The bot revolution: Chatbots in automation

Automation is a growing technological asset across businesses of all types. Whether it is in self-service checkouts in supermarkets, or supply chain management within assembly lines, the world is moving ever quicker to automated solutions - to solve problems that would typically have required a great deal of human capital. One such growing application in the world of automation is the use of chatbots. With myriad uses, chatbots have the potential to save organisations considerable financial and human resources. This new army of digital workers have become critical to ambitious, growth focused businesses as they look at how they can incorporate chatbot technology into their own strategic models. 

Introduction to chatbots

A chatbot is a type of software application that enables online conversation in place of a live human discussion. The idea behind the concept has existed as far back as 1950, with Alan Turing’s proposed Turing Test for testing the ability of a computer programme to impersonate a human. The modern application of this concept has since been used to help streamline interactions between humans and information systems. Chatbots can be used to aid with customer support, human resources, and many other services. In the ever growing digitally connected world, the use of chatbots has proven to be useful for many organisations in providing relief in time consuming, mundane tasks. At the highest level, there are typically three types of chatbot that consumers are likely to see today.

Rules-based chatbots 

Rules-based chatbots are simple chatbots that follow pre-determined rules using a graphical user interface that has paths built on a decision tree. This is a similar process to a flowchart with varying degrees of complexity that enable an outcome to be reached through input from the user.

AI chatbots

AI chatbots use data to build a comprehensive understanding of the type of questions people ask. The chatbot then analyses this data in a learning period to determine the correct questions and finally uses machine learning to develop contextual understanding to continually get better at answering these questions in the future. 

Live chat 

Live chatbots are among the most simplistic in application and are most often used by sales and support teams to answer questions in real-time. Adding natural language processing to the chatbot, allows for smarter interpretation of the user’s spoken or typed question, taking us one step closer to mimicking a human-to-human conversation with multiple exchanges, each dynamically building on the one before. This new area goes way beyond the navigation through a pre-scripted set of responses.

Real world benefits

The modern, connected world has left many expecting answers to questions immediately. This in turn has put marketing and sales teams under tremendous amounts of pressure to show results and to be constantly improving their customer experience. Whilst humans can perform these tasks, human error will always be an unavoidable aspect which technology can successfully address.

From a consumer or client perspective, chatbots provide an immediate source of assistance on queries they may have relating to a product or service offered by an organisation. Many banking organisations, including Barclays and Tochka Bank , have made use of chatbots for their customer service offerings, which enable a range of financial services, including the ability to make payments.

From the organisation side, this provides large scale relief to staff, who can now rely on the chatbots to automate these services whilst they perform other critical tasks within the business. The financial benefit to implementing chatbots for these tasks is huge in terms of the cost of employees, who may have previously been solely focused on handling the enquiries that are now handled by the chatbot. 

During times of crises chatbots have proved their value, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic where the World Health Organisation (WHO) teamed up with instant messaging service WhatsApp to provide a chatbot service that allows for questions relating to the virus to be answered. The WHO were experiencing a period of intense pressure and having an automated solution to handle frequently asked questions was not only a great relief to WHO employees but also to those looking for quick responses to their questions. 
 

Author(s)

Paul Herring
Global Chief Innovation Officer