Chatbots. The idea is hardly new, but the technology - and interest around it - appears to be in another hypercycle. Hardly a day goes by without news about a new kind of chatbot. One that helps you learn about and buy bitcoin. Or report workplace harassment. Or help patients seek better treatment.

What we don't hear about as often is how chatbots are used in an enterprise setting. But with so much development going on in this space (one statistic found that 54% of developers worked on a chatbot in 2016), how could enterprises not be considering how to put this technology to use?

We reached out to IT executives to find out how they were using chatbots, or how they expect the technology to figure in in the future.

To Enhance Work and Productivity in Real Time

Chatbots as AI companions are an entirely new category of tools for the enterprise. Beyond the bare minimum of completing tedious manual tasks, chatbots in the workplace hold the promise of allowing us to scale ourselves, minimize cognitive load, and manage increasingly complex tasks and projects. Enterprise applications of chatbots can augment human intelligence by acting as contextually aware, personal virtual assistants. When equipped with voice recognition, natural language processing, machine learning, and the ability to create a seamless experience across multiple interfaces, chatbots can learn about your work environment, work habits, and real-world factors that affect your job, and then use this information to enhance your work in real-time.

-Abbas Haider Ali, CTO at xMatters

To Transform Enterprise Customer Experience and Scale Sales Productivity

One of the major investment areas for AI technology will be in sales. And chatbots are the key AI technology that have been addressing people-less customer interactions. Yet many in B2B have been dismissing chatbots as a B2C marketing fad that cannot handle the complexity of enterprise. The only reason chatbots have failed to get traction in B2B sales is because the level of "Knowledge" that is required to derive a meaningful conversation.

The problem was that traditional chatbots are not equipped to the address the complex requirements of today's B2B customers who expect in-depth conversations and detailed answers to their questions. To address this, my company created AI-powered Knowledge Bots to transform enterprise customer experiences and scale sales productivity. The solution we offer is so primed for disruption that the challenge is having our customers realize that the tech is coming to B2B quick and they need it to survive.

-Leslie Swanson, President/CEO of eXalt Solutions

To Automate Repetitive Tasks

2018 is the year of the intelligent assistant. Chatbots have shown the ability to reduce operational costs in the enterprise, while at the same time increasing employee productivity in invaluable ways.

Through automating repetitive administrative tasks such as meeting scheduling, updating CRM sales information, document generation and connecting employees with an enterprise-wide knowledge base, chatbots help automate lower-level tasks so employees can focus on higher value work. In the latest iterations of this technology, enterprises are able to use chatbots to further streamline their days by connecting their entire tech stack to their internal chat platforms. Ultimately, a better work-life balance is also achieved.

-Roy Pereira, CEO of Zoom.ai

A.I. chatbots have seen increased adoption over the last few years mostly in consumer-facing applications. While still nascent, internal use of the same machine-learning technologies by businesses is also growing, although, its transformational promise has yet to be fully realized. Chatbots in their current stage are primarily used to answer questions and deliver information. While helpful, this limited capacity misses a much greater opportunity for enhancing workplace efficiency. In our case, we see that when the ability of A.I chatbots to be proactive is leveraged, this is where its greatest potential is achieved. Advanced chatbots can automatically reach out to people requesting updates on project statuses, for example, and then digest and organize the responses to make sense of them. By eliminating this manual process, teams can focus their attention more on decision-making and problem-solving rather than gathering and analyzing information. This kind of progress in chatbot technology will enable a new type of automation in the workplace we have never seen before.

-Sagi Eliyahu, CEO and Co-Founder of Tonkean

To Improve Worker Experience

Enterprise businesses are quickly activating chatbots across their companies.

While consumer facing chatbots currently dialogue between user and company about service and product logistics and information providing, enterprise chatbots are being constructed in ways not only to be customer facing, but also to build integration within the companies themselves. Publicis Group's "Marcel" enterprise AI chatbot is just one example. The advertising conglomerate seeks to build a HR type tool that will scan its databases in real time to find the optimal employee fit for client marketing needs across its network. In this way, enterprise chatbots are improving efficiency and worker experience.

-Robb Hecht, Adjunct Marketing Professor, Brauch College in New York City

For Coordinating Workflow Between Users

We think Chatbots are particularly good for coordinating workflows between users. Some good examples are Caviar's Slack integration which creates a shared cart in a Slack channel. Individual users can click on the shared cart, choose their food, and then everyone gets updated when it's being delivered. Another example is Troops, which allows you to coordinate sales handoffs and update CRM status for Salesforce, right within Slack.

A bot is great at cutting down the back-and-forth communication that a human would typically have to do in a coordination task amongst multiple people, and all of these use cases could apply to voice as well (when the voice technology matures).

-Andrew Hoag, CEO Teampay

To Handle Frontline IT Support Calls

In the future, we will see chatbots evolve with AI technology. There will come a day when chatbots will be able to understand what we mean, not just what we say. With IoT and smart machines flooding into the network, IT service management administrators are becoming increasingly challenged by the lack of resources available to handle the many requests that are flooding in as a result. Technical support personnel are still involved with too many requests and incidents, handling them on a one-to-one basis. For better or worse, we have to face the fact that in the future, human intervention for ANY request or incident will not be sustainable. Therefore, we will see many organizations turn to chatbots with AI capabilities as a way to more efficiently handle frontline IT support calls.

-Marcel Shaw, IT Blogger and Federal Systems Engineer at Ivanti

Providing a Natural and Familiar Interface

We see natural language chatbot use cases coming from enterprise users who’re looking to extend the value of their native messaging solution by creating better application and process integrations. By conversing with chatbots through the messaging solution, one is given a natural and familiar interface, regardless of desktop or mobile device. An enterprise user may need to chat with an enterprise chatbot for reasons including:

  • Asking the chatbot to perform an administrative task, such as making a calendar appointment or modifying a meeting.
  • Sending notifications or triggers for events or meetings the user needs to attend.
  • Buying or selling a commodity through a native messaging solution by conversing with a trading bot.

-Farzin Shahidi, Founder and CEO of Intrprtr

To Answer HR Queries

After nine years of working answering our new employees questions through live chat and calls, it was not until nine months ago that we started developing our own HR chatbot.

Thanks to artificial intelligence through deep learning with Google's TensorFlow platform, we were able to automate 66.9% of queries from new hires! In this way the new employee receives their response in seconds and our HR team only has to answer questions that have never been asked before. And also, this helps the whole team because we do NOT have to be answering the same questions again and again AND AGAIN, it's excellent!

The results have been outstanding since, for example, our productivity increased thanks to this chatbot by 24.4%! This means more time to interview new candidates so the result: better employees hired!

-Cristian Renella, CTO and Co-Founder of oMelhorTrato.com

For Voice Assistance

From mobile devices to enterprise apps, users are always looking to merge the same technology experiences at work and at home. Voice assistants are the next logical technology to gain ground in the enterprise. Skuid has become the only app development platform that allows users to create voice-enabled apps for the workplace - with no coding required.

Alexa’s popularity will lead to an uptick in enterprise-ready voice assistants. At home we use voice for largely superficial transactions, like checking weather and playing music, but its use in the enterprise has far more potential for meaningful exchanges. Voice’s ability to connect different data sources means it can provide in-depth intelligence to the end-user quickly, and all without them ever opening a laptop. For example, a sales rep could have customer updates read back to him while in the car, after the technology trawls and analyzes various data points.

-Mike Duensing, CTO of Skuid

Are you using chatbots? Tell us how!