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Chat bots becoming the talk of the town as interest surges

Posted: 31 May 2017 | By Darcie Thompson-Fields

The number of businesses adopting human-like conversational chatbots continues to rocket, with a host of leading brands recently announcing new offerings to help drive customer engagement and sales.

Chatbots – sometimes called a talkbot, digital agent, virtual agent or a chatterbox have become big business, with an estimated 34,000 in existence last year, the bulk of which are said to be used for business purposes in some capacity.

 

In recent weeks and months there have been a number of high profile company announcements of chatbot launches.

These include:

UBank, one of Australia’s leading digital only banks, who unveiled RoboChat, the countries first virtual assistant to help potential home buyers and refinancers complete their online home loan applications.

RoboChat, which offers 24/7 support, will be available on the home loan section of UBank’s website and will be available to guide customers through the application form, by providing real-time input on questions like “what term do you offer on home loans?” and “do you offer redraws and how do they work?”

It aims to help reduce the time needed for customers to complete the form by offering on-the-spot help. Built with IBM Watson, the firm says it still in training and will continue to learn as more customers engage with it, becoming smarter and more user-friendly over time.

 

“Our goal is to deliver simpler, better, smarter banking to our customers and RoboChat will help deliver on this by streamlining the application form,” said Lee Hatton, CEO of UBank. “If you’ve gathered all of your paperwork, the form can be completed in as little time as it takes you to have your breakfast. And, securing one of the most competitive rates in the market could help a customer save thousands of dollars in interest over the life of a loan. ”

Match.com, the dating site launched what it described as the first ‘dating bot’, to help people find love through use of artificial intelligence.

The virtual assistant ‘bot’ is called Lara, and runs on Facebook messenger. It uses natural language processing software to communicate with the user and has been designed and programmed to automatically find appropriate matches, through up to 50 different categories. It will be rolled out across Europe shortly

“With Messenger being used by over one billion people worldwide and now a big part of people’s everyday lives, developing the first dating bot has been a priority for us to make finding a date easier for singles wherever they are,” said Abbie Oguntade, vice-president for Match’s Northern European Hub.

Capital One, the banking firm has built a chatbot called Eno, which can communicate with customers via text message to respond to requests fr information on their accounts and even help them make credit card payments.

The gender ‘gender-neutral virtual assistant’, uses AI and machine learning to provide a personalised service for customers, and was first rolled out as a pilot to selected customer in March.

Trip Advisor, the world’s biggest review site, launched its chatbot to provide people with new ways to request advice and receive recommendations for things like attractions, restaurants, flights and hotels.

Hosted on Facebook Messenger, users can interact using everyday conversational language, with the bot immediately reading through previous reviews and details to assist you in the same way you would if speaking to a human. If, for example, you were hungry and wanted a burger, you could ask the TripAdvisor bot, which detect your location, where it recommends you should eat, The bot will learn to recognise each users preference, enabling it to make more informed and accurate recommendations the more you use it.”

Big business

According to Transparency Market Research, the global chatbot market in 2015 was valued at US$113 million. It is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 27.8% in terms of revenue, within a forecast period from 2016 to 2024. By the end of 2024, the global chatbot market is expected to reach US$994.5m.

Enterprise firms are expected to be the biggest beneficiaries in the global chatbot market, with revenues projected to top $626.3 million by the end of 2024.

“Pretty much everyone today who’s building applications, whether they be desktop apps, or mobile apps, or websites, will build bots
as the new interface,” said Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella during the firms annual World Partner Conference in Toronto last year. These conversational interfaces will be born on the devices you use today, as an additional entry point, as an additional experience.”

Other examples of chatbots already launched include:

The Wall Street Journal
The WSJ’s Facebook chatbot will update you with headlines and news from the venerable paper.

The Weather Channel
When you want your weather via chatbot, you have lots of options (including a cat wearing a poncho on Facebook Messenger) but The Weather Channel’s chatbot gives you the forecast direct from the National Weather Service inside your Kick messenger.

CNN
Chat with this Facebook Messenger bot to get headlines and news.

Kate, AT&T
This chatbot works for AT&T BusinessDirect and tackles a variety of customer needs (adding new lines on family plans, taking advantage of discounts, upgrading devices etc.) via written and spoken responses.

HP Print Bot
Effortlessly print documents from your Facebook Messenger window, courtesy of HP.

Burger King
Burger King is developing a Facebook chatbot to effortlessly take your order and have it ready for you at your preferred location.

DOM The Pizza Bot, Domino’s
DOM helps users effortlessly order Domino’s pizza, wings, and more, right from their Facebook Messenger accounts. As you can see, it’s also knowledgeable about the latest fintech trends.

HSBC
This chatbot handles customer service for HSBC’s commercial clients in the UK and resides on a secure section of their site.

H&M
This Kik chatbot will help you build outfits around any piece of clothing. Chat with it and it’ll give you fashion advice and direct you to H&M’s e-commerce site to help you buy anything you need to complete your ensemble.

VSPINK, Victoria’s Secret
Get help finding the perfect bra — start chatting with this Kik chatbot and it’ll ask you some questions about your current bra’s fit and help you find the right size. You can even tell it about your day and it’ll recommend a bra for you.

Examples courtesy of CB Insights:

 

 

 

 

 

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