Too often, adopting new technology within a corporate workplace is seen as a burden, rather than an opportunity. And while it’s certainly true that adding new tech tools requires the investment of time, effort, training and process improvement, these upfront costs must be carefully weighed against the advantages they provide (not to mention any first-mover advantage they may confer).

Automated bots are in this position now. Though they aren’t new (chatbots have technically been around since ELIZA in the 1950s), they’ve only recently turned the corner to mass market adoption.

As our ability to interact with and use artificial intelligence tools like bots grows, we’re likely to see major changes in the way these programs shape the future of the digital workplace.

Bots for Customer Service

Intuitively, it’s easy to understand that a better customer service experience leads to happier customers and more referrals. But, as new research is revealing, the factors that comprise that positive customer experience may not be the ones you’d expect.

 According to Ubisoft’s 2016 Mobile Messaging Report:

  • Consumers prefer businesses that are available to reply to questions and queries 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • 45 percent of consumers say they would choose messaging apps over email to get in touch with a business.
  • 49.4 percent of consumers would rather contact a business through messaging than phone.

What these statistics boil down to is the fact that consumers want to be able to contact companies on their schedule, and that they want to do so with as little effort as possible.

For these reasons, it’s unsurprising that chatbots have taken off as a tool for customer service. When implemented correctly, chat bots can take the form of an interactive FAQ section on your website; answering customer questions quickly, while also escalating queries that require more complex support from a live representative.

Tobias Goebel breaks down the financial case for using chatbots for customer service support on the Aspect blog:

“Let’s do some (simplified) math on a typical customer service inquiry: “where is my order” (WISMO). On average, a call with an agent in the call center costs the business about $2.50. Let’s assume that the cost per message (both directions) comes to 2 cents. With an average of 4 messages back and forth we would be at $0.08. That would mean $0.08 to do the same task with a digital employee, vs. $2.50 to complete it with a regular employee: savings of over 95%.”

Goebel goes on to project that if a business handling 5,000 such inquiries per day could convince 20% of its customers to use chatbots for simple requests, the total cost savings could be as much as $880K per year.

While your results may not be quite so significant, it’s easy to understand the potential financial benefits of using bots for customer service.

Bots for Sales & Marketing

In the same way that chatbots can be used to answer questions for your customers, they can be used to provide leads with the information they need to overcome their objections and become paying customers.

In a post for the Drift blog, Eric Devaney shares a statistic from Tippit stating that sales teams with business development reps (BDRs) converted 40% of their leads, compared to the 5% converted by those without BDRs.

future of the digital workplace bdrs

Devaney then goes on to argue that this critical BDR role doesn’t have to be done entirely by human employees, with all of their associated overhead costs and requirements. Instead, with the support of chatbots, BDRs could work more efficiently:

“Imagine if a BDR team could still collect information from leads and answer basic product questions in the middle of the night when all the actual BDRs were sleeping soundly in their beds. Another example: For BDRs who were suddenly flooded with a bunch of incoming chats, imagine if they could alert people automatically that response times might be a little longer than usual.”

As in the case of chatbots for customer service, bots could be used in a sales and marketing context to answer basic queries and provide the “human” touch that’s often required to move prospects down the sales funnel. Queries that require assistance beyond what the bot can provide could then be elevated to a human BDR, reserving their time for the hottest prospects.

Bots for Data Integrity

As any organization that uses a CRM system to manage prospect, lead and customer data knows, data integrity and cleanliness are vital to the system’s successful use. And, as it turns out, bots can be used to facilitate these efforts.

In a post for Medium, Tom Griffiths illustrates the way Chinese fashion site Meici uses its chatbot to gather data on site users:

future of the digital workplace chatbot

Once the chatbot records an initial interaction – one in which the participant is asked to respond with their gender – future interactions can be customized based on data the app has stored. Not only does this create a better experience for bot users, it gives Meici’s CRM database more segmentation information that can be used to tailor future engagements.

Beyond updating product preferences, chatbots could also be used to confirm the contact information of existing customers and, if changes have occurred, update their CRM records. The result would be cleaner data that can be used to support more personalized, appropriate interactions in the future.

Bots for Company Culture & Communications

Apart from customer interactions, chatbots are being eyed for their potential applications in facilitating internal communications. Take intranet systems as an example. In too many instances, intranets wind up working, effectively, as reference systems or central repositories, rather than the interactive engagement tools they could be.

Not only does failing to meet the intranet’s full potential functionality diminish the project’s overall ROI, it risks leaving remote workers without the collaboration resources needed to remain productive in distributed teams. This is becoming an even greater concern as more and more workers go remote; the Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report shares that “43 percent of Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely last year, up from 39 percent in 2012.”

Mary Brodie, writing for UX Magazine, sees bots as the answer to these challenges. Not only could a bot answer quick culture-related questions or send out employee-specific news updates; they could also help remote workers determine who to connect with regarding the work status of different projects.

“The user could ask the bot to show the projects that someone is working on, or ask to show projects in a particular department,” Brodie states. “The bot could then list the project names and you could request access to a specific project and the bot would arrange it. Or the bot may proactively suggest related projects that complement your work, or there may be a way to find a document that you need.”

This is something we’re working on within Interact’s intranet, though at this point, we’re talking mainly about our bots mirroring the search functionality. As an example, you might ask Interact’s bot in a conversational manner where to find the HR policy or who in the company can speak German. As we roll this feature out, there will also be external search capabilities that let you ask Interact’s bot about the weather or any other generic question, and it’ll go out to Google to search for you.

Bots for Productivity

It is this idea of searching for you or handling other tasks for you that clearly illustrates the potential bots have for personal and professional productivity. Centralizing different search and reporting features within a single bot has the potential to minimize the productivity lost to switching between tasks; which, according to some estimates, may take away more than 40% of your focus.

As an example, take Reveal Bot, which automatically loads Facebook Ads performance data to a user’s Slack channel:

future of the digital workplace reveal bot

The bot can be programmed with rules controlling both the data that should be reported via Slack and the actions that should be taken when this data meets certain parameters (for example, triggering a pause if campaign spend hits a predetermined threshold).

What’s most intriguing about the way the bot works, as demonstrated by the image above, is that the bot’s reports occur within the communication channel the team is already using (in this case, Slack). There’s no more logging into Facebook’s back-end to view data, or even waiting on emailed reports that still require changing between different programs to view. Team communications can happen instantaneously alongside the report, without any productivity being lost to task-switching.

The Future of Bots

While it remains to be seen which departments and industries take to bots as communication tools, it’s clear that they hold enormous potential to reshape both the workplace and the digital environment at large.

Can you see your company adopting the use of bots? If so, can you imagine any other uses beyond those shared above? Leave us a note below with your thoughts either way.