The use of bots, or “chatbots”, is an immensely impactful, rapidly-growing trend in enterprise operations and customer interaction that change the way we work.
What is a bot?
Bots are a lightweight form of machine learning that basically converts unstructured human language into structured data that serves as instructions for the software that consumes it. For example, the following statements all initiate the same software action of adding an appointment to the user’s calendar:
- “Put a meeting on my calendar for tomorrow at 10 am”
- “Add appointment called ‘Meet with Bob’ tomorrow on my calendar”
- “Invite Bob to a meeting tomorrow at 10 am”
In each case, the bot parses out the user’s intent as well as the parameters that complete the request. In the above examples, the bot understands that the intent is to create a meeting. The parameters are the date (“tomorrow”), the time (“10 am“), and a meeting participant to invite (“Bob“). If there are any required parameters missing from the command, the bot will follow up with the user by requesting that information: “What is the subject for this meeting?”.
This interaction is fundamentally the same as filling out a form that, upon validation, alerts you that you missed a required field. In fact, the code that consumes the structured data from the bot is processing your meeting request in exactly the same way.
It’s a big deal
It may not seem to be very earth-shattering at first glance, but bots are quite monumental in the evolution of human-computer interaction (HCI). Think about it–bots represent a total inversion of control wherein we, the users, command the computer in a way that’s natural for us rather than needing to conform to a series of steps that the software dictates. This can save untold amounts of time and frustration by not having to learn the detailed workflows of a given application or website and instead get right to what you need by simply “talking” to the program.
Bots have become pretty common in our personal lives. We use them for anything from scheduling doctor’s appointments, shopping for the latest fashion styles, playing online games, sending money to friends, and so forth. But bots hold a tremendous value proposition for the enterprise as well which is why heavy-hitters like Microsoft and Google’s GSuite are becoming major players in the space.
People often associate bots with customer service when thinking about them within the enterprise context. While it’s true that bots can be tremendously helpful in directing your customers to the resources they need without incurring the cost of human assistants, there is tremendous value to be had in regular enterprise operations as well. For example, an IT department can utilize bots to provision new user accounts, automate DevOps tasks, and request security scan reports. Executives can use bots to request sales reports and financial forecasts. Field staff can use bots to conduct inspections, request supplies and materials, update stock levels, and report progress.
Implementing a custom bot specifically for your enterprise will make your team more efficient, increase data accuracy, and refocus your human resources on higher-value work. Bots get “smarter” over time and as they do, more obstacles are removed between us users and the outcomes we seek. As you use any application today, think about the steps you take to get the outcome you need and ask yourself whether a bot could have improved the process by allowing you to get straight to what you needed with a single command stated in your own way.
Bots and your customers
Regardless of whether you are in healthcare, retail, travel, hospitality, or any other industry you can’t afford to ignore the bot concept. You have to “meet the customer where they are” by ensuring that your applications work in a way similar to what they have become accustomed to in their personal lives. Whether the medium is a messenger app, SMS, or your own application interface, you need to provide your customer with a way to simply “tell” the application what they need.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg agrees with this notion. Facebook is investing heavily into bot integration for their Messenger product. Says Zuckerberg, “You should just be able to message a business the same way that you message a friend, you should get a quick response and it shouldn’t take your full attention like phone calling and you shouldn’t install a new app”.
The time is now
Whether your enterprise is prepared or not, bots have arrived and are being further interwoven into our cultural fabric each day. It is critical that you act now to implement bots of your own before you lose customers to a competitor who offers a better experience or employees to a workplace that allows them to do their job with less frustration. At Polyrific, we have a special affinity for bots and machine learning in general and we have the experience necessary to successfully implement a family of bots throughout your enterprise’s application ecosystem.
Please contact us today if you are ready to join the bot revolution and take your enterprise operations and sales to new heights!