Chatbots are exciting, but at the same time a frightening development in the tech world. On the one hand, you have a product that allows companies to engage customers more freely and with fewer resources involved. This is positive and it also means that smaller companies can compete with industry giants by providing the same level of personalized customer service.
On the other hand, this robotic autonomy brings us closer to the dystopian future often promised by Hollywood: a world where machines will infiltrate every facet of our lives. It also goes without saying that chatbots can potentially leave millions of individuals jobless, due to the level of automation they provide.
Of course, there are plenty of possibilities that we can speculate about. However, if you really want a hint of what’s to come from this ‘chatbot’ revolution, look at eCommerce and other types of enterprises and how they utilize chatbots to their advantage. Anything that can provide a competitive or financial edge is absorbed by these niches as staying ahead is a matter of survival these days.
They’re Not Coming. They’re Here.
Just in case you really missed the memo: Chatbots are already here. They’re taking over business processes and niches which were predominantly occupied by people. In fact, there are over 11,000 chatbots available on Facebook Messenger alone. Messaging apps are already bigger than social networks in terms of growth and user base. Should I remind you where most chatbots reside? *cough* messaging apps *cough* This is why mobile app development is such a huge niche and messaging apps are not an exception.
Over a dozen sessions at this year’s SXSW will address chatbots and other related topics.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. With developments in AI and machine learning, chatbots will become more indistinguishable from people. This will further boost their online presence, especially in highly competitive and demanding niches, like eCommerce and enterprise-scale marketing.
Chatbots and AI Will Take Over Customer Care
If you’ve dealt with any ‘weird’ customer care representatives lately, it’s possible you might have had a conversation with a bot. Some of our readers might have even missed it all together. That’s how good these programs are, and it’s no wonder why some have called 2016 ‘the year of the chatbots’.
With over 50% of people considering 24/7/365 support to be essential , it’s pretty hard to keep up with their expectations. However, services like DigitalGenius already blur the line between a real customer care rep and a machine.
It’s the perfect solution for the customer care problem: chatbots don’t need sleep and chatbots can be taught. They are the perfect customer care representative, or at least, they will be pretty soon.
Chatbots Will Take Over Social Media
We’ve already mentioned that over 11,000 bots have populated Facebook Messenger’s infrastructure. It’s a step up from customer care but this idea essentially has the same notion – availability at all times.
Given that social media sites are still some of the biggest time-wasters, you still have a massive number of potential clients landing on your social media profiles. Plus, people simply feel more comfortable connecting with a business through social media than through a website for many reasons.
Companies get penalized for responding too late, either through a bad rating/review or a comment. They don’t control how social media platforms work, and that might be why companies tend to respond to Facebook queries faster than emails. You’ve probably contacted a business through their social media page within the past year, so you know what we’re talking about.
The same goes for Twitter. Indeed, there are even separate support channels on Twitter, which help people avoid the company switchboard and make direct inquiries – everything from purchases to troubleshooting.
Game Changer for Small Companies
Small companies are usually the ones trying out new technologies since they are always looking out for that special ‘something’ that will propel them into the IPO orbit or at the very least the corporate stratosphere.
- Easy to deploy
- Don’t require maintenance
- Have great ROI in most cases
All these things make a chatbot the perfect tool for small business owners who want to take orders online, respond to people during off hours or simply have a way to intelligently engage potential clients when the business is swamped.
Things Are Going to Get Worse for Anyone Left Behind
The future is bright for chatbots. Although they may as well end up being forgotten as a fad, a more likely scenario is that they’ll evolve into a different form of communication, something you won’t feel comfortable enough simply calling a ‘bot’.
For years people have been discussing the conversational potential of a chatbot and now modern technology like deep learning and cloud computing has made this a real possibility. Google’s been doing it for a while with their neural network so it’s very possible that it will become mainstream in the near future.
And how will this affect businesses? Those that have a ‘stuffed’ communications pipeline, which runs chatbots or the next big thing comparable to chatbots, will most likely be fine. Other businesses however, might find their communication model to be a burden for their budget and operational costs. But it doesn’t mean that businesses need to switch to AI, immediately.
There’s value in human communication and this is something many people still cherish. No doubt, some people will feel the same way in the future. Just like how ‘hand-made’ is now a synonym for exclusivity and quality, imagine a future where a human customer care department will be branded as an ‘exclusive and highly luxurious’ feature. Sounds like science fiction? Stranger things have happened.
References  Mobile Messaging Report, 2016. Available at: https://insights.ubisend.com/2016-mobile-messaging-report  S. Hendrick, How to Create a Facebook Messenger Chatbot, January 2017. Available at: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-create-facebook-messenger-chatbot/  J. Markoff, Automated Pro-Trump Bots Overwhelmed Pro-Clinton Messages, Researchers Say, November 2016. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/18/technology/automated-pro-trump-bots-overwhelmed-pro-clinton-messages-researchers-say.html?_r=0