Chatbots in the Workplace: Pros, Cons, and Best Practices

Whether you love them or hate them, chatbots are becoming more commonplace across many different industries. But should you implement this software at your organization? In this article, we'll take a look at the pros and cons of chatbots in the workplace, provide a breakdown of the industries that they're most useful in, and summarize what the future of this technology will look like. But first...

What is a Chatbot, and What do They do?

A chatbot is an automated computer program that conducts a conversation using natural language with the assistance of artificial intelligence, or AI technology. Designed to simulate natural conversation, chatbots can conduct real-time conversations with users, be trained to answer questions, and perform basic tasks like scheduling meetings or making purchases.

Over the last few years, chatbots have grown in popularity and usage, and when you look at the data, there’s no surprise as to why. According to Chatbots Magazine, businesses can potentially reduce their customer service costs up to 30% by using chatbots as their first response. If you want to break those cost-savings down even further, Juniper Research says that it works out to around $0.70 per customer interaction. Chatbots are also predicted to save businesses 2.5 billion hours by 2023, so chatbots don’t just save money, they save time as well.

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Using Chatbots in the Workplace

Chatbots are a convenient way to automate small tasks that would otherwise be outsourced to human employees. Though most chatbots are still in their infancy, they are advancing rapidly and will soon become commonplace in the workplace.

Chatbots can be used to perform routine tasks, such as reminding employees to submit expense reports, to check on their vacation time, or to file their taxes. They can also be used to resolve basic customer service questions. Currently, a customer service representative might receive dozens of emails per day, from customers who are confused about product details or who are just looking for help. These requests can be easily automated with a chatbot, and it will be easier for the customer service team to track down and solve customer problems.

In the following sections, we'll share how chatbots can be used specifically in various industries.

Chatbots in Customer Service

Many businesses are turning to chatbots for customer support because they are easier to train than humans, and they can provide basic customer support for a much lower rate than a human employee.

With that being said, some companies are using chatbots for more complex and specialized purposes. For example, Facebook uses chatbots to automate their customer support process, and they have even created chatbots that can act as automated salespeople for advertisers. Similarly, travel websites have begun using chatbots to take care of mundane tasks like booking lodging and airfare. These chatbots are designed to respond to basic questions and to guide users through a series of web pages to perform the task they asked for. While they cannot respond to all potential use cases, these chatbots have been incredibly successful all the same.

Chatbots can also be used as a more personalized alternative to a traditional company FAQ page. They can be used to provide information about the company and its services and take the information they've gathered about customer issues and concerns to help you make improvements to your product. In this way, you can provide a range of customer service options to your customers.  

Chatbots in Banking & Finance

Financial institutions are utilizing chatbots to interface with their customers. These chatbots are used for basic financial tasks, such as transferring money or checking balances.

This kind of functionality is now being built into smartphone applications, as opposed to being offered by a separate website. In the future, chatbots will be able to serve as financial advisors, guiding customers through their savings or investment strategies.

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Chatbots in Education

When it comes to education and learning, chatbots can be used in a number of different ways to help both students and educators alike. Chatbots can help students prepare for class by providing them with practice problems that they can complete before they take an exam, assist instructors as they grade assignments, and they can even be used to discover student knowledge gaps. When a student asks a question, the chatbot can then ask follow-up questions to determine the exact nature of the student's knowledge gap and then search the internet for answers to the student's question.

As more schools adopt a hybrid teaching model, chatbots can be useful in connecting students with one another and educators, creating a more cohesive experience for all.

Chatbots in Healthcare

Healthcare is another industry primed for chatbot assistance as they can improve the work of healthcare professionals in many ways. They can improve access to information, allow doctors to spend more time with patients, and help doctors make more accurate diagnoses.

Some of the most common uses of chatbots in healthcare are to handle triage or to guide patients through the process of scheduling an appointment. Chatbots can be used to handle triage by asking questions that help them determine the status of patients in comparison to others, allowing doctors to focus on patients that need immediate attention. Doctors can also use chatbots to help them find the best treatment for a patient, based on the patient's symptoms.

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Chatbots in Human Resources

Chatbots offer several advantages over traditional HR processes. They provide a quick, transparent solution for communicating with employees. This is especially useful if you are trying to train thousands of employees, and you don't have the time or resources to schedule a series of meetings with each one. It also helps to ensure that the training you provide is actually getting to the people who need it.

They can also be used to further automate the process of onboarding new employees. The chatbot can be used to greet new employees and to answer basic questions about the workplace. It can also be used to answer questions about the company's policies. As employees get more comfortable in their work environment, the chatbot can begin asking more detailed questions. It can ask employees about their professional goals and about other topics that they would like to learn more about. It can then use this information to create an individualized onboarding plan for each employee.

Chatbots in Logistics & Operations

In logistics and operations, chatbots can be used to improve the booking, processing, and handling of shipments. For example, a customer might send a chat message to the logistics operation with details about the shipment. From there, the chatbot can check the inventory of the shipment to ensure that it is available and then send a booking confirmation to the customer.

Chatbots can also be used to process customs clearance. After a shipment has been booked, the customer can send a chat message to the logistics operation with information about the shipment and details about the customer. The chatbot can check the customer's profile to ensure that it has been verified, then check the details of the shipment against the customer's information, and then send a customs clearance confirmation to the customer.

When to Use Chatbots vs. Real Workers

While chatbot AI technology has come a long way, it’s still a long way away from having the problem-solving capabilities of real human representatives. They are not yet powerful enough to replace human customer support agents completely or provide high-level analysis, so they're best suited for small-scale, low-stakes interactions. The best way to harness this technology is to provide preprogrammed answers to simple, routine queries, and have them pass anything more complicated on to your customer service and sales reps. Below, we've compiled some of the best, general use cases for chatbot technology.

Testing and Gathering Customer Information - Chatbots can be useful in testing customer reactions to products or services. They can be used to gather information about customers and create detailed profiles that can then be used to improve the company's business practices.

Serve as the First Line of Customer Support - Chatbots can be a valuable resource for customer service agents by handling simple customer requests that would otherwise clutter up a support agent's time. They can also cut down on the number of repetitive tasks that salespeople have to do. Rather than having to send out the same email to dozens of prospects every day, a salesperson can simply send a link to their own chatbot, which will handle the requests that come in.

Automating Repetitive Tasks - Chatbots are incredibly useful for automating repetitive and mundane tasks. They can be used to provide quick answers to questions that would otherwise require a lengthy phone call or email exchange. They can also be used to provide a personalized experience across a variety of interfaces.

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Chatbot Best Practices

If you're looking to build a chatbot to improve your business operations, it will benefit you to keep the following best practices in mind:

- Solve a business problem with a unique approach. Bots are best utilized when they are working to solve a business problem, as opposed to delivering entertainment. Businesses are used to using chatbots to solve common customer service problems. Make sure that your bot is solving a problem in a different way, with a different interface, or with a different kind of interaction.

- Design chatbots to maintain a conversation. Chatbots can be programmed to respond to keywords or to reference previous conversational threads. They should also be programmed to recognize spelling mistakes and to ask users to clarify their requests when necessary.

- Make your chatbot relevant. Chatbots are only as useful as the people who use them. If you are building a bot for your employees, make sure that employees find the bot useful. The same goes for customers.

- Provide value upfront. Make sure that your chatbot isn't just an automated version of an existing human system. A chatbot might be useful for some people, but you need to make sure that it is providing a value that people can't get from the existing systems that they're using every day.

- Use the right technology. There are many different platforms and resources that you can use to create a chatbot. Make sure that you are using the right one for the problem that you are trying to solve.

- Keep the design simple and focused. Chatbots thrive when they have a clear focus. They should be able to handle one main task, or a few related tasks, that involve the same input and output. You should be able to describe the chatbot's purpose in a single sentence.

- Focus on a single goal. The chatbot should be able to do only one thing well. If it's a travel bot, it should be able to book travel. If it's a food bot, it should be able to order food. Don't over complicate this process because that's when things start to slip through the cracks.

- Provide a clear call to action. The best chatbots provide users with a clear way to interact. The user should be able to identify the chatbot's purpose immediately, and should then know how to interact with it in order to get what they need.

The Future of Chatbot Technology

The future of chatbots in the workplace is an increasingly collaborative workspace. As chatbots enable workers to do their jobs more efficiently, they will free up time for workers to spend on more creative, less repetitive work. Chatbots will enable workers to focus more on the human element of their jobs by helping them communicate with clients, coworkers, and other stakeholders.

As these chatbots become more technologically advanced, they will be able to handle more complicated tasks and be able to communicate with each other, enabling them to provide more detailed and accurate answers to questions about company activities. Soon, they'll be able to handle most of the day-to-day tasks that managers and employees require, and communicate with each other to provide information about company operations and activities. Ultimately, we think that chatbots will eventually replace email and phone calls as the primary means of communication in the workplace.

As the chatbot industry matures, it will become the norm for companies to build their own customized chatbot solution for their workplace.

Are you interested in developing a chatbot for your organization? Crowdbotics can help! With a dedicated team of professional designers, developers, PMs, and engineers, we can help you implement the chatbot solutions that you need. Get in touch with us today for a detailed estimate!

Originally published:

August 30, 2021

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