Monday 1st April 2019

Chatbots are a fairly recent phenomenon, but one that most of us are familiar with – the little chat box that pops up on your favourite online store, asking if you need help? That’s what a chatbot is, at least in its simplest and most common form.

However, chatbots are not just for customer service. Increasingly, experts are predicting that chatbots will become our co-workers, joining enterprises to perform routine, mundane tasks (leaving the rest of us to get on with creativity and collaboration).

Chatbots possess a wide variety of functions, across many different areas of the typical business. We’re aware of their usefulness in the digital customer services arena, where it’s reported that 53% of consumers would prefer to chat online rather than call for customer service help. However, the utilisation of chatbots in customer service is only effective when executed appropriately and smoothly.

53% of consumers would prefer to chat online rather than call customer service for help – ICMI

Clunky, hard to understand chatbots have no place in any area of the workplace, as they throw up potential problems, rather than solve them. The clear advantage of using chatbots for any function is convenience. Just as so many of us prefer to chat to a bot online to sort out simple shopping enquiries, that instantaneous reaction that bots can provide is preferred in carrying out administrative tasks.

One glance at the types of services and digital platforms that are becoming ubiquitous in our personal and working lives – Uber, Netflix, Amazon and online banking services – shows just how much people value speed, ease and instant satisfaction. But how will chatbots take over administrative tasks?

One obvious way is the marrying of chatbots to existing applications and digital platforms for workplace chat, such as Slack and Facebook Workspace. As colleagues use chat to interact with each other and share ideas, bots can be actualized to execute simple tasks that go hand in hand with the discussion; think searching online for information, or scheduling appointments and meetings automatically.

Virtual Assistants

In fact, chatbots could soon become our new virtual assistants, acting as PA’s, and managing the detail of our working lives on a daily basis. The technology is rapidly advancing to become more personalised and tailored to an individual; combining this ability with everyday administrative tasks and the capability to learn, means that chatbots could be a cost-effective option for many business leaders.

From HR to I.T.

It’s not just a personal assistant function that could support us in the workplace – chatbots are expected to be leveraged by various common teams and departments, across many different areas, from HR to IT.

While clearly chatbot technology offers many advantages, there should be caution in how the use of it is undertaken. Firstly, there is an obvious human worry here – that chatbots will replace our jobs.

Businesses that roll out chatbot functionality should focus on doing so in a way that reassures workers that they’re not to be ousted out in the process; the end goal should be to have a harmonious blend of chatbots taking on the necessary detail, leaving employees the time and space to work on the big picture stuff.

Overall, this new frontier of technology is not something we should be afraid of, but rather something that we should be looking to slot into our existing working lives, rather than overhauling them completely.

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