The headline at CNET said it all: All hail Mark Zuckerberg, king of the bots.
“Zuckerberg,” they wrote, “is betting on chatbots, software powered by artificial intelligence that can perform simple tasks: compose an email, book travel plans or figure out why your cable just went out. Send a text to a chatbot in a messaging app, and the software automatically jumps into gear to serve you.”
Chatbots are not unique to Facebook, though. You’ve probably already encountered a chatbots in the wild either serving you up the latest weather forecast, updating you with details of your flights, reminding you about an upcoming business trip, or keeping you informed about the progress of your delivery pizza.
As mobile personal assistants like Apple’s Siri or Alexa, Amazon’s incredibly popular assistant on the Echo platform, become more popular and ubiquitous, and increasingly able to understand what humans mean rather than what they just say, bots are becoming a part of the daily life of millions. That role is only going to expand further, with Zuckerberg revealing in his most recent keynote address that he’s working on a personal butler bot for his home.
There’s a reason that tech giants like Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google are embracing chatbots: the public love them. Anything that helps to smooth the communication and lessen the influx of texts, emails, newsletters, reminders, and phone calls needed to get through the normal everyday tasks that everyone faces is a winning idea. What’s more, if the communication can be automated as with a chatbot it can then be scaled so as to solve the small and repetitive problems that millions encounter daily.
And this is where a conversational user experiencer is so important. The real revolution that arrives with chatbots is that all the actions of clicking and navigating on the internet as we have become used to in the last 25 years could be replaced by speaking and writing, which is something we have been accustomed to for thousands of years. Chatbots will help make our technological interactions more human once again.
But while the consumer facing chatbots have attracted much of the press attention, the business facing chatbots that are already emerging and will soon emerge are set to revolutionize the way that business-to-business enterprise is conducted.
Imagine that you’re a stock trader charged with managing the money of your enterprise clients. You consult charts, data, make calls, read the market, and make your calls. You’re the essential middleman between the numbers and the investors, and you’re irreplaceable.
Or at least you were irreplaceable.
With the continuing advances in both artificial intelligence and the rise of chatbots, the role of the stock trader is going to change significantly, if not be replaced altogether. Consider how a chatbot with access to the same data might deal with a client by simple chat:
INVESTOR: “Should I shift any positions today?
CHATBOT: Suggest selling off $10K of Smith Inc. to invest in Jones Inc.
CHATBOT: Smith Inc. is experiencing management changes. Jones Inc. is reporting stronger East Asian sales. Will you approve the trade?
CHATBOT: OK. I will contact you again when the trade is complete.”
Simple as that, the trade is progress and the chatbot checks back in when it’s all done.
The morning phone call to the broker? A thing of the past. The daily check in to a portfolio web dashboard? No longer necessary. And the trader? Well, they’re barely needed are they? A smart chatbot with access to the same data, following a specific algorithm, and responding at lightning speed around the clock is far more efficient than a trader trying to communicate with multiple clients across a variety of time zones and using disparate technologies while trying to keep ahead of the market.
The chatbot that replaces the trader is faster, more flexible, and harder working than any human, and the end of the trading middleman is clearly in sight.
But it isn’t just traders who should be worried.
Chatbots and Marketing
The world of marketing remains, for the most part, dominated by marketing agencies. Despite the growing proportion of work completed by freelance teams and outsourced to experts outside of the agency system, the retainer-fueled agency remains the first port of call for many seeking to market their businesses at home and abroad.
Yet technology in general and chatbots in particular are challenging this agency-first instinct. Chatbots connected to a marketplace of freelance marketers will allow business small and large to launch a marketing campaign with nothing more than a few short messages. A marketing chatbot with the access to data and analytical tools of the same caliber as the stock trading chatbot will prove more than capable of launching, tracking, and reporting on a marketing campaign. Consider the following exchange:
BUSINESS: “I want to improve my marketing in the UK. Where should I focus?
CHATBOT: What website would you like to focus on?
CHATBOT: OK. I’ll analyze the site and get back to you fast.”
CHATBOT: The best option is probably a series of articles focused on the keywords alpha, beta, and gamma. The price would be £1500 over 3 months. Should we launch?
BUSINESS: No. My budget is £1000.
CHATBOT: The best option at £1000 is a series of articles focused on the keywords alpha and beta. The price would be £1000 over 3 months. Should we launch?
Simple as that, the marketing campaign is underway.
Like the trading chatbot, the marketing chatbot is smart enough to analyze the relevant data and communicate a plan. What’s more, the chatbot can react to requests like a diminished budget or a narrower focus on the behalf of a business. And best of all, the entire campaign can be planned without having to pay a single dollar as a retainer to an agency: the business pays only for the marketing it wants and it can be delivered on demand.
Betting on the Chatbots
When Mark Zuckerberg talks the world listens, and when the Facebook CEO starts talking up chatbots you can be sure there are going to be many who will be embracing the technology along with him. More than just a friendly voice on a smartphone or a friendly assistant changing your Spotify playlist at home, chatbots and the underlying AI are going to impact the work that we do and even the types of jobs that we have.
The Gordon Geckos and Don Drapers of the future are going to be chatbots and working with them, rather than against them, is going to be the only way forward.