Which industries have the greatest potential for chatbot disruption?
Between SMS and messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, billions of people around the world use some form of messaging to communicate.
That, in a nutshell, has created a huge opportunity for companies to interact with their customers through chatbots that operate through these channels.
Various different industries have already experimented with chatbots, to different levels of success. The idea of conducting business via a series of instant messages with an AI bot is not a natural fit for every industry, and in some, chatbots have already flopped, leading many commentators to declare them a passing fad.
But in others, chatbots have genuinely transformative potential, offering a more convenient, personalized, efficient or pleasurable experience than the industry can currently offer.
So which industries have the greatest chatbot opportunities? Here are five.
A growing number of airlines are embracing chatbots to help their customers answer common questions and obtain basic information about their flights.
For example, last year, Aeroméxico launched a chatbot on Facebook Messenger that today helps the airline serve 1,000 customers per day at a lower cost than the two human employees who would normally handle such a volume of requests.
As Skift’s Brian Sumers explained, Aeromexico’s chatbot is powered by an “artificial intelligence “brain” with 500 common responses, chosen from Facebook, Twitter, and telephone transcripts.”
While 500 responses might seem like a small number, Inaki Uriz, CEO of Caravelo, which helped airline Volaris develop its chatbot, says that 80% of flyers ask the same questions, so it’s actually relatively easy for airlines to cover a lot of ground.
While today’s airline chatbots tend to handle the simplest of customer service requests, there is hope that as technology improves, they might one day be able to handle more complex requests, such as flight changes.
One of the industries that has experienced the most success with chatbots is the food service industry. Pizza chains in particular have been among the most prolific adopters of chatbot technology because, well, who doesn’t want to order a pizza at 2 am from a bot?
Domino’s, which now sees well over half its orders placed through digital channels and generates nearly $5bn a year from them, was one of the first major brands to launch a chatbot on Facebook Messenger. Its chatbot is integrated with its Easy Order feature, which lets Domino’s customers order their favorite pizza with one click or command.
The success of chatbots like the one offered by Domino’s reflects that fact that placing an order for food is generally a straightforward, predictable process that can be completed reliably without human intervention.
While there are a number of factors that contribute to chatbot viability, the complexity (or lack thereof) and predictability of an interaction is perhaps the most important and food service arguably has one of the best profiles in these areas.
One of the industries most impacted by digital disruption is finance and many companies are now embracing technology as they seek to reinvent the way they interact with their customers.
Chatbots are one of the technologies a growing number of companies in the industry are turning to. In fact, according to Samsung, more than 50% financial services companies working on a chatbot project.
ING Direct is one of those companies. Later this year, it plans to launch a chatbot for multiple platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Google Assistant.
“The ability to converse with customers, that’s essentially what we call conversational banking. That’s the next tier that we see ourselves going down,” ING Direct’s chief information officer, Ani Paul, told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Using the company’s chatbots, customers will be able to perform tasks such as checking account balances, transferring money to other accounts and alerting the bank to lost credit and debit cards.
Thanks to improving natural language processing technology, Paul says that that ING Direct’s chatbots will be able to communicate with customers in more natural ways. For example, not only will the chatbots be able to respond to questions like “How much money do I have in my account?” they will also be capable of dealing with questions like “Am I broke yet?”
According to a new study published by The Pew Research Center, 67% of adults in the US get some of their news on social media and 20% frequently turn to social media to find out what’s going on in the world.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that news organizations have demonstrated an interest in developing news-focused chatbots for social messaging platforms.
One of those organizations is CNN, which has developed chatbots for Facebook Messenger, Kik and LINE.
Alex Wellen, CNN’s senior vice president and chief product officer, believes that chatbots have a very bright future and says that his firm has been “aggressive” in its chatbot adoption as a result.
Instead of using chatbots to simply distribute personalized breaking headlines or links to articles, CNN is creating new kinds of interactive experiences. For example, on Facebook Messneger, users can ask CNN’s chatbot questions about the news and on Kik, they can “experience the news in a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ format.”
“It’s still early days, but we believe chatbots will ultimately have a profound impact on our digital lives,” he explained. “The technology enables both the intimacy of a one-to-one conversation as well as a mechanism for broadcasting a critical message at scale.
Is the doctor in? It’s a question individuals may never have to ask again thanks to a growing number of chatbots that aim to help consumers deal with health issues.
One such chatbot is operated by digital health startup HealthTap, which originally launched as a Q&A-focused service but now bills itself as “the world’s first Global Health Practice.” Through the HealthTap chatbot on Facebook Messenger, individuals can ask health questions and receive answers based on HealthTap’s extensive Q&A database.
For individuals needing more assistance, HealthTap’s chatbot is capable of distributing questions to the company’s network of more than 100,000 physicians who can then provide a response that is delivered via Facebook Messenger.
A similar company, babylon health, earlier this year teamed up with the NHS to create a new app that helps perform triage for non-emergency conditions. Through the app, which was being made available to some 1.2 million residents of London, users can receive advice from a chatbot instead of an NHS 111 operator.
While the use of chatbots in healthcare obviously raises concerns about privacy and safety, all indications are that chatbots could play an important role given that so many interactions, particularly those around early diagnosis, follow scripts for which lots of digital information already exists.
As I said at the beginning, chatbots don’t work in every industry, at least not in their current form. But in those that they do, they have the potential to revolutionize how we interact with everyday services like healthcare, banking, and the media, in a way that brands would do well to keep ahead of.