How Artificial Intelligence Will Help Your Business Thrive. The Rise Of The Bots
Everyone has watched enough Will Smith and Tom Cruise movies to have heard of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Perhaps, many of us have thought of AI as a technology that was far away from becoming mainstream. We can assure you that this, in fact, is not the case. Bots (short for software robots) are the marketing equivalent of drones – but a couple of years behind. A few years ago no one had heard of drones, and they didn’t really work very well. Today, however, everyone and their cousin seems to have a drone, and the media is buzzing with ways that drones could transform different industries and businesses.
The same is happening with bots today. All the big global technology companies have agreed that bots will be the next big thing. In rapid succession over the past while, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google have each unveiled their chatbot strategies, touting the potential for this evolving technology.
So, What Are Bots?
A bot is a computer software program, using Artificial Intelligence, that people can interact with on their devices. Bots essentially impersonate a user. For example, chatbots can answer questions and chat online in a way that resembles human conversation. When you add Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technology to the backend of these robotic conversational tools, they become infinitely more powerful than the automated “Reply STOP” features available in spam SMS’s across South Africa. Although skeptics say that we will end up sacrificing conversation and customer connection for growth and scale, it is in fact bots that hold the power to bring the conversation experience back to business. This is what makes them so attractive.
The vision is that bots could ultimately evolve to become powerful business and personal assistants that can answer our questions, provide information, and organise our lives. This is a clear and consistent march to a future where No UI Is The New UI.
If you are doubting the buzz around the bot evolution, here is a recent graph of Google search trends for Bots:
What Are The Benefits of Using Bots?
The benefits that an organisation can gain by using bots include:
Bots are cheaper than training humans.
Some studies have shown that people prefer dealing with bots on websites, rather than humans on the phone. Research firm Gartner, for example, estimates that up to 85% of customer service centers will become virtual by 2023.
Bots are very well suited to many value-adding service tasks.
Companies can, theoretically, have much more control over messages given out, and the consistency of those messages.
What Can Bots Do?
There are many real-life examples of how bots are being used worldwide by companies today. These include:
The bots used on the Chinese texting service, WeChat, to pay for meals, order movie tickets, and allow users to send each other presents.
The virtual assistants being used by Lloyds bank, Renault, many accounting firms, retailers, and local governments to help guide users through their websites.
The Taco Bot used by Taco Bell to help users order meals.
Bots used by Kik (an instant messenger app for mobile devices) to answer questions about the weather, give make-up tips, and guide people around websites.
The New York robot lawyer bot that appeals against parking tickets on your behalf. (so far used by 150,000 people).
Bots to interact with customers on Skype, its video, and its messaging service. These will be developed by Microsoft users.
The days of using many different apps to get things done on the decline. Recent Forrester Research estimated that 80% of a typical US Smartphone User’s time was spent in just 5 apps.
There have also been major new developments in Artificial Intelligence, such as ‘Deep Learning’ and Neural Networks. These have meant that chatbots can learn from data sets and mimic the way that the human brain works.
As with all new ideas, there have been plenty of potential flaws, and many times where great A.I. ideas have not gone to plan. For example, Twitter users found great amusement in exploiting the learning aspect of bots by training Microsoft’s chatbot ‘Tay’ to give racist and inappropriate answers.
Many people also have security concerns when it comes to bots. What if these bots (who learn so much about us) are let loose on a platform like Facebook (that already knows so much about us)? What are the consequences of a hack under these circumstances?
What's So Great About Facebook Bots?
Facebook’s latest announcement at F8 confirmed that any user can now make their own bot using Facebook’s application programming interface (API) known as ‘Messenger Platform’.
Using the access and know-how within Facebook’s API, users can create their own uniquely intelligent bots. These will be powered by Facebook’s Bot Engine that acts as a central brain for collective learning. This learning can be passed on to the bots to make them even more ‘intelligent’ and better at the tasks they were designed for.
This can only be good news for Facebook in gaining another march on its competitors Apple, Microsoft, and Google, and as another possible source of future revenue.
For bot developers, access to Facebook’s resources in this way could be a huge commercial opportunity.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Bots hold the power to reduce costs, and add value to your services, by interacting with your customers to enhance customer service.
This could lead to saving money and time on human training and staffing. It could also provide a source of competitive advantage that could be quickly added to or changed if/when needed.
Dennis Mortensen has been one of the biggest winners in this craze. His startup x.ai is the creator of Amy Ingram, an AI-driven personal assistant that can schedule meetings for you. After testing Amy in beta for two years, Mortensen announced in April $23 million in Series B funding to bring Amy to market.
So How Can Bots Be Used?
Messaging services, like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, are extremely popular and have huge user bases. They have, however, proven hard to monetize because advertising in them would detract from the customer experience, and thus cause users to move to other messaging apps. There is an opportunity to earn revenue from these apps by providing services through chatbots. For example, you might start a conversation with a Bot via Facebook Messenger, and ask it where to find a good pizza restaurant nearby or to buy you a new pair of Adidas trainers.
This SlideShare from the chairman of social bakers shows the impact social media chatbots will have on communication:
It’s not, however, just messaging apps that can cash in from bots. E-commerce sites could start using bots to smooth customer journeys and do simple tasks for customers. A good example of this would be a clothing site offering a large range and variety. At present, if a user hits your site looking for a yellow maxi dress, they’d have to browse through and filter results until they eventually find what they want. But if a bot knew the collection inside and out, the user could just ask the bot ‘do you have any yellow maxi dresses?’ and the bot could display them. It could then offer different delivery options and handle other customer inquiries that customers may not want to spend time searching the site for. A bot could answer questions like ‘where is the nearest place I can return this dress?’ or ‘Do you know when item X will be back in stock?’. The more you think about the opportunities bots present for personalisation and customer service, the more you realise just how powerful they could be.
To conclude, bots are something to keep an eye on for sure. If you’re a big enough company, especially in e-commerce, then it might be something to look into. Buukd a bot that helps your customers and makes their journey easier. For most businesses, building your own bots might be out of reach, but it is worth thinking of how you might be able to get one built and to capitilise on them. SovTech’s elite software development teams are capable of assisting your business with a pilot, proof of concept, or a live enterprise-grade implementation. The bots are on the rise, and not even your personal Whatsapp will be safe.
The Challenges of Custom Software Development for Startups When it…
- May 2022
- 3 mins read
- May 5, 2022
- 3 mins read
- April 25, 2022
- 3 mins read
- April 19, 2022
- 4 mins read