Don’t let the fun, casual name mislead you. Chatbots—software that you can “chat with”—have serious implications for the business world. Though many businesses have already considered their use for customer service purposes, a chatbot’s internal applications could be invaluable on a larger scale. For instance, chatbots could help employees break down siloes and provide targeted data to fuel every department. This digital transformation is happening, even in organizational structures that face challenges with other formats of real-time communication.
Still unclear on what chatbots are and what they do? Think of a digital assistant—such as iPhone’s Siri or Alexa, the Artificial Intelligence within the Amazon Echo. A chatbot reduces or eliminates the need for many mobile apps, as the answers are stored inside the chatbot. Need to know what the weather’s like in LA? Ask your chatbot. Is your flight running on time? Ask your chatbot. Is the package you ordered going to be delivered while you’re away? You get the gist.
Chatbots have been around for a while, but the technology is developing in a way that has technology firms excited about the new capabilities. The next generation of chatbots store, synthesize, and recall important data. They can make purchases for you using stored credit cards, or sync your calendar with weather info to warn you about impeding rain at your kid’s afternoon soccer game across town.
Embrace Chatbots In Business
Chatbots use a process called deep learning, a type of machine learning in which a neural network can recognize speech, data, and specific patterns and transmit that data through the layers of the network. The second layer builds upon the first, and so on, for more accurate results each time the Artificial Intelligence faces a similar query or problem.
The novelty of chatbots appeals to many people balancing busy work and life schedules. But they also have significant implications in business, where they could streamline processes and maximize efficiency. Imagine a machine that could access your company wikis or knowledge bases and serve up information in real time, in a context that’s helpful to the employee who needs it—much like the computer on Star Trek’s “Enterprise.”
Businesses such as call centers have much to gain from this technology. Today’s consumers face a lot of steps to reach a company if they have a customer service issue., Google to find the 1-800 number, navigate a series of numerical prompts—or worse, voice prompts (“No, speak to a customer representative!) until you’re connected with a person 10 minutes later who still has to confirm information before helping you solve your problem.
Now consider how a chatbot could streamline the process: A customer tells a chatbot to get in touch with a company’s customer service department. The company chatbot ascertains the reason for the call and automatically decides whether it’s a case that can be automated or an edge case that requires human interaction. In the latter situation, the chatbot can bring up all relevant information that a customer service representative needs to assist.
A chatbot delivers data-driven results, helping the customer service representative solve problems quicker, saving time and increasing customer satisfaction. Best of all, because the chatbot learns over time, the process will get faster as the chatbot faces the same type of calls time after time.
Individual Chatbots For Efficiency
Because of their deep learning ability, chatbots can be individualized to specific employees and eliminate any data that’s not relevant to them. Rather than sifting through work data in an effort to complete daily tasks, workers can simply ask individual chatbots for the information they require. In essence, chatbots will make the acts of Googling and searching through webmail obsolete. Anything you use the internet for you can use a chatbot for—without the hassle of sifting through unnecessary information.
Enterprises are increasingly turning to web applications to streamline their processes and make collaboration easier. Still, applications are siloed and unable to communicate with one another. A chatbot could one day render apps obsolete. Chatbots can conduct the same tasks as most applications in one integrated system and tailor the results to the user as the chatbot employs its deep learning algorithms to “understand” that employee’s typical needs.
I think we’re quickly moving toward a future where we’ll see workers at every level of the enterprise—from the C-suite down—using their own chatbots to streamline work processes and improve customer service. Chatbots can provide scalable access to organizational information in real time, and that’s just what businesses need to stay competitive in a constantly changing market landscape.
A version of this was first posted on Forbes.