Home' MHD Supply Chain Solutions : MHD May-Jun 2017 Contents T
he channels used by customers to interact
with businesses have changed significantly
in recent times. Where once face-to-face
and phone interactions were the most popular,
newer options are rapidly gaining ground.
Of all the new communication channels, the
fastest growing is instant messaging. Rather
than using asynchronous options such as
email, customers are looking to interact with a
business via a real-time conversation, or chat.
The benefits for customers are clear. Rather
than having to wait for answers to queries or
confirmation of transactions, they can receive
information instantly. They no longer need to
spend time waiting in phone queues or send
repeated emails to have an issue resolved.
However, for logistics and warehousing
businesses, this trend creates a challenge.
They need to find an effective way to undertake
real-time chat interactions with large numbers
of customers simultaneously. Each customer
needs to receive fast, conversational responses
that fulfil their requirements.
To overcome this challenge, growing numbers
of businesses are harnessing the power of
chatbots. Designed to automate the chat
process, they can boost efficiency and allow
multiple interactions to occur at the same time.
What is a chatbot?
In essence, a chatbot is a program that interacts
automatically with a user. When used by a
business, the chatbot, rather than a human,
responds to incoming instant messages and
Interest in chatbots is increasing because
their capabilities are on the rise. New research
and learning technologies are helping bots
learn and perfect their knowledge by using
databases. Increasingly, the responses provided
by a chatbot in a messaging exchange are
indistinguishable from those that would be given
by a human being.
As they evolve, chatbots are able to come up
with responses and content that’s relevant to the
meaning that has been drawn from the user’s
sentences. Rather than simply giving canned
responses, this means that replies are tailored
to each individual customer, thereby adding
significantly more value to the exchange.
Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are
what’s driving this development. AI allows
chatbots to understand natural language,
identify meaning and emotion, and craft
Machine learning is also important, as it
allows a chatbot to learn from experience and
from data gathered from a range of different
sources. Over time, the capabilities of the
chatbot continue to improve.
Types of chatbots
The number of chatbots being used by
businesses is climbing rapidly, however, they
can be grouped into four different categories.
1. Service chatbots. These are designed, as their
name suggests, to provide valuable services to
customers. This could be used by a logistics
firm to respond to questions about deliveries
and provide copies of dispatch documents.
All this can be achieved through an instant
messaging channel rather than the customer
needing to resort to email or a phone call.
2. Commercial chatbots. This type of chatbot
is designed to streamline purchases for
customers. One example is a pizza company
that deploys a chatbot that can take orders via
Facebook Messenger. Customers can find their
local store, select their pizza, and even pay
via the Messenger platform. The bot can also
inform customers of any current promotions.
3. Entertainment chatbots. These chatbots are
designed to keep customers engaged with their
sporting team, favourite band or entertainment.
They can provide details on upcoming events
and ticket deals. For sports events, they
can also offer the option of placing bets on
outcomes, all via a messaging interface. The
chatbot can also encourage customers to
interact via a branded Facebook page.
4. Experiential chatbots. This category covers
chatbots designed to offer customers support
over an extended period. The chatbot
can proactively contact people and offer
support and advice tips. By reacting to their
responses in real time, the chatbot can give
the support exactly when it’s needed.
The benefit to business
The proportion of people using instant messaging
on a daily basis is continuing to grow. Indeed, for
the millennial generation, web chat and social
media are their primary contact channels.
With instant messaging poised to steal the
lead from every other communication channel,
chatbots provide brands with a huge opportunity
to enrich, if not reinvent, the customer service
Chatbots represent a new, more modern
form of customer assistance for logistics and
warehousing companies. Only by being agile and
experimental can a brand remain at the cutting
edge of technological innovation and ahead of
competitors. Chatbots provide this opportunity.
They need to be viewed not just as a
technical novelty that is a passing trend, but as
the next step in the evolution of how businesses
interact with their customers. By investing
in their development and deployment now,
businesses can be sure they are providing the
most relevant experience for their customers.
Steve Barker is the chief operating officer of
Sitel ANZ. For more information call
+61 2 8667 3021 or visit www.sitel.com.
HOW CHATBOTS HELP
HOW CHATBOTS CAN
HELP LOGISTICS IMPROVE
MHD SUPPLY CHAIN SOLUTIONS — MAY / JUNE 2017
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