Every day, hundreds of millions of people use Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack and other messaging platforms to communicate with their colleagues, friends and family. This trend indicates that messaging and speech-based platforms are displacing traditional web and mobile apps to become the new medium for interactive conversations.

For business owners and managers, ASC Creative believes that conversational chatbots will change every aspect of when, where and how you engage and communicate with your customers, allowing communication at all hours of the day and night, across multiple channels, and in multiple languages and geographic locations. When integrated to your internal legacy systems, these conversational chatbots become Operations Bots (OpBots).

Here are three of our predictions for OpBots:

1. OpBots will replace much of the functionality in a website
Historically websites are created to market a product or service and provide general information. They are separate data environments and platforms, with some adding more sophisticated value by facilitating commercial transactional processing (ecommerce, banking, etc.). Sites require specially coded forms, etc, but the primary information gathering is still from the user typing at a keyboard.

Adding a conversational chatbot allows a much deeper form of integration. Integrating the conversational chatbot to a backend system (accounting or ERP in our example) allows the user to ask more questions that require more complex processing. This is the very definition of an OpBot.

If the OpBot can provide information about a product and service, AND initiate sophisticated transactions, such as recording time on a time sheet or intelligently responding to a customer services support request, then websites and mobile applications need to step up their game. Moreover some chatbots can be integrated to receive requests from other messaging applications, such as Slack, Mattermost, and Whatsapp so that a user can start a conversation with the chatbot engine without having to use a website. If a person can start a transaction from a familiar application, why would that person sit at a computer and open a browser to do the same thing. It’s counter-intuitive.

2. OpBots will simplify customer and technical support for every type of company.
For progressive businesses, especially smaller ones, customer service is a significant investment and revenue generator, either actively or passively. Even if the business doesn’t charge for customer service as an explicit line item, the cost of it is included in the cost of the product or service.

A.I.- based OpBots allow conversation at scale, and not typically dependent on the number or availability of support reps. They can provide personalized support responses, and even initiate customer data or technical updates. With an A.I.-based OpBot, a reduction of 10 of the support costs goes straight to the bottom line. In 2017, IBM reported a 30% cost reduction, with virtual agents costing $1 per query. What business doesn’t want that?

3. OpBots will introduce the next level of distributed online search capability.
Google and other search engines are centralized search engines borne out of a time and place where there was none before them. They have grown into mammoth businesses, but at the end of the day, the search engines use other people’s data to provide their search services.

But not all data is freely available, nor should it be. As a business owner, there is naturally much of your internal data that you don’t what visible beyond the confines of your business.

We believe that OpBots will allow the next secure layer of accessibility, through user-driven personalized searching, which includes unique internal search capabilities and inter-organizational searching.

If there are ten’s of thousands of business owners who want to selectively allow search of internal data, what about the idea of co-operatively connecting sub-sets of data to enhance your respective data and services? Having a OpBot integrated with your supply chain, so that it could query your own inventory AND your supplier’s, could mean fundamentally different looking supply chains that today.

What do you think? Please send me an email with your thoughts.