Bots Are Here To Stay
The bot space has been changing rapidly. A few years ago, bots were automated chat agents. They would aim at replacing customer service representatives in case of traffic spikes or when all were busy. Very rudimentary, they usually left consumers frustrated. Bots are now enjoying an incredible momentum. As they reach the peak of inflated expectations, one can wonder if it is a temporary fad. I believe bots are here to stay and here is why.
Messaging is the new conversation
Six of the ten most used mobile applications are messaging apps. Millennials preference for texting over voice has been vastly documented by research firms such as the Pew Research Center. More than text, I believe it is a new style of communication that is being embraced.
- It is respectful of people's time, allowing messages to be exchanged asynchronously.
- There is no time wasted making a call or establishing a communication.
- The dialog is continuous and can be resumed at any moment.
Today, messaging applications support voice and video and people across all generations use all communication modalities. Enterprise adoption is lagging consumer usage though. Utilization has remained limited to collaboration and is nascent for customer communications.
Bots pair well with messaging
Today's bots insert nicely into messaging conversations. A messaging stream provides context for bots to be more relevant. This model allows to connect a bot with the user at any point in time and to seamlessly hand over the conversation to a human when automation can no longer fulfill the user expectations.
Bots are getting more specialized. Automation bots, ranging from simple scripted programs to Artificial Intelligence powered ones tend to be task specific. Conversational bots use natural language processing to discover the customer intent through a human-like conversation, and Artificial Intelligence and Semantic Search to find answers. They are often called Intelligent or Virtual Assistants
An emerging model consists in having an Intelligent Assistant start the conversation and look for answers. If the assistant cannot address the customer question, it can pass it to a person. If it identifies a specific task to perform, it can direct it to a task bot to get it done. The message stream ties all these interactions together and preserves the experience of a continuous conversation.
Together, bots and messaging are transforming the mobile experience
Today's mobile experiences can either be using an app or a browser. None of these options fully meet users' expectations. Browser-based experiences have been improved with technologies such as HTML5 and responsive design. However, navigation beyond a few pages remains frustrating. Mobile Apps have created innovative and sleek experiences, but they are limited in scope and better fitted to performing tasks rather than discovery. Moreover, apps that are not used regularly get forgotten by users. A phenomenon called "app fatigue" has emerged. SensorTower, Nomura Research found last year a 20% year-on-year decline in the U.S. apps downloads.
Messaging, be it using text or leveraging other modalities, enjoys on the contrary tremendous traction. It is also well suited to mobile form factors. Many messaging applications might exist but they all behave in a very similar way and thus, are easy to adopt. Brands have started to combine them with bots and human assistance to offer new ways to consume the internet on mobile devices. Facebook Messenger for customer communications and Slack for collaboration have been spearheading this trend and major brands are turning to these channels for their mobile presence.
For many dishes, greatness comes from the combination rather than a particular ingredient. Together, messaging, bots, and mobile brings the promise of great mobile experiences and should play a central role for both collaboration and customer communications.