Bots – Amicus ITS dips its toes in the art of conversation with our baby bot ‘Ami’

  

At Amicus ITS, with Spring looming at last, we are considering taking our first baby steps to explore the world of smart bot technology.  Developing a bot as a new route of engagement and communication is an experiment, demanding fresh thinking, analysis, reflection and nurture from us all.  We are up for the challenge.  However, just because Amicus ITS is a tech firm and IT solution provider, there’s no assumption that the route to adoption is a given.  It needs to be a positive compliment alongside our existing customer service.  Our baby bot, affectionately christened Amicus ‘Ami‘ by one of our Sales team, will have to prove herself, not just by being a smart technology, but by developing a good working vocabulary.  Her first words we hope will focus on helping customers with general sales enquiries before she has any chance of graduating to anything grander.

Why develop a bot?

The potential for AI in customer service is twofold. With machine learning and Neural Linguistic Programming it can seamlessly give customers the right information they need at the right time by offering self-service options and eliminating the need for a call to a service centre. Secondly, AI has the potential to give customer service representatives more information to help them handle the complicated issues that self-service cannot resolve.

Our instincts to start this journey now in our business lifecycle are borne out by the latest statistics.  At this week’s #MarketingExpo at London’s Excel, chatbots were trending as a key topic of conversation.  34% of call centres in the UK are stated as using AI now, with the expectation that this will rise to 68% by the end of 2018.

The human bit

How we as people communicate and our responses to different types of engagement, is fundamental to the art of good conversation and we have to seek to provide a great customer experience with Ami.  Yielding positive results in a customer’s interactions with a business through a bot has commercial potential in the long term.  But for now, it’s all about getting it right.   We know that a bot should not pretend to be a person.  If we can ensure Ami provides provide relevant information, answers and signposts for you, some of you will enjoy trying this route of enquiry.  But there will always be our people too, alongside and behind Ami, always on hand 24×365 to help support you in every way we can.

B2B

Having a bot in a B2B environment is perhaps less straightforward than if we were in the retail trade. However, there is as much opportunity to make a difference if we do this well.  Amy will need to become customer savvy if she’s to make a difference and be welcomed as part of our service family.  We are keen for our bot not to be a turn off and we would love to include you in helping raise this tech child!  There will be a feedback option built in to the platform when it’s launched in a few months time.  If you do choose to comment, you will help in our education too!  So, watch this space for news as we look forward to becoming a digital parent to this disruptive technology child.   What do you think of bots?   Let’s start the conversation!

 

Bot technology offers a new era in seamless business support

Conversational apps and services, such as Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana have managed to find a way into peoples’ everyday lives as a way of finding answers to questions, quickly.

These conversational apps, also called ‘Bots’ which are a form of Artificial Intelligence (AI), are not limited to just answering questions, but can, using ‘natural conversation’ enable users to interact with services (be it ordering a pizza without looking at a traditional menu, or providing technical support to an employee’s PC issue).

Bots can be interacted with by either voice or text and can come in the form of a website, an app, or integration into existing services such as:  Skype for Business; Facebook Messenger; Cortana; Microsoft Teams and more. Bots can be accessed via a wide range of devices from smart phones to laptops and even devices without screens.

So why should businesses consider developing their own Bots?

The advantages of Bots to a business should be obvious – without the need of a dedicated and extensive support desk to handle queries for your own website, app or service, you could bake in support for bots inside your own website, app or service.  This way users would have access to the same support tools using natural conversation, without leaving the screen that requires assistance.

Bots can work well on their own, but they work even better with the help of humans when they hit the limit of their coded knowledge.   Bots are primarily programme driven but are inevitably only be as good as they are designed and coded by humans.  The Bot experience is intended to be seamless to the user, even if the Bot’s script has reached its end and it needs to interface to get guidance from a service desk.  The user talking to the Bot just enjoys a single trafficked conversation without seeing any splits.

The disadvantages at the start of the Bot technology process was in the creation period as building a coding system from scratch to handle conversational queries and integrate across known and used services was a monumental task. The good news however is that a lot of this work has now been done and is being made available as a foundation to consumers to build their own Bots. Microsoft is currently taking the lead in this area with its own Bot Framework, currently in preview.

Bots are no longer reserved by the technical giants of the world.  With the tools to create Bots having been developed and distributed, this makes Bots accessible to a wide array of devices and services. We will soon see a lot more Bots out in the wild from a wide variety of businesses and tech hobbyists. This influx in Bots could impact the technical landscape in a similar way that mobile Apps achieved when their tools became readily available – like with the original arrival of Apps in 2008 for Apple with the iPhone 3G.  So those who can make a strong brand early on will see stronger success as the platform evolves over time – and Bots could become a regular feature as part of the service desk toolkit for IT Managed Service Providers in future.