According to multiple sources (such as Forbes and Venturebeat), 2018 will be an important year for chatbots. This does not mean that chatbots are ready to replace human interaction by any stretch – chatbots lack the empathy a human interlocutor can offer. Even so, in many industries they can be very beneficial. Let’s take a look at what they have to offer.
What is a chatbot?
In simple terms, a chatbot is a computer program which responds (mostly with text or audio) to certain actions or input. They can be deployed in communication systems (such as messengers or other chat programs) to perform a multitude of tasks, such as providing customer service or retrieving information. Think of, for example, automatically creating a conversation with a welcome message after a user has registered for a new account, or retrieving information from a database based on specific keywords. The chatbot will usually appear as a contact or a participant in a group conversation.
Chatbots can be as simple or complicated as you wish – from a simple automated process with pre-determined chatbot messages to advanced artificial intelligence which can simulate human communication at the highest level.
That the interest in chatbots has increased can be concluded by looking at this Google Trends graph, showing the search volume for the term ‘chatbot’ over the last 2 years (worldwide).
Especially in the field of customer contact, the use of chatbots will become more and more widespread. According to chatbot expert Frank Smit, this is good news for both customers and employees:
“Deploying chatbots for answering basic questions increases customer satisfaction, because a bot can quickly provide adequate responses. Besides, the employee satisfaction will also increase, due to the fact that only the complex questions remain to be answered by service agents, which makes the added value of the agents even more important.” (Source – my translation)
Using chatbots for customer service purposes is just one of the many possibilities chatbots have to offer. For us, as a developer of a white label communication platform, these developments concerning chatbots are very interesting – that is why we have made changes to our API to ensure that developing chatbots for our platform is quite easy.
But what are some of the possibilities of chatbots for businesses?
Chatbots for business
In many industries, human contact is of the utmost importance – both to provide the necessary empathy and to ensure the skill of a professional who has been trained in his/her profession for many years and has the mental capacity to analyse your situation properly. As such, even though chatbots have greatly improved the last few years and artificial intelligence keeps becoming more advanced, the matter of attaining a user’s confidence is still an issue. Even so, there are plenty of ways in which a chatbot can optimise the workflow of a professional and chatbots can also provide support for customers. Think of, for example:
Information from reliable databases
We have all heard the saying Google is your friend – however, when it comes to more complex questions, one would do well to mistrust Google at least a little bit. Even so, it is often a lot easier to ‘ask Google’ rather than consult a pro. However, the search results are not always reliable: many people do not know how to check whether a website is reliable and there are tons of websites on which commercial goals weigh heavier than the accuracy of the information provided.
By linking a chatbot to a trusted database, people could respond to this bot’s questions so that the bot can find out what you need to know and consult the database.
The first contact with a customer
In an earlier blogpost we described how website visitors can use a web chat button to contact a specific division of your company (the reception, for example). The first questions in such a chat conversation could be asked by a bot. Think of, for example, asking for a name and date of birth or client number, or a brief description of their request / question. Chatbots could even set up an appointment. These kinds of bots could save receptionists a lot of time.
Follow-up after an appointment
After a predetermined amount of time after an appointment, a chatbot could also ask a customer whether he/she is satisfied with a service provided and whether they require additional assistance. This way, the bot can help determine whether a new appointment is necessary and if so, how soon.
Request information from the CRM or EHR
Sometimes, professionals need to be able to look up information in a CRM or a patient’s electronic healthcare record. Think of, for example, the most recent customer / patient status, an overview of products or medication or a full file. Of course, it would be a lot easier if a chatbot could look this up for you in no-time, based on a reference number + keyword!
Chatbots can also be used for internal processes. A Human Resources chatbot could help with the process of applying for leave or notifying HR or absence. One of the primary benefits of chatbots is that one communication tool can become a central hub for a multitude of work processes.
Create your own chatbot?
As you can see there are countless ways in which chatbots can contribute to improving business processes. Here at Alterdesk, we are currently optimising the process to create bots for our white label platforms, so that it will be a breeze for even those less technically inclined. Do send us a message if you would like to know more about using chatbots in Alterdesk!