Chatbot: new out of old?
Conceived in the fifties by British mathematician Alan Turing, whose work was picked up in the sixties by the famous MIT, a bot is a piece of software capable of automatically performing a specific task. In essence, a bot is a kind of script that allows, for example, to add an event to a calendar or make a reservation.
The emergence of neural networks and artificial intelligence made it possible to design much more sophisticated algorithms and a more ‘natural’ interaction with users. They allow bots to have a better understanding of human language. As a result, bots have been associated with messaging systems, hence the term 'chatbot' or conversational agent. Facebook Messenger, for example, offers different specialized bots in an online store (weather, traffic information, news, and more). Other players, such as Microsoft (Skype), Google (Now), WhatsApp, Kik, Slack or Telegram also offer this type of chatbots.
Customer relations and marketing
Assuming that chatbots are able to perform specific tasks and that their success is growing, one could easily imagine them replacing mobile apps, based on the integration of commands into a messenger application. Especially since the development of a chatbot is significantly less expensive than that of a website. In addition, a chatbot is available 24 hours a day, user-friendly and much cheaper than a human operator.
At first, chatbots were mainly used in the field of customer relations. Gartner estimates that by 2020 no less than 85% of customer relations will be handled by chatbots, replacing human intervention. It comes as no surprise that a company like Salesforce, world leader in customer relationship management (CRM), decided to invest heavily in a bot platform.
Other obvious markets for chatbots include marketing and retail. Companies like Sephora, Bank of America, Pizza Hut or closer to home Bol.com, are already using marketing chatbots to interact with customers. On the other hand, according to a survey by IT infrastructure provider Dimension Data, only 4,2% of Belgian companies have already deployed a bot for their client communications. However, 29% plan to do so in the next two years.
A chatbot can be integrated into any type of interaction. In the field of human resources, a chatbot could process requests for leave or reimbursement of expense reports, sick-leave, teleworking conditions, and more. The Cefora training center, for example, deployed a chatbot to handle initial contacts with candidates in the recruitment process. Similarly, PwC uses the Tenzing chatbot to help recruit future graduates
In addition, the technical support departments of companies can use chatbots to provide answers to users who work on software, especially in the field of office software. For its technical staff, Engie has created a bot that is integrated with Skype and helps the company control its wind farms. Field technicians query the system for technical characteristics of the wind turbines and then check the items on site.
In Brussels, STIB has joined forces with mortierbrigade to develop a chat messenger for Facebook Messenger. The goal is to raise awareness of the different neighbourhoods of the capital. As a result, the Cath & Gery bot helps users to learn more about the Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry area.
A chatbot can also be deployed to automatically process a transaction, such as the purchase of a ticket (plane, train, concert), a sales transaction (in particular on an e-commerce site or a site for internet banking) or a request for information (for example about the weather or the stock market).
The keys to success
The interest in chatbots is growing quickly. IDC estimates that by 2019, 75% of employees whose daily tasks involve the use of business applications will have access to intelligent personal assistants to increase their business skills and expertise. According to Juniper, chatbots could represent up to 8 billion dollars in savings.
To make a chatbot project succeed, French communication agency Tomg-Conseils describes six steps that must be respected: realize a real benefit for the user; master the scenarios and provide a fluid user experience; predict the unexpected and add a layer of natural language; provide a friendly chatbot offering a playful experience; choose the right technical solution and have it tested – and retested – by real users.But isn’t that advice that applies to any computer project?
About Aprico Consultants
Aprico Consultants is a consulting firm specializing in IT projects in architecture and information systems transformation. By firmly accelerating digital transformation processes, the company provides its customers with the flexibility, performance and competitiveness they need to strengthen their position in the market. Aprico Consultants closely collaborates with clients to translate their strategy, objectives and constraints into pragmatic transformation programs that deliver real added value and a proven return on investment.