4 ways businesses can embrace the dawn of chatbots

19 Jul 2016

Some say chatbots are an inevitable next stage in the direct phone call to automated messaging lifecycle of customer care. Here’s how businesses can get involved.

An early explainer: chatbots are perpetually learning language robots powered by artificially intelligence (AI), and can communicate with people through their medium of choice.

In theory, the same AI can drive chatbots across Messenger, WhatsApp and Kik, even taking in verbal instructions over Skype or a phone call, with just one of those options being, perhaps, a user’s preferred mode of contact.

Future Human

As computers they can operate 24/7. They are consistent and, with the right programming, today will always be its best performance, and tomorrow always an improvement.

Why is this important? Because businesses want in on a technological advancement that could fulfill a trio of needs: reducing costs and improving customer service as well as offering help for longer hours. Yet they may be wary of when to take the plunge.

A new report from Deloitte looks at the world of chatbots, taking in both the potential and pitfalls that come with embracing new, relatively unknown technology.

Noting a risk of “losing direct contact with your customers” should chatbots dominate your interactions with the public, Deloitte lists four key steps for businesses to follow when building chatbots into their offering.

1. Clearly articulated value proposition

Chatbots can be deployed to provide basic customer support by themselves, support human interactions with detailed facts, highlight and drive sales opportunities or streamline internal processes, so be sure to understand and articulate what your chatbots are for early on.

2. Focus on specific products and services

Aim to limit the scope of what your chatbots can do by focusing on one product or service to start with. Only engage the chatbot when the conversation turns to its speciality, while augmenting this conversation with a person. Slowly, expand the chatbot’s knowledge base by feeding it more relevant information over time.

3. Ensure all relevant data is available

A chatbot needs to have all the relevant information about the products or services it is supporting. Ensure that your chatbot has been exposed to the relevant internal process flows, specific customer journey maps and deep knowledge that is required for it to answer queries and automate responses.

4. Learn and adapt

Use the data obtained from these chatbot-centric interactions to further refine the chatbots themselves. Have processes in place to harness these learnings to improve the very products and services that chatbots support.

It’s not all AI-powered fun and games, though. To create a truly useable chatbot, engineers must create software that can handle extremely complicated variants in how people talk and type.

Context is also key, with questions meaning one thing literally, but perhaps something completely different in context.


Chatbots are not useful in all scenarios, with a combination of chatbots as well as genuine human interaction often the order of the day.

However, as companies such as Microsoft (not so successfully) and Facebook continue to pour money into chatbot research, the gaps between what they need to accomplish their tasks and what they can currently do will continuously shorten.

Robot image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic