Chatbots are springing up everywhere. Whether it’s Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana or Amazon’s Echo chatbot Alexa, they have become ubiquitous assistants for our everyday lives. And, Xiaoice, the popular chatbot in China that was designed to be a friend, takes it even one step further, reminiscent of the 2013 movie Her, when Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with his virtual personal assistant, played by Scarlett Johansson.
Businesses have jumped on the chatbot bandwagon, using them as agents in the first line of customer-service response when we call for information, or to provide information and answer questions when we visit their websites. These assistants not only help companies gain efficiencies by automating some of the routine communication tasks—but even more importantly—as this technology continues to mature, they can elevate the customer experience by helping customers quickly and accurately find what they need.
At the same time, companies are turning to other types of automation, such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), or software robots, to automate high-volume, repeatable tasks that were previously handled manually. This technology has taken hold in a variety of industries and has proven most useful for back-office functions. The insurance industry, for example, uses RPA to efficiently and accurately process claims; while security professionals are looking to apply it to the complex processes associated with ID and access management when people leave or change positions. Mortgage and banking professionals use these software robots to conduct credit checks, employment verifications and other tasks so they can process mortgages more quickly.
Chatbots and RPA have proven very useful in automating key functions in the front office and back office, respectively. But think about what companies could do if they use them in combination and integrated their functionality. For example, they could not only potentially replace many of the people staffing call centers, but also those handling the accounting and inventory, and even help desk functions generated by those calls.
Additionally, the data collected by the chatbots can provide insights into particular consumer’s needs and used to offer improved personalized customer experiences.
This could be a big game changer. We humans could do what we were meant to do—focus on more strategic, value-added activities. At the same time, the fast turnaround and accurate service provided by these various types of robots would help elevate the customer experience to a whole new level. It’s a winning formula on all fronts—for employee empowerment, increased customer satisfaction and competitive advantage.