Once upon a time, in the late '90s and early 2000s, chatbots were just annoying pop-ups that kept invading the screen of a website visitor. They just repeated their few pre-written messages, trying to help customers and users to the best of their – quite scarce – abilities. They were lacking in a core aspect that was not yet developed well enough: artificial intelligence (AI). The first chatbots were not smart enough to communicate with humans in a credible way, being nothing but relatively simple scripts.

Today, times have changed, and new machine-learning capabilities are bringing chatbots to the next level. They’re smart, they can learn and evolve, and they can be used to improve a business’ efficiency in a lot of new, unique ways. With 80 percent of businesses wanting to implement them by 2020, enterprise chatbot platforms might represent the new must-have automation toolset in the upcoming years. (For more on AI trends, see 5 Ways Companies May Want to Consider Using AI.)

What Is an Enterprise Chatbot Platform?

Today, AI is a workforce on its own, to the point that every company wants to develop its own automation tools to overcome the many challenges specific to that industry. Chatbot platforms are simple and accessible toolsets used to build and deploy chatbots without having to code the bot from scratch. Many of these platforms come equipped with their own AI, coupled with many other interesting components such as machine learning and natural language processing.

Now every business can use one of these platforms to build its own customized bots, which are scalable enough to be trained until they fit their particular needs. The bots can now assimilate knowledge that comes from many different sources other than simply chat logs, such as documents, emails and CRM data, and use it to learn independently and dynamically.

They can also perform a wide spectrum of diverse tasks, including monitoring data or acting as virtual assistants, and can be easily accessed by that enterprise’s own IT department, with no need to hire external companies. Many of these platforms even include full integration with popular messaging platforms such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, Telegram or WhatsApp.

How Enterprise Chatbot Platforms can Change the Way Business Is Done

Chatbots are no longer just a slightly annoying customer care tool that subtly tells your clients that you’re either too poor or too lazy to hire a real employee. Modern software has significantly enhanced their AI, especially since they can now gather a lot of information in the blink of an eye without having to juggle between multiple applications. They’re more than just able to aid customers with their queries – they can do it instantly.

Besides that, they allow consumers to get their information 24/7 on their favorite social media and messaging platforms. They’re so smart, that 44 percent of U.S. consumers already claim they prefer a chatbot over a human. They can create polls, get clients’ feedback and gather their data anonymously. And after they've consumed all that user’s data, they can later use it to improve that business’ marketing efforts.

But the internal uses of chatbots are even more helpful to companies who strive for efficiency. They can be used by businesses to automate their internal operations by performing many mundane and repetitive administrative tasks. They can save finance and human resources departments’ precious time that would be wasted on scheduling and logging leaves and holidays for example, or setting appointments and answering employee questions about payments.

Or they can assist vendors and suppliers with vital information about payments and invoices, significantly reducing the burden of email overload. They can also efficiently handle those same payments step by step, including writing checks and logging into the bank account with no waste of paper, all from a messaging application.

Project management chatbots can also be used as virtual assistants that help admins organize their tasks in an efficient and cost-effective way to maximize productivity. The entire project management process is streamlined by automating internal team communication. Team members can receive recommendations, updates and deadline reminders in real time, while the bot tracks the expenses and monitors each task individually.

Current and Future Perspectives

To sum up why the introduction of enterprise chatbot platforms might revolutionize the way business is done, there’s a striking similarity with what WordPress did to website building. Each company can now build its own customized solution without the need to hire a full team of coders and programmers, meaning that chatbots are not a luxury anymore. (For more on AI's use in sales, see How Artificial Intelligence Will Revolutionize the Sales Industry.)

They’re rapidly becoming a mainstream addition to any enterprise, which also translates into more data being collected by those AIs – leading to an even quicker evolution of their capabilities thanks to their machine-learning features.

Although the enterprise chatbot platforms market has not yet elected an “industry leader,” the sheer number of different offers currently flooding the market is just amazing. It’s just a matter of time before a toolset that can perfectly blend accessibility with efficiency will emerge and bring this technology sector to its next level.