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Author's profile photo Susan Galer

Why It’s Worth Having Meaningful Conversations with Machines

/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/mobilesvcchatbotblogscn_1019950.jpgIf the catch-phrase in the mid-aughts was “there’s an app for that,” the one for the next business wave will be “there’s a bot for that.” Bots are the bits of code that apply logical or reasoning in response to data input, producing a response, be it conversational, audio or a visual image. We are already seeing micro-services emerge, controlled by algorithms that are driven by bots able to make suggestions, recommendations and more on websites.

I recently attended a Gartner webinar where analysts introduced algorithmic business as the next generation beyond digital. Gartner defines digital business as the creation of new business designs that result from the blurring of digital and physical worlds. Algorithmic business takes digital one step further, where smart machines use algorithms to change outcomes based on their experiences. Machines can develop their own formulas, realizing unanticipated results for people and business. Bot-fueled smart machines are only going to get smarter. Gartner predicts that by next year, over 50 percent of analytics implementations will use data streams generated from machines, applications and/or people.

There’s nothing brand new about all this. Travelers on the hunt for the best seat prices know they have to outsmart airlines’ behind-the-scenes calculations. This is algorithmic business in action. Facebook and Google have long been using algorithms to generate advertising revenues. Algorithms are behind recommended match-ups on sites from LinkedIn to online dating. Of course, financial and insurance services have been at forefront of algorithmic business and they’ll stay there, thanks in part to algorithms. Industries as diverse as customer service, legal advice, and newswriting are also relying on algorithms to streamline services and generate output. Yes, a smart machine can “write” articles using basic information.

To learn more, I talked with Rohit Tripathi, General Manager and Head of Industry/LoB Products for SAP Mobile Services, who explained how first generation bots are quickly giving way to smarter innovations allowing forward-looking companies to get much closer to customers.

“We are piloting chat bots because we believe these capabilities will be a useful engagement tool that more of our customers will ask for,” he said. “We’ve demonstrated a prototype chat bot using Facebook Messenger that gives businesses the ability to generate and deliver a one-time pin to authenticate users. Whether it’s a bank, social network, retailer, or any kind of company, our service will help protect customers.”

/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/mobilesvcschatbotblogscnsmall_1021156.jpgThe pilot (pictured at left) builds on the SAP Authentication 365 solution that allows businesses to embed two-factor authentication (2FA) into processes that businesses and consumers use every day. It represents one of the most interesting developments in the world of chat bots.

“The first wave of chat bots have largely consisted of pushing already available content to consumers,” said Tripathi. “Our prototype shows how businesses can use chat bots in a completely new way to engage meaningfully with customers. Instead of duplicating existing services, now companies can have chat bots that help them actually conduct business.”

Tripathi reports high interest in these next-gen chat bots among retail banks aiming to improve customer service for their Facebook followers. Think of chat bots as intelligent advisors with the potential to help us save time, opening up completely new ways of getting business done – things we’ve never thought possible before. That’s a meaningful conversation worth having.

Follow me @smgaler

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