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Chatbots and the revolution in conversational AI

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Megatrend or fad?

Most people have heard of chatbots and have an idea of what they are about, but most are unsure how to apply this relatively new technology to their business. Now this is not a new phenomenon.

As a new innovative idea is launched there is always a great hoo-har and fanfare of trumpets with comments like “this is going to be groundbreaking”, “wow how are we ever going to live without it” and of course “it will be in everyone’s home by {insert date here for 2 years hence}”. Yes you have heard it. /it can be tiring and the amount of noise can just turn us off after a while.

So what about conversational AI and chatbots, is this just one of those innovations that we can file at the back of a dusty cupboard and under haven’t really got the time to look at this yet? The problem with this of course is that there may be an opportunity missed, that can have a dramatic impact on a business.

Chatbots however aren’t just a fad however, they are one of the major megatrends that are sweeping the global business community today.  In 2016 Gartner commented that Conversational AI-First would be superseding cloud-first and mobile-first as one of the most important high-level imperatives for the next 10 years. So has that come true? Well the short answer is yes, the penetration of chatbots within specific sectors is increasing dramatically and it is now time for business to use this, now much more mature, technology.

Why are they useful?

So how about a real world example? If we look at a recent study* about how people abandon bookings in the hotel industry we find the following

  • 39% of visitors wanted to research further
  • 21% needed to check with others before booking
  • 37% thought the price was too high or they wanted to spend time scouting for better deals
  • 13% found the booking process too complicated and were put-off
  • 9% faced a technical issue during the reservation
  • 10% of bookings were lost for asking too many details

Additionally we also found some of the common friction points to include

  • Websites take longer to upload
  • Limited communication options with the hotel
  • Too many details required to complete a booking
  • Complicated booking UI and UX
  • Website not optimised for mobiles and other screen sizes

*SiteMinder

Of course the hotel industry is not alone in this, similar problems apply to other sectors, especially some of the common friction points such as customer buying journey, as they are just part of operating digitally.

So how can a chatbot resolve these issues. Well that's simple: by engaging your customers in a conversational style you gather far more information than would initially appear to the visitor or user.

So even if we take a simple form as an example, because your customer is having a conversation they can complete a form without really noticing that they are filling them out.  Just by having a conversation with your particular chatbot the impression of completing a whole raft of forms has been removed.

So the business impact and the customer experience improvement adds real bottom line benefit just from this simple and inexpensive example. Hey and as a little additional effort you can automate some FAQs to your business as well.

Some more stats

The infographic below shows some of the latest feelings and statistics on chatbots and how consumers now view conversing with businesses.

Positively should be considered.

What about negatives? There has to be some? Well the technology is relatively new, although now effective and there is some work involved in getting the right tone of voice from your bot. But really it should be simple and effective and crucially add value to your business.

Although their are some negatives.

More Important for SMBs

Conversation is part of any business interaction, but if some of that conversation can be efficiently, effectively controlled and always available then why not? The joke is that this type of technology has really only been available to larger businesses in the early days, where actually small and medium businesses would benefit from this much more because we're talking about resource saving, allowing growth and being available 24/7.  So maybe if you're a small or medium business owner, then you should consider stepping into conversational AI by looking at your customer interactions just in the small way.

You could save an extraordinary amount of money not just on the bottom line, but also by allowing you to grow.

Think about your entry point, think about what could make the most difference in the conversations that you have with your clients.

The chatbot is here and it's a disruptive technology that doesn't disrupt your business.

Written by:
Steve Tomkinson