Digital Transformation » Technology » Chatbots: your latest recruits?

During the early stages of the internet, AOL Instant Messenger was a state of the art means of communication used as an early social platform, which helped office-workers get faster responses from their colleagues.

A few years on, the dot-com entrepreneurs stormed ahead with innovation after innovation, making early messenger services seem as obsolete as they had seemed ground breaking a few years prior. In the last few years though, chatbots have given us a glimpse into the future.

The bad and the good

Millions of people already use platforms like Facebook Messenger and conventional text messaging on a daily basis however, chatbot technology is set to take the message format to the next level.

Admittedly, chatbots have not been without their problems. The world’s largest software firm Microsoft’s first steps into using this technology were halted due to racist remarks generated by its chatbot, ‘Tay’.

Thankfully, that’s not the case for the many chatbots that are making a positive impact on people’s lives. In fact, Chatbots Magazine stated that 2018 is the ‘year of the chatbot’ because of an increasing investment in chatbot technology by major firms.

For example, the Lark chatbot is saving lives and improving health through assisting people who suffer from chronic diseases. By checking that people eat the right food, or take their medication at the right time, support is offered by giving feedback real-time. This is comparable to having a nurse on hand but only at a fraction of the cost.

Cost saving and expenses

Expense claims can be a bugbear for many employees who want them processed as quickly as possible, but face delays due to archaic processing methods and outdated technology. Therefore, using chatbots makes it easier to monitor payroll access and expense processing, both of which can be made faster by exchanging employee-feedback.

Appointment scheduling software

Chatbots work for a diverse mix of businesses, including makeup retailer and online brand, Sephora. Through using Facebook messenger, the Parisian high street brand offers ‘virtual makeovers’ through an augmented reality app which uses customer photos to show how products would look.

Additionally, the chatbot is used by customers to reserve appointments, albeit currently for their US stores only. By implementing scheduling software of this type, employees can manage, arrange meetings and meet with customers whenever and wherever they are. The mobile and intuitive nature of chatbots means that appointments can be easily arranged in environments where using technology is not usually practical. For example, on a building site, chatbots can memorise several common commands, such as ‘site survey’ or ‘boiler repair’ which are most frequently used, meaning mobile workers can organise themselves mid-job if required.

An interactive online holiday booking system

Busy staff sometimes need a rest from the daily challenges and their managers and an HR department have limited time and energy for carrying out administrative tasks. When a break is required, booking a holiday doesn’t need to be a challenge for anyone, as chatbots now have the functionality to do this in an instant.

A company chatbot can automatically send a message to managers to authorise annual leave. Once leave is authorised, it is now possible to book an actual holiday through a chatbot, selecting the best flights or using a questionnaire to establish the best kind of holiday for you.

Many holiday companies like Kayak and Booking.com are already using chatbots, taking the hassle out of booking. The airline British Airways took the bold step recently of using emojis to operate its messenger chatbot, after finding that more people prefer communicating by emoji than words. The so-called ‘Emojibot’ works by asking a chain of questions about the kind of holiday you are after, so a quick response can be made to speed up the search. This quick-fire rendition of a chatbot shows that as AI chatbots continue to develop, the time saved for businesses is going to be very significant, and bots a joy to use.

The process of employees organising their schedule, booking annual leave, shows that the multi-use nature of chatbots is beneficial for businesses and their personnel management.

Chatbots can also keep track of attendance, which is a challenge and priority for many employers. By using a chatbot, staffing levels can be checked through a series of questions. Staff can also virtually check-in when they have arrived at work, training or customers’ premises. This makes it simple to see how many staff are working, and what staff are doing and who is in or out of the office.

Chatbots for everyone

If rightfully implemented, chatbots can be a great thing. Furthermore, it can also be a tool with a human voice, something more approachable than the software it drives. Employees may find self-service procedures dull or complex for example, but by adding the illusion of a human assistant, the customer journey is far smoother, and the results will speak for themselves.

Additionally, using a chatbot on a phone offers privacy to employees who wish to keep certain appointments confidential, such as medical appointments or an application for a promotion.

When a new technology emerges, consumers and business leaders want to know the benefit of purchasing the product, and what it does. With an AI chatbot, the question is almost ‘what can it not do?’ From organising, to engagement, to cost saving – a new era of technology has begun, and its possibilities are endless.