Chatbots will pay off for enterprises (but not so much for workers)

As artificial intelligence and automation extend deeper into the enterprise, many employees worry they eventually will be replaced by a machine/computer/robot/program worker that is more efficient, doesn’t take breaks or call in sick — and never goofs off on Instagram.

For these people, I have bad news: Chatbot makers are sucking up venture capital dollars.

Business Insider (BI) has the lowdown:

  • Investments in chatbot companies jumped 229% in 2016 from the year before.
  • Business-to-business (B2B) bots are drawing the most interest from investors, rather than more visible consumer-facing bots.
  • Chatbots have the potential to help enterprises “significantly” reduce labor costs.

“While complete automation of the customer service workforce is not feasible — and in many cases, ineffective — automating customer management and sales positions in the U.S. where possible through chatbots and other automation technologies could result in considerable savings,” writes BI Intelligence.

Citing McKinsey research, BI Intelligence notes that “29% of customer service positions in the U.S. could be automated through chatbots and other tech,” which would result in the estimated equivalent of $23 billion in savings from annual salaries. Further, BI says, that 36% of sales rep positions in the U.S. could be automated, accounting for at least $15 billion in salaries.

Remember, coffee is for the chatbots that close 😉

BI Intelligence has a detailed (and gated) report about the chatbot economy that explores the pros and cons of chatbots, among other things. Some key takeaways include some disturbing news to us humans:

  • AI has reached a stage in which chatbots “can have increasingly engaging and human conversations”
  • Chatbots are “particularly well suited for mobile”
  • The chatbot ecosystem is is teeming with third-party chatbots, native bots, distribution channels, and enabling technology
  • Chatbots could be a perfect fit for messaging apps and developers who build bots for these platforms

Let’s just hope the chatbots that eventually lay us off are programmed with extra empathy code.


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