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Chatbots to save businesses $8bn: research

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Juniper expects the deployments to save businesses $8 billion a year by 2022.
Juniper expects the deployments to save businesses $8 billion a year by 2022.

Chatbots will redefine the customer service industry, with healthcare and banking sectors set to benefit the most.

This is according to a new study from Juniper Research, which has predicted that the deployment of chatbots in businesses will be responsible for global cost savings of over $8 billion a year by 2022.

The research titled, Chatbots: Retail, eCommerce, Banking & Healthcare 2017-2022, forecasts dramatic cost savings to be made in the healthcare and banking sectors, as enquiry resolution times are reduced and cost savings boosted. Research author Lauren Foye explains: "We believe that healthcare and banking providers using bots can expect average time savings of just over four minutes per enquiry, equating to average cost savings in the range of $0.50-$0.70 per interaction. As artificial intelligence advances, reducing reliance on human representatives undoubtedly spells job losses."

Juniper further found that many bots are suited to enquiries such as healthcare diagnosis, where users can select predefined answers allowing bots to assess health issues and provide a recommended course of action. However, as AI capabilities advance, bots will be able to aid in more sophisticated healthcare diagnostics, such as monitoring and analysis of mental health.

Juniper forecast that the success rate of bot interactions in the healthcare sector (those completed without relocation to a human operator) will move from 12% currently, to over 75% in 2022. In the banking sector, Juniper expects this to reach over 90% in 2022.

Discovery Health recently went live with Pypestream, a messaging and chatbot platform that allows businesses to chat with customers at scale via mobile messaging.

Darryl Marcus, GM of Pypestream Southern Africa, says the deployment of chatbot allows businesses to automate the majority of general inquiries that are repetitive. "This leads to a smaller volume of inquiries requiring live assistance from agents and reduces operational costs while maintaining - or in most cases, improving ? customer satisfaction ratings. It's this combination of chatbots, intelligent automation and human agents that can usher businesses into the messaging era while reinventing the traditional call centre model."

In June 2016, Barclays Africa subsidiary, Absa, introduced chatbot technology to improve customer service. The bank launched its full chat banking services on Twitter and later on in July, it unveiled what it claimed was a world first for Facebook Messenger, allowing customers to do their banking without needing to leave the social media platform. "We are greatly excited by the level of activity displayed by early adopters, and this channel is still growing in terms of customer understanding and utilisation," Brett St Clair, head of digital product at Barclays Africa, said at the time.

A separate study from Forrester however had a different view, indicating that despite the growing adaptation of bots, they still depend on human intervention to succeed. "Most bots aren't ready to handle the complexities of conversation and still depend on human intervention to succeed. Successful chatbots depend on core technology such as natural language processing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning - aided by thousands of iterations to drive learning," the report noted.

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