Users and chatbots – conversation as a platform
Companies such as Microsoft are supporting the sectors they wish to center their business on. According to Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, the next boom in technology will be chatbots.
Chatbots have become one of the most promising development initiatives for technology firms. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter have created the ecosystem for their launch and use. Messaging applications such as Facebook Messenger and Telegram have played a similar role and WhatsApp should join their efforts. And development companies that work with artificial intelligence, natural language processing and automatic learning are starting to roll out platforms for the easy creation of chatbots.
In turn, more traditional companies from the banking, retail and communications sectors, for instance, regard chatbots and their surrounding ecosystem as an opportunity for establishing a different relationship with their users (more customized and personal). Corporate social responsibility, marketing, advertising and customer service among other aspects may employ bots as a tool for reaching their customers directly, which will be more effective in obtaining data or feedback. This could be another gateway to the complex universe of potential customers or to ensuring the loyalty of existing customers.
Nowadays, everything is centered on smartphones. According to leading consulting firms such as Gartner, customer service for this type of device is seriously lacking and this has a negative impact on the relationship with users. Marketing and sales may constantly generate revenue but service quality depends on customer service and, as such, so does the ability to generate value and compete against other companies.
In 2015, the market of conventional bots reached 88 million dollars in turnover and some estimations point to continued growth until 2023. The following chart shows the projected revenue and growth by the consulting firm Credence Research:
A new way of relating
"Conversation as a platform". This is the new concept of Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. Microsoft believes that chatbots are at the heart of a new innovative boom, on a par with other major shifts such as the graphical user interface, web browsers and the touchscreen created for the iPhone. The idea is to completely change the relationship between users, on the one hand, and devices and information consumption, on the other hand: chatbots will replace applications and these will be pushed aside when answers are found somewhere else.
You will no longer need a weather app or an app for three or four media outlets or even for airlines. Instead, chatbots will search for and provide answers to your questions: they will stream the weather forecast, inform you of plane ticket prices and international events, among many other options. For companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft, the future consists of millions of users talking in real time with chatbots that answer their requests.
Most of Nadella's thoughts about bots, users and their relationship with companies were summarized during the company's conference for developers, Microsoft Build 2016. Lasting less than 10 minutes, this is an interesting video:
Companies from sectors such as banking, retail, air travel and flight and hotel booking have launched projects that focus on chatbots and their interactions with users as regards purchasing products and services:
● Booking flights and hotels
With the help of Nexmo, the Dutch airline KLM rolled out a bot for Facebook Messenger and WeChat a few months ago. Nexmo's API allows KLM to interact with its customers using several messaging applications and the leading CRM and marketing platforms such as Salesforce, SAP and Marketo. This connection at both sides makes it possible for KLM to identify customers that are looking for answers through the chat app and to provide personalized information.
Expedia, one of the largest hotel and flight booking providers, also decided to launch a bot for Facebook Messenger. For Expedia, the most important thing is to understand the needs of travelers. Their chatbot has been developed from technologies such as natural language processing and automatic learning. This is a new way of venturing into new spaces for their relationship with users, mostly smartphones
● Chatbots for general, economic and weather information
Yahoo recently launched three chatbots for two of the most popular messaging platforms in the USA – Kik and Facebook Messenger. These chatbots are a complement to two of Yahoo's most commonly used applications, Yahoo News Digest and Yahoo Weather. They are called @yahoonews and @yahooweather. In the end, both chatbots heavily use emojis to communicate with the typically adolescent user of Kik and the users of Facebook Messenger. Another of the company's bots focuses on a different editorial nucleus: economic information with Yahoo's application for iOS, and Android Yahoo Finance.
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