Over the last year, an enormous industry buzz grew 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 the most effective and cost-efficient communication technology on offer today.
However, the excitement surrounding chatbots isn’t just talk. It’s backed up by some impressive statistics, too. Recent studies show that approximately 80% of large businesses are expected to use chatbots by the end of 2020. 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 2020.
One of the key chatbot trends in 2020 will be increased adoption and greater usage by customers. Recent research suggests that, by 2022, somewhere between 75-90% of all customer enquiries will be handled by a bot. This figure represents both remarkable expansion of the technology itself and rapid growth in the percentage of customers willing to engage with the technology.
Much of this growth can be attributed to a growing preference for messaging services. As text-based communication is favoured by younger users who are due to become the dominant consumer force over the next few years, messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger have realised the potential of chatbot technology and altered their services to accommodate greater bot use.
Messaging services, like Facebook Messenger, are an ideal platform for chatbot technologies for two reasons.
- They’re already perfectly set up to facilitate chatbot distribution and offer an effective means through which users can find and access bots. They have a highly successful, ready-to-use network in place to allow for rapid expansion.
- They utilise chat-based communications. With Millennials becoming the first generation to favour text-based chat over any other form of communication, the future is most certainly chat-orientated.
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 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, 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.
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 2019 was the year in which we witnessed an explosion in the popularity of polyglot chatbots, this will be the year that multilingual 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.
Now established as a powerful customer service tool and a popular choice amongst forward-thing organisations across both the public and private sectors, chatbots will spend much of 2020 consolidating their position as a leading AI technology.
This will involve rapid expansion of the chatbot market and the introduction of new businesses aiming their bots at one of two extremes – the low end or the high end of the market. The proliferation of free chatbot developers has shaken up the sector and some businesses have opted for low-cost over long-term quality by investing in these lower-end options.
However, 2020 is likely to be defined by a growing awareness of the value of experienced professional support when it comes to factors such as chatbot design, set up, implementation, analysis, and evolution.
The beating heart of chatbot technology is AI – a technological discipline that’s advancing at a remarkable pace and that requires expertise to keep abreast of. While some organisations will be happy to go for an easy freebie chatbot because all they’re looking for is a gimmick, those who believe in the potential of AI to revolutionise customer service will be looking to establish long-term professional partnerships with chatbot specialists.
In other words, a chatbot is not just for Christmas, it’s a long-term investment that needs to be well-maintained if it’s to maximise its ROI.
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 2020, we expect chatbots to move from interacting exclusively with customers to being used internally to resolve relatively simple issues and provide guidance, too.
Throughout 2019, there has been a considerable increase in the number of local government bodies looking to introduce chatbot technology into their customer service systems. While the implementation of this type of technology in the public sector poses certain challenges, it has already proven astoundingly successful.
However, this success is largely dependent on understanding the local government environment and the specific set of circumstances that makes running a Revenue & Benefits contact centre different from a private sector call centre.
At Inform, we have over 30 years of experience working side by side with local government contact centres. We understand the culture, the mission, and the challenges faced by those working for Local Authorities (LAs) and we’ve also been instrumental in helping the sector change over the last three decades.
This puts us in the perfect position to partner with Local Authorities to successfully introduce the technology into their systems, driving down costs, whilst also improving services.
There can be no doubt that chatbots will be one of the most exciting and valuable customer service technologies in 2020. This is because they act as a confluence where several developing technologies meet and interact.
Chatbots take some of the world’s most innovative and exciting technological developments – AI, real-time, chat-based communication and language acquisition processes – and makes use of them all. In doing so, they provide customer service departments with a powerful tool that cuts costs, automates increasingly complex tasks, and interacts with customers in a conversational manner.
Here at Inform Comms, where we’re always working to improve and refine our Chatbot services and stay ahead of the curve. That’s why we can’t wait to see what 2020 brings.