With our laptops, tablets, phones and even smartwatches always close to us at all times, we have access to whatever we want, whenever we want.
For businesses, this means that there’s literally no time to waste when it comes to answering questions from potential customers.
Why? Because if they don’t get an answer to their question in the time they desire, then they’ll find another company that’s quicker – which means that a lack of time loses you money.
Realistically, not all businesses have the resources to put into 24/7 customer support, which is why the reliance on online chatbots has risen sky high in the last few years.
Just like with social media marketing, AI has changed the digital landscape for the better, and businesses big and small are reaping the benefits. We don’t have to worry about a machine uprising just yet, as these chatbots only deliver a finite number of responses to FAQs and will still pass you along to a human representative if the problem is too tricky to solve.
However, for simple questions, a chatbot is perfect if customers don’t feel like calling or find emailing too slow.
What makes chatbots so effective is the fact that they can handle many queries at once and are placed within platforms which tech-savvy consumers are already using, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
Companies ranging from Staples to Spotify to even Pizza Hut are utilizing chatbots to complete a variety of tasks.
Sure, the responses are rudimentary and curt, but in a world where timing is everything, customers get what they want and then leave.
In the space of a few minutes, you could use a chatbot to order a pizza, get new music recommendations, and find out the price and stock availability of a new TV. Try doing that in-store and you’ll find it takes way longer than a few minutes!
Typically, when someone gets the answer they want quickly, it will lead to conversions.
Chatbots Not Just Used For Business But For Fun
Funnily enough, some business chatbots aren’t even there to help sell products or services, yet simply provide chatbots for fun while simultaneously promoting the brand. As we’ve already seen with other, highly advanced AI programs like Siri and Alexa, chatbots can be sassy and fun, as well as helpful.
Mattress company Casper’s Insomnobot 3000 is there 24/7 for insomniacs or those who just can’t seem to sleep and who’d like some companionship, and H&M’s bot can actually give you style advice.
Even Disney set up a chatbot to promote its Zootopia movie, whereby users could interact with Officer Judy Hopps (a rabbit) to help solve a case.
Will AI Be Used To Replace Humans?
Of course, there are some justifiable fears regarding the replacement of humans in the workplace, but the jury is still out regarding if this could happen. However, according to Michael Schubach, program management director for hospitality at software company Infor, the question is not if, but when.
I think our concern should extend to the human community for both reasons. First, because of our evolving comfort and social interaction with non-sentient human stand-ins, and second because we are in the process of outsourcing human labor and displacing livelihoods in favor of mechanized replacements.
While not wanting to sound like I’m running through the village yelling that the sky is falling, I nonetheless believe that thoughtful individuals should not ignore or be surprised by the very obvious handwriting on the wall.
Still, one has to wonder if AI is anywhere close to being able to think for itself without human intervention.
Microsoft’s efforts at building a thinking AI program hasn’t gone particularly well, as its first attempt in one called ‘Tay’ ended up being a misogynistic and racist little thing, whereas its second shot in ‘Zo’ is a program that is so politically correct and safe that it’s essentially only the weather and plans for the weekend which can be discussed.
Interestingly, research company Gartner claims in a new report that 85% of customer support interactions will be controlled by chatbots by 2020 – without any human involvement. Despite that figure, there are businesses who still go against the grain.
Another online mattress company named eve makes a strong point about only using humans for their live chat function on its website, and it has zero plans of using chatbots in the future. Some things, eve thinks, are just better left to humans.
Chatbots For Tedious Tasks
There are even some who think that chatbots will always need humans there for assistance, as Michael Deane explains on becominghuman.ai:
While chatbots might become capable of completely replacing humans in customer relations departments, the odds of this happening are fairly low.
Instead, what is likely to happen is that chatbots will take over the more tedious parts of customer relations, allowing human personnel to work on more creative tasks.
This kind of division of labor will benefit both sides - chatbots will perform the tasks they were designed to do well, whereas humans will be dealing with situations that require more nuance.
Chatbots do have a lack of emotional intelligence, have some difficulty adapting to brand new scenarios, and can’t make shortcuts the way a human can, but they can deal with questions on a large scale, are cheaper to operate, and can be personalized to the user for future inquiries.
As for platforms to get a chatbot set up, there’s ChattyPeople, FlowXO, BotKit, or even Recast, so find one which sounds good for you and your business.
Right now, AI and machine learning will only continue to improve, as the answers will eventually become smarter (as will the recommendations for future purchases) and the sheer range of answers able to be given will expand .
When customers can receive such quick responses to questions, they are more likely to buy and, of course, then businesses profit in the long run.