“If you picture the journey of chatbots from the 1960s to now, you can see that what was once a fantasy of being able to communicate with a non-living virtual being is now part of our everyday lives” Rashid Khan.
‘A member of our staff will get back to you shortly.’
‘Please be advised that our response times are longer than usual.’
‘A member of our team will get back to you within 2-3 working days.’
Recognise these? I certainly do! How often have we been presented with similar phrases when we’ve asked a question via email or webform? They’re frustrating, no matter how politely they have been constructed and even sound somewhat dated.
In our high-speed always-on world we have come to expect answers here and now. Businesses are finally responding to that expectation. It’s becoming commonplace to be greeted by a chatbot when we visit a website or app.
These ubiquitous chatbots range from very basic to really quite clever. Most will offer click-to-see answers to the simplest queries like ‘what time do you open?’ or ‘where do I find my tracking number?’. Some of the fancier ones can decipher (to a certain extent) a question written in free text and subsequently provide a suitable answer.
Businesses need to understand that chatbots are now a part of day-to-day living so it’s almost disappointing when we expect this feature but don’t find it on a website or app. I know that my life would have been made much easier if my recent tax disc enquiry could have been simply handled by a bot. It was painful having to listen to endless automated options on the phone, not once but twice, just so I could enquire about the status of my disc. Even if bots can’t always fix issues, they can placate customers or advise on the next course of action.
We’ve actually been using automation for longer than we think. Any reset password function or knowledge base search – both of which have been around for years – take information, compare it to a database and respond accordingly … all without human intervention.
What is new and appealing is the conversational aspect of it – being able to communicate with automation in an almost human way, achieved by leveraging the intuitive and cognitive capabilities of AI.
With bots now being so readily available everywhere, it’s hard to understand why some brands haven’t embraced the opportunity and deployed a chatbot to delight their customers, making their services more agile and personalised and, ultimately, more profitable.