The chatbot is the new black: exponentially growing in popularity as the world becomes an increasingly connected place. And as we trundle along this path towards nirvana where everything and everyone is connected, all the time, we’ll grow more and more comfortable with interacting with these machines online. Inevitably chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) will dominate the online landscape and be involved with almost everything we do online.

While most chatbot tasks are quite basic at the moment, continued innovation in AI technology means that they’re getting smarter and smarter. Some research suggests that only about one-third of all customer service queries will require human attention.

Jen Looper, founder of Ladeez First Media, a mobile app company specializing in education and fitness confirms this growing trend. “They [chatbots] have enjoyed a wide adoption in already established applications such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Slack. Microsoft and Google have also jumped into the development of conversational interfaces in a big way. Google, for example, has acquired API.ai, a platform for building bots. And Microsoft is developing its own bot framework.”

Looper suggests that these large corporations will continue to drive chatbot innovation. “As long as big companies with popular platforms see value in bots, they will continue to grow.”

And the timing for chatbots has arrived. The app economy is slowing down quickly and in some places, it’s in decline. We’re growing tired of toggling between multiple apps and navigating through them. Only instant messaging bucks this trend. More than 2.5 billion people have at least one messaging app installed. The obvious leaders here are Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Activate, a tech consultancy, suggests that this number could swell to 3.6 billion as online behavior shifts again. Younger people spend more time on smartphones sending instant messages than they do on social media platforms, and your average WhatsApp user spends 200 minutes each week on the app.

Businesses should be wary though. Although chatbots are certainly becoming more commonplace, a recent study suggested that the majority of consumers still prefer human assistance. More than half of the consumers surveyed reported a preference towards human interaction, with the US the highest at 59 percent. So, what can be done?

You’d expect that an obvious solution to this would be to give chatbots a personality. That way, the bots can act as a good human substitute. The problem with that kind of thinking is it doesn’t take human intelligence into account. It’s likely that constant interaction will expose the bot’s limitations, resulting in an annoyed customer. Microsoft’s ‘Tay’ is a great example of this. Its machine learning functionality had the bot learning racial slurs and resulted in Microsoft having to send the bot to the digital naughty corner.

Instead, businesses should focus on utility. Some 48 percent of those surveyed said they preferred a chatbot which solved their issue over a chatbot that had a personality. But what if it a chatbot had both? Customers are being managed by chatbots that are able to respond to certain queries or requests. If the conversation escalates, these bots will proceed to hand the customer over to a human contact. This process happens seamlessly. The customer may not even realize it’s happening. Clickatell Touch, for example, is able to integrate into any existing infrastructure and provide a very similar service. It has the potential to save your business vast amounts of money and time as it streamlines customer relationship management.

Advances in AI, coupled with our insatiable appetite for messaging apps, will continue to fuel the development of chatbots. And there’s clearly enormous potential for businesses to leverage chatbots. An example of this is using chatbots to act as a virtual assistant for visually-impaired people. Alternatively, the bots can manage a workforce’s meetings or organize workflow.

If you’d like to learn more about chatbots and what they can bring to your business, read our article on the subject. It considers current chatbot shortfalls and how these need to be addressed for continued adoption. If you're ready to start implementing artificial intelligence to improve customer service in your business, read more about Clickatell Touch or watch this video to see it in action. Touch combines machine learning, workflow automation, and human-in-the-loop to deliver on-demand customer service.

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