Chatbots are now used almost everywhere—be it for receiving weather updates on your phone, for gathering news articles, or for picking up grocery. Moreover, Copa 90, a UK-based online football community with more than 2 million followers, launched its first Facebook Messenger chatbot for UEFA 2016. There’s even a Chinese chatbot that will talk to you when you’re lonely! No wonder people are touting chatbots to be the next big thing after mobile apps.
Currently, a chatbot uses basic natural language processing, which parses the texts and learns accordingly. In some cases, a chatbot uses advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, such as that in the case of Tay. “Thinking About You”—or as we know it Twitter’s very own chatbot Tay—was in the news for the wrong reasons. It was interesting to see an AI-powered Twitter account releasing tweets like a real person, but it got out of hand when it started releasing inflammatory tweets, for which Tay had to be deactivated.
But do messenger applications like chatbots strike a chord with users? It does. According to a BI Intelligence report, the number of people on messenger apps is much higher than that on social media networks. In the third quarter of 2015, the Big 4 messaging apps had almost 500 million more users than the Big 4 social media networks.
Bots as a service?
All in all, chatbots are doing well for themselves. But have chatbots found a place in the enterprise world?
Even though chatbots are there to help you with your basic and routine activities like scheduling a meeting and assigning tasks, the automation of these activities increases efficiency and reduces man hours in organizations.
“The realized power of chatbots is humungous because we can communicate with the bot two ways. You assign a task to a bot, and with basic natural language processing, it will look out for keywords, and give you the required result,” said Ninad Raval, Director of Product & Design, Flock—a chat service for work and business environments.
Because of the apparent advantages of chatbots, the concept of Bots-as-a-Service has now come into existence. For enterprises, bots are developed to simplify or assist people on a messaging platform to resolve issues, to gather information, or even get notified on important issue.
“Chatbot for enterprises is relatively a new phenomenon, and with time we will understand its true potential,” said Gaurav Agarwal, cofounder and CTO at 1mg, which is using Flock’s chatbot services.
Organizations are now taking advantage of the increasing opportunity in the bot space. Companies like Slack, Line, Kik, Telegram and more recently Facebook have developed chatbot platform for enterprises.
“Voice and simple command texts in messaging tools are becoming a modern form of user interface. In this world, chatbots can be considered the equivalent to apps in the mobile ecosystem: they are the mechanism to perform specific tasks using voice or text commands,” said Jesus Rodriguez, managing partner at Tellago, an IT services company, in an article in CIO.
Raval echoed similar sentiments, where he agreed that messaging applications like Flock can be equated to Whatsapp of the enterprise world.
Chatbots can do away with traditional methods of communication such as emails. Agarwal said that the deployment of Flock in his organization has helped enhance team collaboration and reduce the number of emails and meetings.
However, Raval feels that with the increased use of chatbots, there might be a change in the traditional work culture in organizations. This will mostly hold true for smaller organizations that do not have a certain hierarchy or formality in the workplace.
The future of bots
Chatbots are like toddlers in the enterprise world who are trying to speak their first words, but businesses are confident that bots will be here to stay.
“We are at such a nascent stage in the development of bots that it is completely up to technology and up to us to transform and disrupt the way we do things,” said Raval.
With further developments in the bot space and the use of technologies like artificial intelligence, chatbots are expected to become more intelligent.
“As of now we have just seen the tip of the iceberg and in coming days we will see a lot of development in this space for sure,” Agarwal concluded.