Bots are moving into the workplace. In fact, you may have interacted with one today. Citing a study by Oracle, Business Insider reported that 80 percent of decision makers surveyed reported that they are already using or plan to use chatbots by the year 2020. Also, in an IT Business Edge post, Don Tennant wrote: “Within the next decade, the customer experience in obtaining goods and services will be dramatically altered by the emergence of bots that communicate with each other, leaving nothing for us humans to do in the process other than letting our personal bots know what it is we want.”
You can categorize the bots in several ways, explained Vaclav Vincalek, CTO with Peer Effects. You can split them based on: Platform (Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft); Communication (conversation, listen); Purpose (customer service, selling); Interface (voice, text only, visual); Audience (personal assistant, corporate); and Industry (retail, banking, health).
“Based on this classification,” Vincalek said, “you can cover most of the bot activity in the market space.”
Here are a few ways that businesses are adopting bots to enhance business practices.
How Bots Are Going to Work to Increase Efficiency
Businesses are adopting bots to enhance business practices, in everything from procurement to marketing to sales to recruiting.
Bots Improving the Procurement Process
In its report, When Bots Do the Buying, Accenture Strategy show how companies are using bots in their procurement functions for routine tasks to free up capacity – and funds – for procurement teams to focus on more strategic pursuits that drive efficiencies and growth. Tom Papa, managing director with Accenture Strategy, stated: “We worked with a global energy company that saved $2.5M annually by automating more than 100 procurement, finance and accounting processes, resulting in a 67 percent decrease in manual average handling time. By seamlessly integrating automation, the company was able to dramatically speed up activities such as invoice processing, with increasing data accuracy as an added bonus. While automation is just one component of the larger as-a-service procurement picture, this energy company’s experience highlights the benefits of automating Procurement’s non-strategic activities, freeing time to shift focus from cost optimization alone to strategic ecosystem management and creating value.”
Order from Anywhere with a Bot
Staples is using IBM’s Watson Conversation to bring the on-demand world to customers, allowing them to order anytime, anywhere, from any device they prefer. Thanks to the Watson bot, Staples offers a seamless ordering interface, whether it’s via the Easy Button, through the app, over Facebook Messenger or with a Slackbot. This interface streamlines the shopping experience, allowing for easier supply reorders, tracking shipments, or getting answers for customer service needs.
Bots Increase Marketing Support
Optimove built its own bot called Optibot to help its clients — marketers – improve the way they performed their jobs by unearthing previously hidden insights and automating certain tasks. Optibot’s algorithm is adept at identifying the ideal offer for each customer, increasing engagement. Optibot analyzes data at scale and identifies the deep data that may have never occurred to a human who is limited by the volume of information they’d otherwise have to cull through. Marketing campaigns are able to be personalized to potential customers.
AI-Powered Gift Concierge Bot
1-800-Flowers launched an AI-powered gift concierge called Gifts When You Need (GWYN). Using IBM’s Watson’s conversational capabilities, GWYN can interact with online customers using natural language. GWYN is designed to interpret customer questions, and then ask questions about the occasion, sentiment and who the gift is for to ensure the appropriate, tailored gift suggestion is matched for each customer. GWYN is available for mobile and desktop users.
Bots Are Helping College Grads Find Jobs
How can employers find the best fit among all of the resumes they receive from the latest round of college graduates? Enter “Billi,” the newest chatbot, and member of the SapientRazorfish interview squad. “To help gain some ground with this ‘always-on’ generation and find a way in which a candidate’s affinity for Snapchat’s latest filter could help them discover the best fit for a company, Billi was created in order to engage potential junior candidates through an optional quiz that focuses on Snapchat personality,” explained Kristina Shedd, VP of Talent Acquisition (and head of HR) for SapientRazorfish. “This chatbot is meant to make for a fun experience that introduces talent to the company in an era when many organizations are leveraging unorthodox methods, such as social media contests and rapid-fire, in-person training programs, in order to attract top millennial talent in the digital transformation space.”
Bots Streamlining the Global Workforce
Konsus is an on-demand outsourcing platform for business tasks. The company’s founders are in Norway, but the other 122 employees are spread out across 38 countries and 15 time zones. “With everything so distributed, you can only imagine what a nightmare it would be to get hold of everyone working on different projects, get status updates and schedule meetings,” said Fredrik Thomassen, CEO and co-founder of Konsus. After trying different technologies, the company turned to Geekbot. Based on individual time zones, when employees first log in to Slack, Geekbot messages them, collects responses, and then posts on the Slack common channel. It even follows up twice with people who don’t respond at once. “This has helped really speed up our processes and stay caught up on everything being done to make sure the business is on the right track,” Thomassen added.
Getting the Right Resumes to the Right People
VALiNTRY is a technology consulting company that searches to place the right resumes in front of clients. “A human recruiter can look at about 50 resumes per day, and will often look at the same resume multiple times a week, and each time we are charged for that resume view,” said Brent Healy, VP of Marketing at VALiNTRY. The company realized that this technique wasted time and money. So it turned to bots to mine through the resumes. The bots are part of a proprietary V-FITT recruitment system, which also includes programmatic pay-per-click job advertising, social outreach, and search engine optimized job postings. “One individual bot can evaluate thousands of resumes per day, letting the recruiter focus on contacting and recruiting the best fit candidates. The bots do the initial screening, letting the human do the more nuanced work that he/she is better at than the bot.”
And Then the Bot Helps You Get the Interview
Mya Systems uses AI to take a candidate through the entire job search process. Mya is able to review resumes, set up interviews and screen applicants. According to CNN, “Applicants chat with Mya, and if she deems them a good fit, she’ll schedule an in-person interview with the (human) hiring manager. She will also automatically send directions via Google Maps and even offer tips on what to wear.”
Virtual Sales Assistant Bots
Quote-to-Cash is the integration and automated management of end-to-end business processes on the sell side, connecting the customer’s intent to buy with the seller’s revenue process. To improve on this process, Apttus introduced Max, a virtual assistant utilizing a conversational user interface that will execute any command, taking away the hundreds of mundane, repetitive tasks that users typically need to perform in the revenue process. Max can use any media channel, including voice command, text inputs, Skype for business, email or augmented reality and prompt users to make decisions that are consistent with company goals, and give a “behavioral nudge” that makes clear how a product or discount recommendation will affect a salesperson’s commission.
Medicinal Advice, from Bots
Do you have questions about medicinal marijuana? Weedhorn, a mainstream cannabis website, partnered with The CannaMDs and Octane AI to create ABBI, the first medical cannabis chatbot. ABBI is a text-based bot that offers a simple, engaging way for patients to find the information they need for free. “ABBI is built on Octane AI because Facebook Messenger has over 1.2B monthly users, allowing us to remove the need to have patients download a new app or learn a new behavior. Using a bot also allowed us to create personality and give users the opportunity to have a visual conversation – rather than reading text like an online article, the user becomes the centerpiece of the conversation, which is powerful,” said Rick Bakas, CEO of Weedhorn.