While everyone bemoans the loss of human jobs to automation, AI bots can make a huge difference in ensuring the efficiency of knowledge workers.
Just a few years ago, no one had heard of a chatbot. But chatbots, or software programs that use messaging as the interface through which to carry out any number of tasks, are gaining traction. According to a new survey by customer service AI firm LivePerson with 5,000 respondents from six countries, 38 percent of individuals rated their overall perception of chatbots as positive.
In terms of how they’re used in the workplace, chatbots are most commonly implemented for customer service purposes, and 67 percent of survey respondents interacted with them in this way. However, 56 percent of respondents said they still prefer to speak with a human instead of a chatbot, and nearly 50 percent of respondents said they prefer a chatbot that solved their issue over a chatbot that had a personality. Currently, use for productivity purposes such as scheduling is lower in all countries.
Another new study by IT community SpiceWorks covered in VentureBeat found that among companies that have adopted chatbots for work-related tasks, Apple’s Siri is currently the most commonly used, with 52 percent of organizations using it and an additional nine percent planning to use it by the end of 2017.
Cortana, which is a basic component of the popular Windows 10 operating system, is used by 45 percent of organizations, and an additional 21 percent are planning to adopt it in 2017. In comparison, 45 percent of companies expect to use Google Assistant by the end of the year.
Today’s chatbots aren’t perfect, as the AI technology that powers them is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, their use produces many benefits – and it isn’t difficult to get started. First, most bots don’t require any new tools. Typically, they can be used on top of existing communications platforms so employees don’t have to learn yet another interface. And many of the most popular bots have arrived in the workplace via consumerization, meaning that employees were already accustomed to using the technology in their personal lives.
Bots can make administrative tasks like time-entry and expense reporting faster and slightly more entertaining, and if the bane of your existence is getting responses from other human colleagues, your life will get a whole lot easier with a bot to chase down people for you. After all, a bot doesn’t get tired of pestering people, and the pestered people in question can’t exactly get annoyed with a bot.
In my opinion, though, the best thing about chatbots is their ability to facilitate team communication and decision-making. Instant messages tend to appear front and center for people, making it less likely that a chatbot communication will be ignored as an email might be. The chatbot framework also makes it simpler for teams to “pow wow” virtually and to decide on a course of action without having to wade through an endless email thread or wait until everyone can meet in person.
There aren’t any hard or fast rules for chatbot usage, but I’d recommend ensuring you’re on the same page with your team regarding the tasks for which chatbots should be used, and the situations for which it’s more appropriate to engage human-to-human. Chatbots should help us be more productive and free us up to focus on more strategic work, but not at the expense of meaningful interaction.