Chatbots aren't just for big business. Here's why SMEs need them.

Chatbots for SMEs

When talking about chatbots, you’ll often hear about tech giants like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google making use of them. That creates the perception that bots are only for big business. But the reality is every business can, and should, make use of them.

Says Jon Card writing for Guardian: “Bots are now undertaking much of the drudgery of business life – filling in forms, answering customer queries, compiling data and handling social media tasks. Proponents say this liberates staff to work on more creative and engaging work; bots are a new, cheap resource to be exploited.” Put like that, what business could resist using a bot or two?

Related: How chatbots are changing call centers

Take the example of British teen Joshua Browder. A few years ago he launched the world’s first robot lawyer called DoNotPay. It was an AI chatbot which helped people in London and New York contest parking tickets. The chatbot took on more than 250 000 cases with a success rate of 60%. This translated to more than $4 million worth of parking tickets successfully appealed. Apparently, he created the bot in three hours. That’s a solid return on investment and a whole lot of happy drivers.

This simple story is proof that with a solid idea, some hard work, and determination, you can use a chatbot successfully for your business. And Facebook is working to make it even more simple for businesses to create their bots.

At Facebook’s F8 conference held a few months ago, Mark Zuckerberg announced developer tools for Facebook Messenger which would allow businesses to build bots that could chat with customers on the platform. "We think you should message a business just the way you would message a friend," Zuckerberg said.

Chatbots are not always good news, though. Microsoft's Tay learned from people's conversations on Twitter and soon its posts were racist and sexist. It was quickly shut down. Here are some examples of bots that are faring much better:

Ordering pizza via chatbots

Some of these bots already exist. Pizza chain Domino’s launched Dom a few months ago. It uses Facebook Messenger to take orders from customers who simply type the word ‘pizza’. Domino’s now takes 80% of its orders digitally.

Using chatbots to book your next trip

Perhaps while you’re eating your pizza, you have a hankering to travel to Italy. With Skyscanner’s new chatbots, it couldn’t be any easier. Available first on Facebook Messenger and then Skype, it allows users the opportunity to request travel information and offers a range of suggestions.

Virtual assistance

Once you’ve booked your flights, you’ll need someone to organize your accommodation, transports and find some good restaurants. Luckily, there are bots for that! Microsoft's Cortona, Apple's Siri, and Google's Allo are all waiting to answer your questions, schedule your meetings and generally make your life easier. They can do all of the work you would have previously asked an assistant to do.

Adair Cameron, writing for Business Comparison, says: "It’s difficult to predict how well adopted chatbots will become but it’s clear that they’re here to stay. In the future, will we be having conversations with people or robots? As natural language improves in computing, will we even notice the difference?"

As someone interested in seeing their business succeed, chatbots offer massive opportunities to improve inefficiencies. And if you’re looking for a simple way to begin using chatbot technology today, have a look at Clickatell Touch. It’s a chatbot for customer support which puts communication into the palm of your customers’ hands. It can do all of the above-mentioned tasks, from answering your questions to scheduling your diary, finding a doctor and making an appointment, booking your flights, ordering food from your favorite restaurant. It’s all of these bots, rolled into one.

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