Thanks to advancements in AI and natural language processing, chatbots have infiltrated the enterprise. Companies are using chatbots in exciting, new ways. Chatbots have quickly become a preferred digital interface for consumers to interact with brands

Despite the proliferation of chatbots, many of us don't fully understand their subtleties. To be sure, they aren't a cure-all for all customer service woes. Here are five facts you need to know about chatbots.

1. Chatbots rapidly curtail response times.

Many organizations recognize that chatbots offer the potential for rapid response times. Few, however, appreciate the magnitude of the effect. Autodesk, for example, leveraged the Watson Conversation platform to build a virtual agent that resulted in a 99 percent improvement in response times--"cutting resolution from 38 hours to 5.4 minutes for most Tier 1 inquiries," according to IBM

Human response times are nowhere near this rapid. Research by Harvard Business Review found that organizations are too slow to follow up on sales leads. 24 percent of companies take longer than 24 hours to respond. What's more, a staggering 23 percent of companies do not respond at all. You have a very small window to successfully convert a lead. If you are struggling to improve customer service, having chatbots respond to freshly generated leads can do wonders. 

2. Millennials have different expectations of chatbots.

According to a 2018 survey, there are subtle but important differences between millennials and baby boomers in terms of their expectations of chatbots. Surprisingly, baby boomers are 12 percent more likely than millennials to expect 24-hour service and 20 percent more likely to expect an instant response. While rapid response times are important to millennials, this demographic is emphasizing high-quality customer experiences from chatbots. 45 percent of millennials expect "a good customer experience" from chatbots, compared to only 38 percent of baby boomers. Chatbots will need to become more human-like to meet the demands of younger generations. Before implementing a chatbot, make sure there is a focus on the human-feel. 

3. Chatbots will power most human interaction in the next year.

While the majority of organizations recognize that chatbots will increase in prevalence in coming years, few fully appreciate the magnitude of increase. Gartner predicts that chatbots will power 85 percent of all customer service interactions by the year 2020. Perhaps more impressive (or concerning), it predicts that, by 2020, the average person will have more conversations with chatbots than with their spouse. If you are a consumer-facing business and haven't yet considered chatbots, you may be missing out. 

4. The US is a laggard in terms of opening its arms to chatbots.

Despite the proliferation of chatbots in the US, the US is comparatively reluctant to embracing chatbots. According to a global survey conducted by BI Intelligence, the US is actually least receptive to chatbots. Survey respondents from the US were least likely to perceive chatbots in a favorable light (32 percent). European countries, in fact, were most receptive, with France being the most receptive. This is especially surprising given that approximately 75 percent of people in the UK have not interacted with a chatbot, according to research from Ubisend.

Some organizations have expressed concerns that chatbots are less likely to resonate and gain adoption overseas. If you have business in Europe, don't let this fact deter you from rolling out a chatbot. 

5. Chatbots aren't just for customer service.  

The benefits of chatbots extend far beyond customer service. Chatbots, for example, can power recruiting departments by assisting throughout the candidate screening process and performing background checks. They can also act as personal assistants, setting alarms and alerts and scheduling meetings. And they can assist in employee training, interacting with and evaluating employees, thereby facilitating a more engaging training session as compared to a slide deck presentation.

The chatbot application that I'm most excited for is business intelligence (BI). Real potential is unleashed when we marry AI and BI. Companies like Sisense have already developed technologies that enable chatbots to assist executives in answering critical business questions--the latest sales trends, data about a customer, insights about a competitor, and more. If you're considering a chatbot, consider the multitude of different challenges you'd like to solve. Chances are there's a chatbot that can help. 

Despite the enormous potential of chatbots, there will always be a need for a human touch when it comes to interactions with customers. According to a study by HubSpot, 57 percent of the people would rather get help from a real person than an AI program. Companies will put themselves on life support if they blindly supplant all human functions with chatbots. Genuine human relationships are an organization's most powerful resource.

Published on: Apr 2, 2018