An example of a person conversing with a chatbot over their phone

Chatbots Have Changed These 3 Industries for the Better

21 Sep 2017 by Claudia Hrynyshyn

Today’s consumers have changed their preferences for how and when they can communicate with businesses — which is precisely why chatbots have been such a hot topic for the past few years.

Consider this data: 1.6 billion people used mobile messaging apps in 2016, according to Forbes. By 2018, the number of mobile messaging app users is expected to reach 2 billion people — a whopping 80% of the entire smartphone user population.

Research from Aspect reveals that more than half of millennial buyers prefer to conduct customer service interactions via text and chat messaging. Taken together, these shifting consumer habits have arguably made 2017 the year of the chatbot, a sweet spot for organizations starting their virtual agent journey.

The desire to adopt chatbots is hard to ignore. As shown in Figure 1, this market is predicted to generate more than $994 million in 2024, a drastic surge from $113 million in 2015.

Bar graph depicting the size of the chatbot market worldwide, in 2015 and 2024 (in million U.S. dollars)
Figure 1

In light of this emerging trend, we highlight three industries already using chatbots to streamline tasks, differentiate their customer experience and drive new disruptions in the marketplace.

Travel chatbots propel the industry to new heights.

The airline industry is no stranger to vast amounts of customer queries coming at all hours of the day, in multiple languages and in different time zones: “What’s the weight limit of my carry-on?” “What are my options if I want to cancel my flight and book a new one?” “What’s the procedure for lost baggage?”

Gone are the days of sifting through frequently asked questions on websites or standing in line at the customer service desk. Airlines such as United and KLM Royal Dutch have helped on-the-go passengers eliminate a number of steps in the inquiry process by implementing chatbot technology. Through a messaging app on a mobile device, users can summon a bot with their questions and receive immediate responses. That’s because chatbots can quickly sort through large amounts of data, using Natural Language Processing (NLP) to respond conversationally in a user’s native language.

An example of an exchange with a travel bot named Claire
Figure 2

An example of an exchange with a travel bot named Claire can be seen in Figure 2. The bot provides real-time flight options after collecting information about the traveler’s date and time preferences.

Airlines and other industries deploying chatbots have the potential to save $23 billion dollars in customer service costs, according to Chatbots Magazine. That’s because chatbots have the potential to automate 30% more tasks typically carried out by traditional customer service representatives.

With this heightened customer experience, the airline industry can expect to increase brand loyalty while cutting costs in the process.

Financial chatbots become trusted advisers.

The banking industry has been working to create more immersive experiences for years, introducing business apps to users. But according to Brett Pitts, executive vice president at Wells Fargo, customers aren’t spending much time on those apps. Instead, he asserts, the majority of their time is spent on other communication mediums such as Facebook Messenger. So why not go where the customers are?

Traditionally, account holders interested in exploring topics from 401(k)s to transactions that require in-depth contracts would have to sift through lengthy documents packed with jargon that could potentially lead to more questions. Such questions would be addressed by contacting a broker via phone or by going into the physical branch for an appointment set in advance.

TD Ameritrade enrolled BlueMetal, a division of Insight, to launch a chatbot in August to streamline this process, providing educational videos on a wide range of topics. For users involved in the trading and investment world, the bot provides real-time knowledge on current markets, stock quotes and more, helping users make smarter investment decisions in a shorter span of time. Figure 3 shows an example of the bot providing instant snapshots of a user’s account status, informational content, market updates and more.

An example of a bot providing instant snapshots of a user’s account status, informational content, market updates and more
Figure 3

On the customer service side, the bot even responds to queries on the company’s Facebook page instantaneously — both a powerful complement and boost to its 15-person customer service team that fields questions from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Bank of America, Capital One, American Express and others are already using chatbots to streamline a vast array of banking tasks for their customers. In the digital economy, customers expect more consultative experiences beyond balance inquiry and transactional capabilities — tasks the chatbot industry is perfectly poised to deliver.

IT bots empower tech-forward companies.

With an industrywide push for companies to evolve with modern end-user needs, even enterprises such as Insight have invested in chatbot technology to realize quantifiable business benefits.

Traditional end-user support is often marked by a rabbit hole of internal portals and disjointed ticketing systems. End users go through multiple drop-down menus, fill out forms and face wait times as long as 24 hours. Insight’s chatbot uses a text interface that connects users to relevant solutions to foster self-service. The bot has significantly reduced internal ticket volume and allowed the IT staff to focus on tasks more central to the business.

Cobots, not robots: Addressing the cultural change

These days, a conversation about chatbots is not complete without considering their impact on humans. Ultimately, chatbots are still machines, and the key is to foster a culture of collaboration between bots and humans. Toward that end, a new term has popped up in the industry: cobots, short for “collaborative robots.”

For example, a cobot can be configured to capture the mood and sentiment behind phrases to help it direct a user to a customer service representative when necessary. Chatbot technology hasn’t arrived to replace people: Instead, chatbots are here to complement humans to help businesses engage users in a more intuitive way.

The true value of chatbots: Putting the customer first

From 24/7 access to businesses and services, to avoiding the hassle of long wait times on phone lines, chatbots will continue to evolve to offer more personalized and contextual customer experiences. By putting users in control of their digital world, your business can expect to see brand loyalty increase, creating win-win situations that save time and money for your business and consumers alike.

And with rising adoption from businesses — 80% of them want chatbots by 2020 — we’re excited to see how businesses continue to differentiate themselves and drive transformation.

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