Chatbots: The Future of CRM and AI

CRM is becoming more and more entwined with artificial intelligence. Whether it’s Salesforce’s Einstein, or Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, all these features rely on AI. So, what will be the main focus in 2018 for CRM providers? Simply put, chatbots.

With companies scrambling to improve user experiences, chatbots are undoubtedly going to be an area of concentrated effort, as will automated data entry into CRM from external sources (e.g. email). Chatbots in their current state aren’t the most well-rounded, so companies are hurrying to improve them before consumers get bored or fed up with the experience and their basic functions.

E-mail CRM vs Chatbots

According to a report conducted by Forrester Research, 31% of companies used chatbots in 2016 or planned to do so in 2017. It’s clear that a lot of the major brands will be slowly transferring their customer service email channels to real-time chatbot communications. Not only will this new two-way conversation with customers be beneficial in terms of time spent dealing with queries, but it will also lower costs.

Chatbots aren’t a new concept at all. In fact, they’ve been around for the best part of the last 50 years. Their popularity waned, but in the last five years the world has seen a new surge in interest.

There’s a good reason for this. For one they’re always available and it’s a more attractive option than visiting a FAQ page for a customer. If done correctly, an interaction with a chatbot will be a faster and easier means of finding out an answer, allowing customer service agents more time to solve more complex issues.

For example, there are airlines that have an AI system that monitors web communications between customers and agents. This allows the AI system to provide suggestions for responses to speed up the process. In these instances, customers won’t even know that an AI is involved.

Creating better chatbots

Depending on different needs, companies look for their chatbots in different places. Companies such as IBM, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft all offer chatbots, but there are smaller enterprises that offer chatbots specialising in specific things (Creative Virtual, Inbenta, IPsoft).

Currently, most chatbots use a decision tree structure, which is a basic form of interactive system. The future though is set to see chatbots improve, thanks to the evolution of AI. We’ll most likely start seeing additional features like an ability to understand words, an improvement in their ability to resolve problems, and the ability to understand intent from words.

What companies need to realise though is that chatbots won’t be replacing humans any time soon, but they will be able to improve efficiency for things like basic account management, password resetting, etc.

However, chatbots don’t exist just to make consumers lives easier. In the future, AI will see the inclusion of chatbots that can go beyond analysing emails to recommend next best actions and understand requests. With more complex chatbots, companies will allow their sellers to chase and allocate most of their time for the best leads. Forrester Research projects that if used effectively AI will increase revenues by 5%-10%.

All in all, chatbots and NLP (natural language processing systems) are on the horizon for CRM and AI. They will have to work alongside contact centre agents, and not exist independently. They’ll definitely improve efficiency if implemented correctly, but companies need to take things one step at a time and they shouldn’t even consider replacing humans with them. At least not any time soon.