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Chatbots are a huge untapped resource for businesses. In 2016, over 1.5 billion people used messaging apps, and every one of those people is a potential user of a chatbot.

As a guest editor over the AI and bots section at VentureBeat, I see many submissions come through that discuss how chatbots will revolutionize one industry or another. Most of the hype about chatbots that we’ve seen so far has centered on the consumer-facing side of things, with companies using the bots to interact with customers. Unfortunately, this ignores one of the largest potential markets for chatbots: streamlining internal business operations. There is untapped potential here that business owners need to be taking advantage of.

The impact this resource can have on your business is hard to overstate. People love having access to help whenever they need it, and chatbots can be interactive enough to give the illusion that you’re dealing with an actual person. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020 only 15% of a customer’s relationship with a company will be handled by a human. And with internet speeds constantly increasing (almost 25% of the United States now has fiber access), the interactions can be seamless.

Let’s look at some ways chatbots can be used to turn your workplace into a well-oiled machine.

1. They Can Streamline Customer Relationship Management

Some companies that use chatbots for support and customer relationship management (CRM) report over 30% increased efficiency, and this is with them being used in only one relatively limited capacity. As they spread to other areas of business, like sales and recruitment, experts predict even more efficiency and impact on margins.

2. They Can Help Cut Expenses

Chatbots essentially perform the functions of an employee in your company, without requiring the paycheck that an actual employee would. They can also help free up time for your employees by handling mundane tasks, allowing employees to focus more on what you pay them for. The end result is lower payroll per project—you don’t need to pay an assistant, and your employees can get more done with their time.

3. They Can Serve as Personal Assistants

They can’t fully replace a human worker, but chatbots can serve as automated assistants for staff, helping schedule meetings, set alarms, create to-do lists, and more—essentially streamlining workflows for employees. This not only makes life easier for them but can also keep everyone on the same page, which improves overall organizational efficiency.

Many companies already use chat and messaging services like Slack, and implementing a chatbot in that environment would be a natural extension of the service.

4. They Can Offer Always-On Customer Support

Chatbots can provide on-demand customer support 24/7 without needing to have a support staff on hand at all times. While a bot isn’t likely to be walking anyone through anything too complex, they can handle the basic queries themselves, and automatically escalate tougher situations for when actual human beings will be in the office. Some companies report up to 20% fewer questions for staff to deal with thanks to chatbots.

Like other AI tech, chatbots have the capacity to broadly integrate into almost any company. By using chatbots, you can improve efficiency, and you can rest assured you aren’t falling behind the latest technology. If the benefits above sound appealing, maybe chatbots can help you out. The next steps in integrating chatbots at an organizational level would be to come up with a strategy that is best-suited for your company and its unique needs. Contrary to common belief, chatbots aren’t a ‘one-solution-fits-all’ technology. You will need a plan in place for the creation of a custom bot in order to obtain optimal benefit from the integration. 

 

 

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  1. Michelle Crapo

    If not programmed well they can also drive a customer crazy!   It is more sophisticated – much more sophisticated than  the automated voices we get with a bunch of numbers to punch over the phone (or say now).   So it depends on how quickly a chatbox can be switched to a “real” person when needed.   I’m sure there will be frustration points.

    Interesting,

    Michelle

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    1. Cosette Jarrett Post author

      Agreed! Execution is everything – especially when you’re trying to get employees onboard in an internal rollout situation. Perhaps a good follow up article could discuss some of the key components of chatbots that work well for internal purposes. That’s definitely something to consider for my next contribution here.

      Thanks for reading and great feedback!

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  2. Veselina Peykova

    Contrary to common belief, chatbots aren’t a ‘one-solution-fits-all’ technology.

    With the risk of sounding like a Luddite – chatbots indeed are not a cure-all and while in some businesses they may help reduce costs, in others they may result in losing customers.

    Here is an example – we pay for some highly-specialized software on subscription-base principle. The people who can afford and use it are 30-60+ years old, many are tech-savvy and with really good problem-solving skills (it is just part of the job). Believe it or not, they have read the manual (at least twice), attended courses, before asking a question search online, watch video tutorials and try a few things not mentioned anywhere (just in case it might work) – before approaching customer support.

    The reason why people pay for software is not just the features, but also for an adequate customer support. If you try to get them through a chatbot that asks basic questions or connect them with an employee who does not understand the software and the business in sufficient detail or with someone who does not speak fluently the local language (officially supported by the vendor) – this will result in annoying the customers and cancelled subscriptions.

    Considering that troubleshooting a problem with the software that I mentioned normally requires providing files and explaining the desired outcome within a certain context, using a chatbot will be a very inefficient approach. It is much better to send an e-mail to support and receive a solution within reasonable time than wasting time talking to a chatbot or with a person who does not understand or cannot help you. Of course, you can request important information like OS, service pack or versions of additional software, but this can be done by filling forms, there is no need to make the customer feel like taking a part in the Idiocracy movie.

    As an illustration that e-mail support can work well with the right support personnel – less than a day after sending the files with explanations we received a response with a suggested workaround and sample files, explanations what you need to do, how and why (reading how and why something works is highly appreciated by engineers). The patch followed 2 weeks later.

    If there are frequently encountered problems or questions – a viable and cheaper alternative are guided answers – like the ones we have for SD performance analysis in the support portal. I would rather look at a screenshot and read a few sentences than speaking with someone trying to describe the same thing in own words.

    As to using software as a personal assistant – personally, I cannot understand the hype. With Cortana/Siri there is the problem with accents in foreign languages, if we speak about typing stuff – one can easily schedule a meeting, create an alarm etc. without an assistant and, frankly, this does not take a lot of time.

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    1. Michelle Crapo

       

      I go to my doctors office – I used to get a nice voice talking to me about my appointments.   Now I get a stupid automated thing.  I used to talk to the nice ladies behind the desk – now I am given a device to use to fill out questions.   I personally hate it.   Not bots – but similar type implementation.   I don’t leave my doctor, because I really like my doctor.  He knows me and I know him.

      Fast forward.  Now the bots are doing the prescriptions and “seeing” me.   Asking the questions the doctor would.  At this point I’d try to find a “regular” doctor to see in person.   So at this point – the business is lost.

      So sometimes you can “get away” with using the bot – sometimes not.  BTW – you should hear the some of the people in the office.   The office help isn’t doing less work.  They are doing more trying to calm people down.   This is after a year of the change.

      As an assistant – well I’ve never had one of those.  Not sure if it would help of not.   My point – if I have one – is I agree with Veselina Peykova.   Careful consideration must be used before jumping in.   Now if all the companies in your field do it.   And you know they come to you because you are adding that “personal” touch.   You win and they lose.   Once a customer is lost it is hard to get them back.

      I was trying to stay away from my customary long answer.   What can I say? Veselina inspired me.

      Great discussion!

      MIchelle

       

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