The technology that encourages you to talk and thus know your concerns, anticipating your needs about your products and services.
There is a significant change underway
Alloxentric launches a technological platform that encourages you to communicate to find out your concerns, anticipating your needs and informing you of what is happening with your products and/or services.
It starts with a “bot”, short for “voice/chat robot”. A bot is a software application that executes simple, repetitive tasks (or scripts) over the Internet. Bots help when playing online games, scheduling meetings, checking the weather or receiving updates. The power of bots lies in the high speed with which they execute small routine tasks, so that functions such as web crawling that humans would execute very slowly are automated and effective.
Things get more interesting when the bots are paired with a language interface that allows human interaction. The result is a “chatbot” or “voicebot”, or a software application that completes tasks while communicating with users through chat, messaging or natural language (voice) processing. If well designed, chatbots make consumers feel that a real person is handling their requests through exchanges of words that imitate dialogue.
A chatbot can ask personalized questions, take orders, anticipate problems and even suggest appropriate solutions. In essence, then, it can simulate experiences such as shopping with an assistant in a retail environment.
If any of this sounds vaguely familiar, you’re right. Bots and chatbots have existed in some form since the dawn of the Internet. However, two factors are changing the profile and potential of chatbots. Their increasing sophistication means that chatbots are emerging as online tools to drive customer engagement, sales and service in ways that some people think have the potential to revolutionize e-commerce. In addition, the rise of messaging applications and the availability of sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) systems have paved the way for chatbots (both text and voice) to work.
From messaging applications to Chatbot dialogues
There are two critical factors that contribute to the growth of chatbots. One factor is the growing dominance of messaging services. Messaging applications such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack and Telegram have overshadowed social networking in terms of customer usage. The new generation of consumers is moving quite smoothly with messaging as their primary means of communication. Logic suggests that, if they are comfortable interacting socially through messaging applications, they may be equally comfortable interacting with banks through the same channels. It only makes sense that, to build an effective online business strategy, you go where the consumers are, and where the consumers are now is within the messaging applications.
The other factor driving the evolution of chatbot is the advancement of artificial intelligence. We are entering a new world of human-machine interactions based on natural language processing (NLP). The next generation of NLP algorithms is based on machine learning, which takes advantage of large volumes of data to build communication rules based on statistical inference. The power of these algorithms is pushing us towards ever higher levels of accuracy in the syntactic analysis of the machine and in the understanding of spoken or written requests. The great potential of these conversational interfaces is their ability to help users perform all kinds of tasks, as they are able to understand the specific vocabulary and extract the correct meaning or intent from the statement.
The potential of chatbots, therefore, is their ability to provide individualised guidance, sales support, customer service and other business-related functions, and they do this at any time and in any place, so that they integrate seamlessly into the life of the consumer.
In fact, in today’s world of connected consumers and commerce, business tasks that used to be scheduled at home are often done on the go. Waiting for the micro? Enjoying a few minutes rest between meetings? Working from the park while supervising the children? If so, there is no reason not to shop, bank, book flights, order dinner or perform other functions as easily as if you had a personal assistant helping you.
Some have called this chatbot capability ‘conversational commerce’ and see it as the platform for a paradigm shift in the way consumers interact with their brands. In fact, many companies are now jumping on this bandwagon, including liquor brands, sports franchises and consumer packaged goods companies. For example, Taco Bell is testing its “TacoBot” to allow customers to order and pay for tacos online.
Banking is the next logical step
Financial institutions are also jumping on the bandwagon. At Alloxentric we are working with two major Chilean and Latin American banks, using both messaging and voice bots using chatbot technology. And experience is showing us that banks are well positioned to benefit from bots. In an increasingly mobile world, where banking is becoming virtualised and moving away from the traditional brick-and-mortar branch, financial institutions must be prepared to help clients with their financial needs, wherever and whenever they occur. In this environment, digital engagement with customers becomes key.
Thus, our bots can also conduct – and are conducting – routine conversations between a bank customer and the bank’s customer service staff. It is a growing trend that will only accelerate and help banks to serve their customers with routine requests faster and at less cost than human staff, provided they are used properly and the dialogues are established intelligently.
However, banks face special problems when entering the chatbot arena. Not all chatbot experiences are the same. As we have pointed out, bots are simply software applications; they are only as good as the data, software and systems behind them. Therefore, leveraging advanced data intelligence can give banks the ability to anticipate the key questions consumers are asking based on our data patterns, which in turn helps banks to respond quickly. A bot based on insufficient data, outdated platforms, poor integration or inefficient architecture will provide a customer experience that reflects these gaps.
We have seen from our customers that many of the bots they used previously to Alloxentric, did not meet expectations and offered a “poor” experience, for example, because of the latencies in telephone communication. And while a poor customer experience is an inconvenience for any company, the stakes are higher when it comes to financial services. It’s one thing for your weather application to give you the wrong weather forecast, it’s another thing for your bank’s chatbot to get the details of your current account wrong.
That is why at Alloxentric we develop a technology that incorporates AI from voice generation, understanding, to syntactic and sentient analysis of conversations.
The current state of development of the chatbot thus offers the banks an enigma and an opportunity. Chatbots are clearly a state-of-the-art customer service technology. However, they are also a next generation technology with growing pains. Like other retailers, banks are contemplating embarking on a project using these technologies.
Is it smarter to be one of the first to adopt and invest in chatbots with their current limitations, or to wait until the technology has evolved and risk being left behind by competitors?
The answer depends on the agility of your technological environment and customer service needs. At Alloxentric, we believe banks could be wise to invest now, “by preparing for the best robots to come – and ultimately provide a fully automated yet high quality customer experience”.