Chatbots have revolutionized the customer service space: instantaneous, personalized customer response that not only meets customer expectations, but also saves businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more.
2018 stands to bring even more chatbot innovation. Already, developers are working feverishly to bring new consumer experiences to market. For example, when WhatsApp opens to bots next year, it will unlock direct access to over one billion new users. Chatbots continue to push the envelope of new tech, and there more coming.
I spoke with some of the top chatbot experts in the field to find out what they think is coming next for chatbots in 2018, and how chatbots will evolve over the next year.
Alex Attinger, CEO and Founder of SOCIAL.LIMITED:
Chatbot intelligence will increase through better use of conversational interfaces powered by AI. Companies will begin to see the true potential of automated conversations at scale, not only for customer support and retention, but also acquisition. Integrations with legacy systems will increase, and messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger will gradually become the homepage of the web for millions of users. Bots are not meant to replace humans, but they will bridge the gap between brands and consumers in ways that no other marketing platform has been able to do before.
Tiago Paiva, CEO of Talkdesk:
AI improves customer-agent conversations instead of replacing agents. For years, we've heard buzz
about chatbots replacing phone support agents. The implications of chatbots dominating the call center industry are exciting to the inventors of potentially disruptive technology, but the buzz has never materialized. Front-end chatbots have two major weaknesses compared to a human: they lack empathy and are not capable of problem-solving.
Think about the interactions you've inevitably had with a front-end bot. Would you trust this bot to solve your most pressing issues? If you're like the majority of customers, the answer is no. Front-end chatbot technology is primitive and only useful for simple, pre-defined processes. There's no flexibility, creativity or intelligence about it.
The conversation around AI until now has been about how it would assist customers directly, but there's another possibility that's much more beneficial: the AI powers an agent to resolve customer issues with more efficiency. Contact centers can pair AI with voice analytics to identify keywords and present the agent with relevant assets and options in real time. It's the best of both worlds: the technology is still actively pulling information based on the customer's comments, but a human has the logic and context to make decisions. AI-assisted human agents are the future of support AI.
Mikael Yang, Co-Founder and CEO of ManyChat:
2018 will be a turning point for chatbots. For businesses, Messenger chatbots will continue to be the best way to connect with customers due to high open rates and engagement trumping email, SMS, push, and others. As a customer communication technology, chatbots will transition from the early adopter stage into the beginning of early majority - more than 1 million bots will be created on Facebook Messenger. People will start seeing more sophisticated use cases: behavioral marketing, deep integrations with third-party platforms, O2O (offline-to-online) interactions. Facebook will support this transition and will release more tools for developers and businesses to increase adoption.
Other platforms like WhatsApp and Snapchat will open up or make a move in the direction of capturing B2C communications. Venture activity will increase in the space: several big rounds of funding will be raised by startups and acquisitions by larger players like Salesforce, Wix, Shopify, MailChimp, Intercom will happen.
Jin Tanaka, CEO & Founder of Foxsy, and Xpresso:
2016 was challenging, 2017 was learning, and in 2018 the Bots will break the world! So far, many Bots have been built, and all messaging platform have started to have a similar UI using feedback that bot builders and startups have gotten from users. This is a great phenomenon that will spawn a new ecosystem. All of us are learning together, and building a new platform together. I know this is a very beautiful and momentous occasion.
For example, some services will start to work on monetization, completely revolutionizing this model. Also, businesses and brands care deeply about the kind of bots they want to build and what kind of interactions they should provide to users. All players have made a commitment. It implies many things, like platforms, bots builders, API, advertisers, and users are spending their commitment. All these movements and factors make platforms more mature and sustainable.
Fred Hsu, CEO at Agent.ai:
Chatbots will become really good co-pilots: chatbots are far from 100% reliable for all use cases, therefore, for the foreseeable future, a human will need to have their "hands on the wheel" to step in at any time. Chatbots will augment human agents by seamlessly alerting, escalating, and providing a "heads up display." By increasing automation and the availability of expert systems, humans will be able to have their hands on multiple "wheels" at once, leading to greater efficiency.
Also, bots will not just interact with customers and human agents but, increasingly, with other bots in order to get tasks done. Internal systems will have bots in charge of specific tasks. They'll work in tandem with other bots to collaborate on common goals, tasks, and complex workflows.
Chatbots will also help lead to higher salaries: the introduction of more powerful chatbots will actually increase customer support and HR salaries over the next five years, as AI takes over rote answers and frees time for higher-touch interactions. This will lead support agents and internal HR reps to command higher salaries. These workers will help train systems and be the human backstop for chatbots when they fail.
Murray Newlands is founder of chatbot builder Chattypeople.com and CMO of Tribe an online fan engagement company and you can follow his personal blog at www.murraynewlands.com