Companies today want to be a ‘part of the conversation,’ and today the conversation takes place in messaging format, and is immediate and concise. As a result of the consumer-driven demand, many companies are increasing their use of chatbots in order to engage with consumers at a large scale and effectively reduce overload while improving customer support on a medium that customers are accustomed to (think of the popularity of Whatsapp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger and more).
Luckily for companies, people are becoming increasingly comfortable interacting with machines and AI enabled bots, making a win-win situation that will likely increase the prevalence of chatbots in the digital space.
The Rise of Chatbots
The rise of chatbots has been felt across almost every industry. The launch of Facebook’s AI business bot marked a turning point in the corporate use of chatbots, and since then, a shift in the way companies view chatbots has been felt.
“We think you should just be able to message a business, the same way you message a friend…. And you shouldn’t have to install a new app… To order flowers on 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again.” – Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO
Chatbots effectively blur the lines between business and buddy, making consumers feel as though they are actually talking to someone. At the same time, chatbots offer companies the chance to employ a non-stop agent who doesn’t need benefits or breaks – and what company doesn’t want that?
As chatbots’ conversational capabilities improve, chatbots will be able to enhance the availability of companies in the eyes of customers in a way that is seamless to the customer and on a medium they already enjoy or spend time on.
Beyond dealing with overload, chatbots are able to increase upsell opportunities by increasing the connection between the consumer and the brand. Chatbots also have the benefit of reducing wasted time answering common questions thanks to their ability to direct answers and pick out meaningful information. Instead of waiting on a call or having to search out for answers, chatbots offer users immediate gratification in the form of a solution.
The fact that chatbots incorporate artificial intelligence means that they can do more than answer questions – they can learn as time goes on, ultimately improving the customer experience, the company’s efficiency and of course, bottom line.
Who Needs Chatbots?
One of the industries that has been slowest to adopt the chatbot trend is the financial one, and rightfully so. When sensitive financial information is put on the line, companies must ensure that their chatbots are able to encrypt the information or filter it out to uphold security standards for their customers.
While short commands in banking have been around for decades, the conversation has been one-sided, leaving much to be desired. That being said, financial institutions recognize that it is important to have a competitive advantage, and as a result, many financial institutions have begun testing technologies that will let them integrate AI and chatbot solutions into their existing ecosystems or on the platforms their consumers use most.
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American Express announced a real-time bot based on the Facebook Messenger platform that would confirm a purchase while simultaneously offering suggestions based on the purchase (e.g. airport lounge voucher offerings when buying a plane ticket, etc.). MasterCard, not to be outdone, recently announced its entry into conversational commerce through a series of strategic partnerships. The goal of MasterCard’s new bot is to let consumers complete orders without leaving the Facebook Messenger platform.
While the benefit for credit card companies is obvious, they aren’t the only financial bodies looking to chatbots as the future of finance. The rise of digital banks has paved the way for digital communication with tellers and automated transaction management. By improving the way consumers interact with the bank, banks will be able to improve the customer experience and efficiency while reducing costs.
Challenges to Keep in Mind
While it seems like chatbots are an obvious tool all companies need to employ, there are still many challenges that companies need to consider when testing and evaluating chatbot technologies.
In order to truly emulate human conversations, chatbots need to understand human slang as well as a variety of languages in a way that is seamless to the customer. Furthermore, developing an independent chat solution is a task that many companies see as daunting. The result is that many companies are still lagging behind, offering simple automated answers or less sophisticated chatbot experiences.
Our piece of advice for those companies? Get on the chatbot train before it’ll be too late because chatbots are here to stay.