Bots present a tremendous opportunity for the enterprise. Organisations are only just starting to realise the considerable potential for bots to help transform operations and the way companies engage with consumers. While much of the initial interest in bots has centred around chat bots and consumer deployments, there is significant potential to use bots across business operations.
Across the enterprise bots can be used to automate business processes to help improve productivity and streamline operations. Repetitive tasks, data entry, reporting and data analysis, database management and employee training could all be supported by bots.
Essentially bots serve the primary purpose of any technology in helping make life easier for the user. The technology will help make mundane, repetitive tasks easier to complete. While current capabilities of messenger bots, for example, offer quite primitive functionality, these bots can still help with admin tasks and the manpower required to complete them.
One of the most compelling drivers for adoption of the technology is the low barrier to entry. While the Internet of Things (IoT), for example, is often regarded as the technology concept that will be key to driving future innovation and transformation; leveraging IoT technologies can be thwarted by the complexities of delivering complete solutions. Defining use cases which deliver real ROI, security considerations, data implications, cost of deployment and edge device management often pose significant challenges to organisations and act as barriers to adoption of the technology. From a primitive bot perspective, the platform is already available through one or more of the messenger apps. These apps provide an active user base and therefore the channel for brands or businesses to reach and engage with end users.
Bots’ technical capabilities range from the primitive to the seriously advanced, which allows companies to engage with the technology at whatever level they deem appropriate. Many of the messenger apps such as Facebook Messenger, Slack, WeChat, Skype for Business etc. have provided mechanisms to develop chat bots and these entities have made the technology extremely accessible. These solutions also allow the chat bots to be easily extended as the developer controls the communication through a separate, owned server. These chat bots provide businesses with an existing user base and a channel to be accessed through, which can be linked to a brand’s existing online presence or existing internal productivity tools.
Bots provide another touch point for brands with consumers, and for businesses with employees, by providing another way to interact and communicate. If we take a simplistic look at some of the tools available to businesses today, such as websites, web portals, admin systems, mobile app equivalents, single function apps, app extensions to smartwatches and other wearables, they each operate on a different screen size and to varying degrees of functionality. Generally, as the screen gets smaller the task, feature or function becomes more focused. Bots provide a simple interface to essentially complete simple tasks within a lower timeframe.
While bots are simple for businesses to build and equally simple for end users to use, making decisions on conversation flow and anticipating end users’ requests is all important. There is a requirement for a server side developer to implement the core engine, but outside of this that is all from a technology resource perspective. What is really important is the conversation or dialogue tree and the directions in which the bot will facilitate the user’s request. Decisions need to be made on what the bot can and cannot do. It is essential that the things the bot cannot help with are handled in a graceful way and that users are directed to where they can get the information they want from. How will the user interact with the Bot, how will the bot interact with the user? What happens if the bot does not understand? What happens if the bot cannot answer the query? Can the bot provide different responses or initiate conversation based on context, time of day, hot or cold, inside or out?
Where a bot runs out of capability it could recommend an app that has the functionality in it and the bot could potentially provide the instructions to download and navigate the recommended app. Could this be a means to engage users in the app and then with the bot or vice versa, where each medium provides different but focused value to the user?
In the case of a primitive bot, which contains predefined responses, it is interesting to consider who responds first, the bot or the human? If the bot instigates the conversation it has some control over how it will direct the user. However, if the user starts the conversation then language complexities can take the bot out of its comfort zone very quickly.
As with any technology it is important to employ an iterative approach to deploying bots, where you can learn what is working and evolve the product to keep delivering more value. Experiments should be run and simple bots released, which can be iterated as the demand and feedback develops. Organisations should be exploring the potential for this technology to not only help improve how the brand engages with consumers, but how bots can help to transform operations.
The ease with which bots can be developed and deployed, coupled with the simplicity of the service the technology provides, equips bots with the perfect foundation off which to grow and become a dominant technology across industries.
Next in Mubaloo’s ‘Bots and Artificial Intelligence’ series is ‘Bots in the enterprise: cognitive solutions and the potential for artificial intelligence’. To read our first instalment click here or find Part 3 and Part 4.