Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

2017 Will Bring a Surge of Practical Use of Chatbots

December 30, 2016

When it comes to customer support, 2016 could reasonably be termed “the year of the bot.” It was a busy year for bot technology as companies envisioned what automated chatbots could do for them to trim basic, simple requests out of the queues of live contact center agents. The contact center solutions and tech company partnerships came hard and fast from the very beginning of the year.

 In January, chat and calling platform WhatsApp’s announced a plan to allow businesses onto their popular network. In February, Microsoft launched its bot framework, which are open-source bot software development kits (SDKs) that allow businesses to build automated bot dialogues both simple and sophisticated with ease. In April, Facebook launched its wildly popular Messenger platform for bots, which is changing the way companies communicate and offer self-service. By mid-year, tech giants Oracle, Google, Amazon and LinkedIn had all announced bot technology launches and acquisitions.

In a recent blog post, Aspect’s Tobias Goebel noted that we have essentially witnessed the birth of a new UI (user interface) paradigm that will take some years to get established, but will not go away. While many bots today use a text entry interface, others are being optimized for human speech.

“Controlling machines with human language can be considered the ‘last frontier’ for man-machine interfaces,” he wrote. “Without a doubt, 2017 will show exciting first implementations that not only meet expectations (that have been missed so much this year), but pave the way for slower adopters that will not want to miss out once they, too, realize the potential of conversational user interfaces (CUI).”

Interestingly, hotels are adopting chatbots at record rates. They provide hotel guests with an app that features a chatbot, either custom-built or based on a popular platform like Facebook Messenger. Guests can use the chatbot to order more towel or ice for the room, make reservations at a restaurant, set a wake-up call or summon a taxi. The result is fewer basic demands on the concierge, and higher guest satisfaction.

Going forward, look for more organizations (including e-commerce companies) to implement chatbots to take the place of interactive voice response (IVR) in contact center solutions for basic inquiries such as, “When did my package ship?” or “Change my billing address.”

While some have written chatbots off as a trend that won’t take off anytime soon, Goebel observed that what the customer support industry is seeing today is something called Amara’s Law.

“Amara’s Law applies here again like it has so many times before with emerging technology: ‘We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run,’” he wrote. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle