building understanding of individual customer behaviours to its ability to enact changes and innovations in customer service without the need for extensive staff training.
Considerations for chatbot implementation
As with any automation technology implementation, it is important to understand and map the processes and outcomes in scope for a chatbot before it is deployed.
Expecting chatbot technology to resolve issues with, for example, a troublesome customer process, is unrealistic and counter-productive, if the reasons why the process is troublesome are not understood.
While chatbots have been part of everyday life for some time, there is still some cultural resistance, particularly and understandably in older demographic groups. One article cites an independent survey where over half of correspondents said they found chatbots were at best only partly effective, or complained about still having to talk to an agent after using one.
Failing to understand and map the underlying process and potential outcomes therefore risks further disaffecting customers and users who may already have some distrust of chatbots.
For the same reason, the chatbot interaction needs to be as natural as possible. There is a strong argument that the person interacting with the chatbot should ideally be unaware they are talking to a computer.
These factors support an approach to chatbot implementation that starts from simple, repetitive, low-value tasks and develops from there.
Password reset requests have been shown to be a productive starting point for deploying chatbots in an IT service desk setting. This can provide a foundation for automating more complex but still repetitive requirements such as new laptop requests, as long as those complexities are fully understood and mapped.
Giving due weight to these considerations can help minimise risk and deliver maximum return on investment in chatbots.
Logicalis UKI have the track record and expertise to help organisations deliver effective chatbot deployments as part of a wider automation strategy.
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