Bots are changing the way users interact with the Internet to gather information and communicate with businesses and organizations that typically rely on human interaction. The most prevalent type of bot is a chatbot, a natural language chat interface that interacts with users. Powered by sets of rules that keep user interactions on rails to accomplish a specific task, or developed with AI or machine learning to carry out more robust, intelligent conversations, chatbots are being adopted by major companies to streamline customer communications.
Seamless chat experiences help users find answers quickly and efficiently. Users are already becoming accustomed to interactions with chatbots and, compared to other methods of advertising or direct messaging, remain more engaged. Unlike daily email correspondence, which often has a clickthrough rate of 12 to 15%, chatbot messages sent through Facebook Messenger are opened nearly 60% of the time. Tools like WebRTC are well-positioned to provide full advantage for chatbot technology, offering real-time text, audio, and video chat without the need for a separate app or browser plugin.
Bot Market Size: Gartner Perspective
Growth in the chat bot market shows no signs of slowing down, anticipated to grow at a rate of 27% through 2024 to become a $994 million industry. The growth of chatbots is predicted to come primarily through customer service, with 25% of customer service operations likely to adopt virtual assistants by the end of 2020. Technology researcher Gartner forecasts that by 2020, 55% of large enterprises will have at least one chatbot in production, and more than half of all enterprises will be making larger investments in bots and chatbots by the end of 2021. Further opportunities for growth will spur from the development of AI, better natural-language processing (NLP) tools, and machine learning, creating bots that offer greater capabilities to carry out human-like interactions.
What Bots are Used For
Organizations with bots are finding many creative ways to let users interact with their products and services. Travel planner Hipmunk offers a Facebook Messenger, Slack, and Skype-based chatbot that takes advantage of a user’s location to suggest personalized travel deals without the need to open a separate app. Over Facebook Messenger, Whole Foods offers a recipe bot that helps users determine how to put meals together (and which ingredients to purchase). Duolingo, a language-learning app, developed Duolingo bots to help users learn and practice conversational skills in a text messaging-like interface. Each of these implementations allows users to plan, find, and learn across a wide variety of interests without any human interaction.
Bots aren’t only being built for business purposes, either: they’re used to help users engage naturally with technology for quality-of-life purposes. Endurance Robots, a hardware and software company seeking to aid users afflicted by Alzheimer’s Disease, has created a thoughtful chatbot that acts as a virtual companion to senior citizens to provide conversations that help keep their intellectual processes active.
Main Concerns with Bots
Though chatbots are convenient, a major concern regarding barrier to entry remains the authenticity of human interaction. Poorly programmed bots or incorrectly-trained algorithms can produce broken conversations that fall into an uncanny valley of interactions that seem inhuman and incoherent.
Where Bots are Headed
Improved bot technology combined with Millennial and Generation Z users accustomed to mobile, voice, and chat-based interactions will lead to the proliferation of bots across many sectors. The common theme for the future of bots is that routine, data-intensive administrative tasks will increasingly be handled by sophisticated software. In healthcare, for example, AI-powered medical chatbots will continue to help carry out common medical tasks like refilling prescriptions, diagnosing symptoms, and booking doctors appointments.
One example that paints the workplace of the future envisions connected bots replacing typical HR and tech support related functions, like benefits enrollment and password resets. Combined with bots that handle an organization’s contact center, simple and administrative tasks can be offloaded to bots completely, freeing up human capital to carry out tasks best suited by human interactions.
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