Invasion of the Bot Army – Is it time to run?
What connects Leena, Aisha, Jarvis, Jinie, Amber, MyRA, Mya and Ria? No, they’re not the trending baby names this year, which by the way, they very well could be, but rather they represent a large army of new age digital workers. They are smart, intelligent, domain experts and highly learning agile. What else? They are all Bots!!
Bots Bots Everywhere!
Popularized by Apple through the introduction of Siri, the virtual digital assistants are now ubiquitous. From Siri, to Ok Google, to Alexa and Cortana, the virtual assistants popularized the concept of completing tasks for users by understanding natural language. From driving directions to ordering groceries, and from cooking recipes to just providing a company when one feels lonely, increasingly, there is a Bot for almost everything. They have invaded our lives to such an extent that there are actual examples of the first words uttered by babies not being Ma or Pa rather Siri or Alexa.
Virtual digital assistants, and the related, online chatbots are AI driven tools which are capable of natural language processing and completing certain tasks. They are already greatly influencing how people live day to day and the proliferation of the technology has also meant the introduction of the new age digital “workers” in the workplace, also known as “chatbots”. The chatbots are especially popular with businesses which are finding novel ways in which customers interact with companies and employees interact with their organizations. Open any business site worth its money and it is highly likely that there would be a cute little chatbot smiling at and ready to solve all the concerns of the visitors. Just like Aladdin’s Genie, they’re available literally at the beck and call and ready to serve their Masters, anytime, anywhere.
Rise of Machine (learning)
Whether it is the customer service arm of a business or the employee lifecycle management system for employees, everyone wants to implement a chatbot solution. But what’s driving the popularity of chatbots so much that every business wants to have a chatbot for their users?
Some of the benefits provided by Chatbots include instant response to queries and 24 hour customer service. Compare that to a call center where the caller typically has a wait period before getting connected to a customer care executive that too is limited by defined timings during the day and on the weekends. There is also the ease of communication, friendliness and approachability with a chatbot. The idea is that many users may not be comfortable with approaching a human for every minor concerns, but they don’t need to think twice with bothering a chatbot any number of times as the chatbot is not going to “judge” them for that. The chatbots can also be highly intelligent and learning agile and can be taught increasingly complex problem solving with learning taking just seconds. Also, with smart chatbots there is no need to replicate human labor for large number of users and the same chatbot can have multiple instances to interact with different users.
Planet of the “Bots”
Walmart launched Jetblack, the company's personal shopping service that shoppers can text. Shoppers simply need to text their shopping requests to Jetblack anytime of the day or night and consider it done. ICICI Lombard's chatbot MyRA interacts with customers and has even sold policies to hundreds of customers. Bombay Stock Exchange in India launched Motabhai for faster and more convenient access to stock market information to investors. Healthifyme’s Ria claims to be the world's first AI powered nutritionist with the data and insights from millions of diet and workout logs.
Within organizations, employers are increasingly adopting chatbots to serve their internal customers i.e. employees. Nowadays, at every stage of employee lifecycle from hire to retire, there is a chatbot solution available. Mya, for example, is a recruitment chatbot, that guides candidates through their entire hiring experience from job search to hire and from onboarding to career advancement. In the space of learning CredSpark’s AI features provide personalized recommendations and custom content, moving learning solutions from being “broadcaster” to “advisor.” Bash is an intelligent chatbot which implements Machine Learning Algorithms to improve employee productivity, satisfaction and optimizes HR function.
Is this the End?
While AI may sound the fancy new thing on the block and a chatbot may appear as panacea for all problems in the world, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of these AI driven tools. There is no doubt that AI-powered chatbots can be of great value and quite efficient in automating routine tasks and queries. Their impartial nature, responsiveness and ability to be available for multiple users at the same time would make them an envious choice of workers for any organizations.
But like all things good there is a limit to the utility of chatbots. A PwC Study on Future of Customer Experience found 75% people still wanted to interact with a real person more as technology improves. The impersonal nature of chatbots and the inability to understand complex problems and human emotions still render them ineffective in many situations. Ultimately chatbots can be really good assistants and help with the tasks that can be standardized, this is definitely not the end for human interactions and emotions.