If human language is the new user interface and messaging the predominant medium, businesses should start thinking about making better use of artificial intelligence and chatbot technologies, according to Zoom.ai.
Speaking at the 2017 Data Marketing Toronto event earlier this week, Zoom.ai vice-president of business development Amanda Parker said the rise of Facebook Messenger, Kik and other consumer-oriented messaging apps may influence how enterprise applications should look and feel.
“The experience is expected to be inside chat,” she said, noting an overall decrease in the number of apps consumers are downloading onto their smartphones. “It’s becoming more common for humans to want to chat through something than click through things.”
Parker gave the example of apps to order pizzas, which she described as “always a frigging terrible experience with 20 steps.” Instead, AI can make such apps easier by learning from order histories and other preference-related information. The same thing could allow be applied to B2B scenarios between a vendor and its clients, or internally between an employer and its employees, she said.
Zoom.ai’s work with a large accounting firm, for instance, has involved using chatbots to arrange meetings and other administrative tasks, which is saving the company an estimated $48 million a year, or five hours a month per employee.
“For them, it was less about productivity but efficiency and letting people do higher-level tasks,” she said, adding that there was also a concern about Millennial-age workers leaving because existing tools and processes were more antiquated.
Workflows, Sensor Alerts And Approvals
Parker called out three main areas where Zoom.ai was seeing chatbots and AI having a major business impact.
These included scheduling and workflow management, sending alerts with equipment diagnostics information via chat before things malfunction and business process approvals.
“Think about how many reports you have to fill out, like when you’re onboarding a new employee,” she said. “What is the Wi-Fi password? Where is the bathroom? All those things that get asked to humans can now be asked to a bot.”
Other examples might be manufacturing environments, where workers are equipped with tablets or smartphones to chat through tasks that have historically involved pen and paper.
As with many other emerging technologies,Parker said companies should look to experiment with chatbots by looking at business problems and the financial impact they could have.
“It’s really easy to get lost in, ‘Let’s automate all of the things,’” she warned, recommending that firms create a flow chart-style map of various processes to see where the bottlenecks are and what AI and chatbots could do to reduce the steps or speed things up.
Zoom.ai’s approach has been to work with a single department in an organization, then bring it to others once the benefits have been recognized and there can be some champions to validate a wider use case.
“Typically what we’re seeing is that it’s an innovation team that’s bringing this in or an HR team who has a mandate to improve employee experience,”Parker said. “ A good time frame is two to three months (for a pilot project) and at least one to two percent of organization’s total size.”
Zoom.ai has also tended to work closely with technology firms with whom its chatbot technology integrates, such as Microsoft and its Office line or business messaging platform Slack.
Startups are not alone in pitching chatbots to businesses. Cisco recently launched a research study to validate the idea of using virtual assistants such as its Spark tool for a range of admin tasks.