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Chatting with Bots - More necessity than a science fiction

In the age where there are multiple applications involved in supply chain process, the knowledge about the customer orders is distributed. It has become a walk on the tight rope to keep the customer updated about the process of their order Vs cost to provide the information to the customer via customer service team or a complex BI solution. This blog opens a possibility of cost effective and light weight solution by introducing the 'Chatbot'.

The IT landscape involve multiple applications to fulfil every single order due to the nature of business, way the organization have evolved, number of business entities involved or due to the speciality of the applications. Below is the example of a manufacturing and retail organization

Pic 1 - Typical IT landscape

In this complex matrix, the traditional methods to keep the customer updated about the progress of their orders are as follows

  • Send text message or email about the status
  • Set up a customer service team to handle customer requests via call, text, email or chat

But the drawback of these conventional methods are that there is no single system which holds the moment of truth about every order. In order to avoid the customer service team juggling between applications, a complex BI reports are installed to oversee all applications resulting in even more complex IT landscape.

Alternative solution is that 'Chatbot'. According to Wikipedia, a chatbot is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. Customers can chat with Chatbot to get the information about their orders. Let's see why the Chatbot solution is cool.

Implementing the Chatbot:

PIC2.png

There are 2 main functionalities of Chatbots:

  • Receive and understand what the customer is saying, and
  • Retrieve the Customer information required

 In order to receive and understanding what customer is saying via chat, Chatbot uses Natural Language processing systems. Via artificial intelligence and machine learning, Chatbot is trained to understand the customer's request better. There are numerous cloud based chatbot development platforms can be leveraged to design, build and train the Chatbots. Oracle Cloud Platform or IBM Watson are examples of such Platform as a Service (PAAS)  solutions available.         


Text Box:  
Pic 3 - Example of a chat conversation in mobile
For retrieving the information required, the Chatbot uses web services to connect with each application. For example Order management Cloud has an Order Import Web service which can be involved by using the retail order number. Similar order information web service can be created. The Chatbot will have to invoke the web service and find out the best status of all the application and publish it to the customer.

Via these NLP and web services, implementing a Chatbot solution is easier than ever.

These Chatbots are not too bulky and intrusive like traditional BI solutions. They occupy less space in server or can be easily placed in Cloud as well.

Customer Experience:

Customer Experience, in short CX, is a major focus area for the organizations. With referral customers giving more business than new customers, the organization want the customer to be handled with care. The Chatbot will give the customers an unparalleled experience just like chatting with a human.

The Chatbot can chat in different language as preferred by the customer. In addition, Chatbot can be trained to reply on text or voice commends as well.

The Chatbot can be used on computer, tab or even mobile to give customer an excellent convenience.

Capex, What Capex?

 Setting up a multi-language enabled customer service team 24 x 7 or implementing a complex BI solution is far more costly for the organization. The cost and time to implement a Chatbot is far less when compared to the traditional methods. Readymade Chatbots are available which are already designed and built to a general extend. The implementation will be limited to involve the order information web services from various application and to train the Chatbots.

capex.png

The Chatbots can also be used for expediting an order if customer requires. Chatbot can send mails to the Production team in manufacturing facility with the chat history to ensure that the order is expedited.

With the technical advancements, Chatbots are even helping patients who suffer from Alzheimer's disease and insomnia.

To summarize, Chatbots are easy, simple and light weight applications that solve the major problem of keeping the customer engaged. So if you are chatting on a web site to know the status of your order, you may be chatting with a robot already!!!

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