Chatbots are near the top of the buzz list in 2018
Many businesses including SMEs are wondering if, how, and when chatbots will have an impact on their business processes. For many, chatbots can fulfil important use-cases already; here we’ll discuss some of the notable ways that they are being used and how the technology will shake up online business in the near future.
What is currently being used
While the technology behind chatbots is developing all the time and in many usecases gets better the more a solution is used (since the underlying concept of AI is to build patterns based on past data), the most basic functionality of chatbots, “If-Then” conditional workflows, are a simple and ready-to-use feature that can have an immediate effect on business processes.
As a simple example, Jarvis is a robot scheduling assistant that factors timezone info into your plans, and functions with a slick and intuitive chat interface. BookFlight is another personal assistant-type bot that can streamline your scheduling and travel.
Chymebot is more far-reaching in its value proposoition, acting as a customer service rep for most mundane queries. Given how many B2C companies have to spend on customer service reps, the main Chymebot app is powerful enough to address the bulk of the basic questions a human rep could answer. This type of bot could save a SME a lot of time and money, especially if they have a global audience requiring round-the-clock basic support.
Statsbot for Slack is an interesting bot especially for online businesses with around 5-25 employees. SMEs are well aware of the importance of all kinds of KPIs (from churn to engagement to shopping cart abandonment rate), but with the proliferation of data sources and their related metrics, the effort required to manage analytics can be burdensome. Statsbot pulls in metrics on the fly based on conversational commands from database, ecommerce, and web analytics sources and can even compile charts based on this data. In terms of basic Business Intelligence, Statsbot allows ad-hoc drilldowns, reporting, and alert creation which are the meat and potatoes of BI – this capability could save hours of developer work and even provide analytics to small companies who were previously unable to gain this insight.
— Statsbot (@statsbotco) February 21, 2017
Finally, Botkeeper is a potentially high-impact solution for bookeeping for smaller and medium enterprises. While it is not cheap at $285 a month, it could well be worth it for companies that have a lot of expense claims and paperwork to keep track of.
As you can see from these examples, chatbots are more business-ready than many give them credit for. Smaller businesses have more straightforward needs in many ways, so while custom-developed chatbots may not be in budget for most SMEs they can get value right now depending on their needs.
The prognosis for the coming years
There are a raft of new chatbot solutions being released all the time, and on top of that there are solutions already on offer that help users create, manage and integrate bots.
One exciting solution for webshops are Facebook Messenger-native web pages that can be run by bots in-page and manage payments, meaning that a customer can peruse and buy from your store all from within Facebook. This kind of option would require a developer to get set up, but with Facebook’s wit.ai service this can be streamlined and cost much less than you might think.
For most online businesses with a B2C slant, there is probably a cost saving chatbot out there already. These won’t drive revenue since very few chatbots are advanced enough to beat a skilled professional, but even the cost-cutting benefits could be worth it depending on the volume of tasks they can be put to work on.
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