Will Chatbots revolutionize the Customer Experience and kill apps?

Invited by Bay Angels at the Mobile World Congress Americas with the GSMA (which represents the mobile operators worldwide with more than 300 companies), What did I learn?

Future networks and 5G, Internet of Things, Drone Experience, Connected cars, Privacy, Cyber security for devices and IoT, Blockchain were hot topics in the conference programme.

But I would like to come back on one of them.

The Artificial Intelligence : Virtual Assistants and Chatbots.

The Panel included Dr Ashwin Ram (Amazon, Alexa), Anad Chandrasekaran (Facebook), Jason Douglas (Google) Robin Wheeler (Twitter), Rob High (IBM Watson), Ram Menon (Avaamo).

Meeting many friends in the telcos and bank industry, everyone dreams of a technology that would make customer life simpler and some claim the chatbots have the potential to replace apps.

Will bots ever catch on ?

Sorting out problems with a credit card or a broadband connection could be complicated scenarios and areas where bots could make an impact.

But bots will only attract users in they offer an experience which is easier and more convenient thant the existing alternative.

Should bots replace or augment apps in areas of high friction ?

Bots are not yet sophisticated enough to understand tone of voice, emotion, and human context. They are still limited to scripted conversations.

Bots are different from virtual assistants since the former is driven by an intelligent agent and is a more natural, intuitive, friction-free system of engagement.

So how should we move forward if a decision maker in a company ?

It reminds me our motto at Orange begining Big Data projects and defining the relevant ecosystem : « Think big, start small, scale fast. »

It would be wise for companies to start small on specific business challenges, trying to improve customer experience in moments of truth. The goal should be to to improve the service people provide rather than replace them completely.

Then the challenge will be to be consistent as a brand voice.

At the end of the conference, I believe everyone was convinced to start experiments and learn from use cases, and to continue hiring the relevant talents, training the team, having partnerships with experts in the field.

When the moderator asked who had initiatives with Chatbots and Virtual Assistants, half the 100 attendees (device, software, operators) answered their company had some of them.

So, it’s under way and we should be able to share learnings within one year, not only with the main platforms (see the panel attendees) but in the different industries.

Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence matter for everyone, startups and investors, and corporations. It will impact every industry in the years to come, and technology has a potential to revolutionize customer experience.