The adoption of chatbots is ever increasing. Surprisingly, though, it is businesses that really want it to work.

In 2016, there were already more than 30,000 branded chatbots, and over 6,000 voice activated bots. Such is the importance of chatbots, that every Fortune 1000 business will include it in its technology stack. But, is the chatbot meant to be the ubiquitous customer interface of the future?

CONSUMERS AND CHATBOTS

While the high tech companies in Silicon Valley find new applications for their sleek bot driven AI (Watson or Cleverbot anyone?), the average consumer is more likely to encounter a chatbot. (For the sake of definition a chatbot here is in the context of messaging apps such as Telegram, Facebook Messenger, Skype, among others).

Research from Retale on 500 millennials had some interesting insights:

  • About 58% of respondents admit to using a chatbot
  • 55% say accuracy in understanding the request is the biggest challenge
  • Some 28% said they want chatbots to hold a more human-like natural conversation
  • When asked if brands should use chatbots to promote deals, products and services, 86% of Millennials said “yes,” while 14% said “no.”
  • Some 67% said they are likely to make a purchase from a chatbot, with 36% of that group saying “very likely.” Only 14% said that they were not interested and 19% were “neutral.”

The use of chatbots in daily interactions with the intention of content consumption or businesses themselves is becoming a norm. And, its usage provides several benefits for businesses.

CHATBOTS ARE LUCRATIVE FOR BUSINESSES

In this survey of over 300+ individuals from various industries, eCommerce, insurance, healthcare and hospitality seem to have an inclination towards chatbots.

As indicated by survey respondents.

This inclination can be best established by looking at the use cases that businesses think will be best achieved using chatbots.

All these industries seem to have significant volumes and transactions with relation to customer service, sales, and order processing. Automating this part of the customer journey makes sense – operationally and commercially.

Source: BI Intelligence

For businesses, the clear play remains automating the customer service experience, and making them on-demand and self serve. And, by doing this, there could be savings of USD 23 b in customer service payroll alone!

CHATBOTS HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO

The opportunity to leverage chatbots as an interface with customers, is also where the most challenges are. Customer value speed and efficiency over personality (Myclever Agency, page 6), and that often is the contentious parts.

Source: Myclever Agency

The conveniences that it brings to customers, mostly hinge on the ease of resolution, addressing requests, and directing to the ‘appropriate human’. And, most bots don’t seem to be addressing these use cases.

MAKING IT BETTER

While chatbots need to be easy to follow and intuitive in usage, the critical success factor seems to be striking a good balance between how much artificial intelligence is built into it.

In a survey of 6,000 customers in six countries, consumers appear hesitant to fully embrace AI devices and services. Only one in three (36 percent) are comfortable with businesses using AI to engage with them – even if this typically results in a better customer experience. Almost three quarters (72 percent) express some sort of fear about AI, with one quarter (24 percent) of respondents even worried about robots taking over the world.

Part of the challenge is making AI subtle enough for consumers to not realise they are interacting with one, and smart enough to hand over to a human when the conversation gets unstructured. To make it truly successful, it’s this fine line that needs to be addressed.