IBM reckons that chatbots can handle 80% of queries currently handled by your staff or customer support, helpdesk and other agents. These and other significant numbers are driving chatbot adoption into the mainstream, as most businesses realise the value of bots both for the company and customers.
The typical market report for chatbots (cost $3,950) highlights the key drivers pushing this technology forward. They include the rising popularity of interactive online channels for all types of customers, and the sea change driven by fast-growing adoption across multiple industry verticals.
Dragging chatbots back are the concerns over lack of personal service, in some cases the high cost and technical complexities for the business plus a general lack of awareness, often among leadership.
At the ground level, businesses see bots as useful for their 24/7 operation, immediate response, ability to scale to large numbers of chats through the cloud and power of translation and AI tools to address a wider customer base and manage smarter questions.
The key stats for chatbots
IBM’s 80% statistic is something that should get any business thinking. It also highlights the huge volume global companies face, with 265 billion customer support requests made every year, costing businesses $1.3 trillion to service them. Countering that, according to Global Market Insights, by 2024, the overall market size for chatbots worldwide would be over $1.3 billion as businesses acquire and develop new chatbots and services.
Yet, according to Drift’s State of Conversational Marketing (free) report, only 13% of customers are currently using a chatbot. That’s below apps (28%), social media (28%), online chat (28%) and more traditional methods. Yet chatbots can easily be deployed in all of those areas to save worker time and effort in responding. Suggesting that the 13% number will continue to grow quickly, some 40% of consumers no longer mind if they talk to a bot or a person.
While your business might have fixed views about deploying a chatbot, customers are happy to use them in a variety of ways, with 32% seeking answers to questions, 29% looking for detail, 27% solving a problem, 27% for general customer service and 23% already happy to pay bills by bot. (see the Drift report).
And with call centre staff turnover hitting record levels, and your workers’ time more valuable working on revenue-generating tasks rather than babysitting customers, bots remain the way forward. When writing about bots, we see them being used in many different markets and channels, but the customers show a preference toward using them for: retailers (40%), health (22%), utilities (21%), entertainment (20%), finance (20%) and travel (15%) (via Drift report).
Depending on where your customers are, you may find different response rates when it comes to deploying chatbots. According to Reports’ Collect.chat, leading countries with engagement are the U.S. (36%), India (11%), Germany (4%) and the U.K. (3%).
All of these figures come with a degree of lag, as many chatbot users are keen to keep their results to themselves for competitive advantage, and others are still learning their way in the chatbot and messaging space.
What is clear that chatbots can be applied to most of the current customer interaction use cases, including voice service thanks to AI understanding, translation to different languages, and smarter bots can answers questions that haven’t been asked before. All of this will see the figures in the coming years accelerate at a phenomenal rate.
The future is bright for chatbots
Some figures show just how quickly bots and virtual assistants, digital concierges and other characters could take over. By 2020, IT research firm Gartner reports that organisations report a reduction of up to 70% in call, chat and/or email inquiries after implementing a chatbot or virtual customer assistant. They reckon that customers will manage 85% of their interactions with businesses without interacting with a person, while by 2020, 30% of all B2B companies will employ artificial intelligence (AI) to augment at least one of their primary sales processes.
According to marketing firm Outgrow, Some 80% of businesses are expected to have some sort of chatbot automation by 2020. And, cross-channel support will become the norm, where the bot knows who you are regardless of where you chat. And if you come back later, the same chatbot should know your conversation and case history so it can be helpful.
Looking further ahead, by 2021, more than 50% of enterprises will spend more annually on chatbots creation than traditional mobile app development according to Gartner, highlighting a major shift in development priorities. And, by 2022, cost savings from the use of chatbots may hit over $8 billion according to Juniper Research, with savings in the bank vertical alone to reach $7.3 billion by 2023, as the automated customer experience becomes the norm and evolves across all channels.
You can dive further into these reports for more detail, but if they don’t show clearly which way the market is headed, then you should probably look at your market for the growing number of success stories, or those in related fields.
While there will be missteps, and blowback thanks to some rare headline-making negative customer experiences, the thrust of chatbots into the limelight will continue, until they are just another part of the customer service and business landscape, working both internally and for external clients, helping the business hire, manage and train staff, while keeping all customers happy.
Chris Knight writes about where technology will take us next, from the power of neural networks, artificial intelligence and chatbots, to the endless worlds promised by augmented and virtual reality. From the latest in gadgets and hardware to how digital businesses can use technology to grow, Chris makes the future clear and understandable to all.