Chatbots - Let’s talk about them

26 February 2018

There are three things you should know about me - I’ll tell you two of them now. Firstly, I like talking. I’ll talk to strangers, to colleagues, to clients; I’ll talk to the radio even though I’m reasonably sure they can’t hear me. Secondly, I hate filling out forms. I hate that once you’ve filled out one form you have to fill it out again twenty minutes later. I hate having to navigate to section 27b if I don’t own my own home or have a pet with arthritis. Wouldn’t it be good if we could use technology to get rid of this, whilst increasing the data integrity? This is why I believe chatbots are so appealing.

Gathering data from the global market, customers, staff and clients is an essential part of business and how that data is amassed forms an integral part of how effectively it can be used. By utilising chatbots – either through a text conversation on your phone/computer, or by speaking to an interface, you can engage with the user more naturally and lead the conversation smoothly so that all details are captured and perform data quality checks in real time.

So if chatbots can answer all of these questions, what’s holding them back?

Emerging technologies are often met with scepticism, and there’s frequently a reluctance to invest both time and money into finding a solution for problems that might not be known. However, there's a huge number of potential clients that stop short of the end goal, i.e. making a sale or getting a customer to complete a form, and understanding why customers stopped short can help improve conversion rates. Chatbots can store the data and allow us to analyse the inflexion points and improve the experience. If we’re able to review these conversations and develop successful strategies to overcome obstacles, it will be beneficial to all involved.

There are also a number of ethical implications to consider. Automation is commonly met with hostility, since by its very nature it’s removing the human aspect of interaction. Some will find this favourable. For example, when talking to a doctor about sensitive issues it might be easier talking to a machine. On the other hand, in instances where a certain amount of empathy is necessary a chatbot might not be the ideal solution.

Furthermore, the responses that are given by the chatbot are, for now at least, pre-programmed or generated from supervised learning. There have been some high-profile cases of chatbots becoming something that I wouldn’t want to have a conversation with, so it’s important to identify the needs of the user and to review the results when creating a chatbot. At PwC we’ve used AI to power a chatbot for a multinational bank, helping them identify potential new customers and opportunities, and transforming the way they work with corporate clients. Just as websites can become the face of your company, a chatbot can become your voice.

Producing a chatbot that’s fit for purpose will require time and money, and serious consideration as to the repercussions of giving your business a digital voice. Nevertheless, it can bring enormous benefits, including cost savings, operational efficiency and valuable, competitive insight. It will also need you to reimagine the possible ways of interacting with people and utilising all of the data that you have available.

And what’s the third thing you should know about me? Well, you’ll have to chat to me to find out.

Peter Chastin | Senior Associate | Assurance

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