Keep Your Chatbot Out of the Silo

smart, city, chatbots, IoT

By Avi Benezra

Silos are one of IT’s anathemas and while many businesses have launched their first generations of chatbots in a standalone fashion, to ensure future utility and extracting valuable data from them, future bots need to be accessible to other digital services, and able to import data from elsewhere.

The joy of the cloud tech world is that most data is available across a modern business. Yet for all the joined-up companies out there, there are still plenty who have a key spreadsheet in accounting, various incompatible databases for sales, stock and parts, while marketing carefully guards its analytics results and other files that “cannot” be shared, all locked in the dreaded silo.

Most company’s keep their silos out of the headlines until the time comes to create a digital business, a unified view of the company or whatever the project is called. But, one general consumer example shows even the mighty Apple can’t string all that data together yet. Here’s their iOS Health app showing that the amount of steps people take each day takes into no account the (terrible) recent weather or other pertinent data.

When apps, chatbots or other services pretend to take an interest in our lives, that kind of detail or lack of it can help make the difference in someone engaging or not.

Some people would love it if their apps recognised they took the bus rather than walk to school or work in poor weather. Or, if the health app understood someone had the flu or their Calendar app listed a recent doctor’s appointment.

Those little caveats noted as pleasant comments such as “understandable given the weather” or “that’s fine since you might have been poorly recently” could help make someone feel more appreciated and less like the app is passing a blanket judgment.

That type of logic applies to big business too, who would want to hear from a sales rep when you are already a client, due to different databases? How many times has someone in sales tried to sell a product that’s sold-out or discontinued?

With joined-up businesses that dig their data out of silos, making it accessible can reap great benefits. Yes, many companies have to overcome internal politics and power struggles, vendor lock-in, general intransigence and other issues, but in the age of AI and chatbots, every company needs to make their data work harder.

Make Sure Your Chatbot Chats to Other Systems

Once the data becomes available, companies can find “the truth” when it comes to their performance or how all the parts of the business are doing when all that information can be shown on a dashboard. Enlightening times for most, perilous ones for those who took advantage of silos, and the same can be said for chatbots.

Of those early chatbots that were operated in isolation, perhaps because they were a beta or test pilot, many thousands have just vanished because the department in charge didn’t like the results and killed them stone dead. However, was their bot answering the right questions, did it have the latest information, and could it have worked better in concert with some other data?

Today’s chatbots use APIs to connect to AI services like natural language processing, deep thought, search, translation tools and other useful tools. The bots can also share their results from key metrics like time-saved to successful outcomes. As companies transform themselves into digital businesses, analytics becomes a critical part of how the company reacts.

Chatbots need to deliver this across all relevant departments, and the leadership, so they can see the value of chatbots and AI. Expanding access to these insights to all workers is vital in helping them understand the value of bots and helping transform a business. Limiting that data to a few “experts” or data scientists will not help.

A growing number of chatbot solutions come with easy to publish analytics or data that can be linked to other tools. Bots can even deliver the results themselves with internal chatbots providing the latest stats on request to the sales team, managers, which helps the business learn to get the best from chatbots and think of new ways to use them. That’s just one way chatbots can change how users interact with data, helping those who don’t like using dashboards or wading through traditional spreadsheets.

How Bots Impact Business and Consumers

Businesses and enterprises led by high volume companies like banks, utilities, airlines and hotels lead the way, demonstrating savings and efficiency, plus the scalability of chatbots. By spreading the news and sharing data on chatbots beyond silos, other areas of the business, partners and even rivals can see the value. That cat is out of the bag now, so keeping your chatbot data a secret offers no value.

Consumers are also rapidly becoming used to chatbots and virtual assistants that are joined up to other services. They expect chatbots to do and offer more, so the business needs to keep adding new types of requests to keep pace with customer demand and show them your business understands their true value, if customers see a company offering a token siloed chatbot, they won’t think of it in a positive way.

Bots also need to offer a broader level of support, able to link to a real person if needed, to use voice mode, or to get in touch with the customer when a piece of information from an original chat has changed, be it an item in stock or an appointment cancelled. Being proactive will make the bots more useful and a better part of the customer’s day.

All of these improvements require chatbots to break out of their silos and get in touch with other services to make the experience better for the business and to help the business see the true results of these experiences to understand how to continue to make them better, because yesterday’s chatbot will need to keep up with tomorrow’s needs and ambitions across the business and beyond.

Keep Your Chatbot Out of the Silo – TNTIC October 26, 2019

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