How AI chatbots improve business efficiency
Business efficiency is a hot topic right now. No matter what sector your organization is in, or what your specific business processes look like, there’s always room for improvement, right?
Chatbots, and particularly those backed by AI and machine learning algorithms, are gaining steam across industries because of their power and versatility. As their impact continues to be felt and adoption spreads from industry to industry, we thought now was a great time to discuss some of the ways chatbots can help your business become more efficient.
As is true for most mid- to large-scale organizations, you undoubtedly have divisions that face both outward, to your clients and customers, and some that face inward, handling employee concerns. No matter who the customer is, chatbots can provide needed assistance in streamlining processes, cutting costs, and helping your people get back to the intuitive, people-centered aspects of their roles.
External-Facing Chatbot Examples
These are some of the better-known uses for chatbots. At this point, chances are good you’ve encountered a chatbox staffed by a chatbot when visiting your bank website, or on a shopping page, or even integrated into a company’s Facebook page. There’s plenty of low-hanging fruit here where a simple chatbot rollout can provide much-needed backup to your externally facing teams.
Probably the first business area you thought of when starting this article, and for good reason as customer service chatbots are becoming nearly ubiquitous. By running incoming CS requests by your chatbot, many of the simplest inquiries can be handled before a human agent even sees them. This frees your people to put more time and energy into the more complex cases in their queue. The chatbot can, of course, be trained to know when to pass off a customer to one of those human agents should the request become too convoluted or involved, keeping your customers happy with the service they’re receiving.
We’ve all visited eCommerce sites and had them hiccup and lose our order midway through processing. Or had an order we thought was placed never show up, only to discover that it never actually processed. Chatbots with advanced API compatibility can act as your front line for these issues, and more. APIs allow the bot to access inventory systems, payment systems, and customer records, all while providing a convenient and friendly conversational interface for the customer. Some can even be trained to act similarly to a full-service catalog order processor, handling everything from making purchase recommendations all the way through providing a confirmation code and tracking information.
You know the joke about how 80% of tech support issues can be resolved by turning the computer off and back on again? There’s some truth to it, and chatbots are excellent at coaching people through how-to instructions. Many Tier I issues can be resolved this way, leading to your technicians having more time and energy to devote to the more complicated Tier II/III issues in their queue. And should a chat become more involved than the bot can handle, it can always pass the incident over to a human agent, complete with logs of the conversation up to that point so the technician can pick up where the bot left off never missing a beat.
Internal-Facing Chatbot Examples
Now we come to the cutting-edge. Chatbots are increasingly being used to assist teams that work with internal employees for many of the same reasons as those examples cited above. Streamlining workflows, saving human employees time and effort by allowing them to work remotely, and keeping the business moving forward.
Ask your HR team what the most common request they get is. In our experience, it’s mostly simple requests such as “how many vacation days do I have left.” Inquiries of this nature are perfect for an HR chatbot that is connected to your HRIS system. Now, a familiar chat window on your intranet, or the popular collaboration apps such as Microsoft Teams, can be used to interface with multiple employees at once, using their network credentials to verify identity and serve the requested data instantly. This keeps everyone on task, and frees the HR team to return focus to their other duties.
General business administration
Scheduling meetings, booking flights, and making other such general arrangements often fill the days of administrative assistants. Employing a chatbot that interacts with your enterprise email system, calendar, and your internal chat tools (Slack, Teams, etc.) is an easy way to cut the time needed for these tasks. The bot can check all meeting attendees’ calendars, suggesting possible options to the EA, then once approved send email notifications to everybody. And using APIs the same bot can make flight reservations and once again send to the EA for approval. Everything from informal coffee meetings to company-wide off-site events can be planned this way.
Management assistant support
Usually, when managers have to approve budgets or requests, they need to do it either on paper or on a heavily secured internal platform, and this negates the need to be productive while out of office. So, rather than waiting for managers to return to the office, a manager’s virtual assistant chatbot gives them the tools they need to get things done on the go – budget approvals, tasks, purchase orders, custom reports, and many more.
Once again, you’ve freed up your current employees’ time to be put to more intuitive tasks, and shows people that your company values the time and energy of your workforce, increasing their happiness and satisfaction.
General Tips to Ensure Productivity of Your Chatbots
As with any new technology deployed to an enterprise setting, there are best practices that will help ensure the success of the deployment as well as the all-important buy-in from stakeholders and goodwill of the affected employees. Follow these tips to help your first chatbot project go off without a hitch:
- Don’t make it too human. Some of the most well-known chatbot failures were down to the bot sounding so human that when it made a misstep, people were turned off from using it again.
- Watch your audience. How users interact with the bot can tell you more than you may think. Then use this data to inform next steps and future deployments.
- Iterate, iterate, iterate.
- Data privacy is HUGE. Make compliance a priority and let users know about it.
- Tell people what they’re dealing with. As a recent study has shown, several of those well-covered failures were also down to the public not being told upfront that they were interacting with a bot. When it became apparent, they felt the company was being disingenuous. People are fine with bots, as long as they know they’re talking to a software program and it continues to be helpful.