Chatbot technology moved forward in leaps and bounds in 2018. This year is shaping up to be even bigger and better for every organisation’s favourite money-saving, problem-solving customer service tool. With this in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to take an in-depth look at what we can expect from chatbot technology in 2019.
State of the sector
Over the last year, an enormous industry buzz has begun to build around chatbot technologies. With many customer service experts hailing them as the next big thing, an increasing number of businesses and organisations are sitting up and taking notice of what could soon become the most effective and cost-efficient communication technology on offer.
However, the excitement surrounding chatbots isn’t just talk. It’s backed up by some impressive statistics, too. Recent studies show that approximately 40% of large businesses are expected to use chatbots by the end of 2019. This reflects the chatbot market’s annual growth rate of 24%. If the market continues to expand at this speed (and there is nothing to suggest that it won’t), it will be worth roughly $1.25 billion by 2025.
Though the financial value of the chatbot market is indicative of the technology’s potential, it doesn’t tell us how this potential is likely to be realised. To understand this, we need to take a look at what developers are likely to achieve with the technology in 2019.
Increased adoption and usage
One of the key chatbot trends in 2019 will be increased adoption and greater usage by customers. Much of this growth can be attributed to a growing preference for messaging services over public social media forums. Like many of its predecessors, Facebook has not been able to bridge the generational gap and attract younger users. In fact, amongst the teenage population, it now has a reputation as the social network for “old people.” Instead, messaging services are coming to the fore.
Messaging services are the ideal platform for chatbot technologies and will facilitate its distribution and offer an effective means through which users can find and access chatbots. This expansion will occur at such a rate that Gartner predicts that by 2020, we’ll be interacting with chatbots more than we will with our own families.
Natural Language Processing and sentiment analysis
Over the next year, there will be an increased focus on developing chatbots’ abilities to understand the meaning, intention and sentiment behind text-based interactions. This will largely be achieved through the use of two types of technology.
- The first, Natural Language Processing (NLP), is a broad technological and scientific field that attempts to equip computers with the ability to understand and process human languages. This is necessary due to the way in which machines aren’t yet able to “understand” meaning or intent. In other words, they cannot read between the lines and they have trouble understanding figurative or metaphorical language. Unfortunately for chatbots, these are key features of human conversation. NLP technologies utilise machine learning techniques to teach computers to better comprehend the nuances of language, allowing them to communicate in a more personal and human manner.
- Within the broader category of NLP technologies exists a specific field known as sentiment analysis. Sentiment analysis attempts to provide machines with the means by which they can extract subjective information (opinions) from written text. This means that, rather than just pulling hard data from inputs, they’ll be able to “understand” the author’s attitude and intention when writing it. For a chatbot, this would be remarkably useful, as it would give it the ability to understand, predict, and pre-empt the customer’s purpose in calling, allowing it to provide a quicker solution to their problem.
A little language learning
We live in a globalised world, in which businesses operate across borders, through different currencies, and in various languages. Consequently, emerging customer service technologies need to reflect this reality. Though 2018 was the year in which we began to see the first polyglot chatbots, this will be the year that multi-lingual machines take over customer service provision.
Coupled with NLP technologies, the multi-lingual approach is astoundingly powerful. Not only does fluency in numerous languages enhance the machines’ ability to learn the specific characteristics and contexts of individual words, but it also allows organisations to centralise and concentrate their customer service provision into fewer applications and technologies.
Data and privacy concerns
With the introduction of GDPR and the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal, 2018 was an interesting year in the fields of data security and online privacy. 2019 is likely to continue the trend for greater regulation and awareness of security issues, making chatbot development a more challenging prospect.
As data collection is one of the technology’s primary functions, developers will have to walk a fine line between collecting valuable personal data and doing so in a way that does not fall foul of regulations and legal obligations. This means that 2019 will be a year of inventive data harvesting solutions and intelligent, security-conscious design. (Read more about Chatbots and GDPR).
A move beyond customer service
As bots become ever more powerful, they will begin to be utilised to fulfil functions outside of the purview of customer service departments. For instance, it’s highly likely that we’ll soon see them employed in the context of IT helpdesk, as well as in intranet portals and Customer Relationship Management platforms. Essentially, in 2019, we expect chatbots to move from interacting exclusively with customers to being used internally to resolve relatively simple issues and provide guidance.
If chatbots live up to their billing in 2019, it’s likely that they’ll emerge as the most valuable customer service technology available to modern businesses. This is due to the way in which they exist at the point where a number of developing technologies meet and interact. Improvement and widespread adoption of AI technologies, messaging services, and language acquisition processes, will all combine in chatbot technology to provide customer service departments with a powerful tool that cuts costs, automates increasingly complex tasks, and interacts with customers in a natural manner. Here at Inform Comms, where we’re always working to improved and refining our Chatbot services and stay ahead of the curve, we’re optimistic about what 2019 offers.