Evolution of chatbots in Kenya and their impact on Customer Experience
In 1950 Alan Turing developed the Turing test to examine whether machines can exhibit intelligent behaviour similar to humans. This led to the creation of the first chatbot called Eliza in 1966. Since then, chatbots have evolved tremendously to handle much more complex tasks. From bank transactions, buying insurance, filing claims, advising on personal finance and even as personal assistants - chatbots are increasingly taking over everyday life tasks.
Globally, chatbot adoption has been gathering pace as businesses recognise the importance of providing great customer experiences that are personalised and cost-effective. For instance, Bank of America’s chatbot Erica, has surpassed 7 million users and completed more than 50 million client requests. The growth of messaging apps (which has surpassed social apps) has necessitated the need for businesses to find better ways to engage their users on channels they spend more time on hence driving the usage of chatbots.
According to Facebook, there are over 1.3 billion monthly active users and 300,000 chatbots on its messaging platform. Additionally, businesses exchanged 8 billion messages every month with customers up from 2 billion April last year. The WhatsApp for Business API will also be a game changer in increasing adoption of chatbots. Currently, WhatsApp has 1.5 billion active users presenting a popular channel for businesses to engage their users.
Locally, we are witnessing an increased uptake of chatbots — Safaricom’s Zuri, UBA Kenya’s Leo, Jubilee Insurance’s Julie, lily.health — to mention a few. These bots perform a variety of functions including customer support, digital sales and transactional queries.
The adoption of chatbots locally has been historically slower due to a poorer understanding of how chatbots can add value to businesses. Chatbots can serve multiple customers at any time of the day or night and are significantly cheaper than to maintain a large support team that offers 247 support.
According to Juniper Research, chatbots will create a cost savings of more than $8 billion by 2022.
Today’s consumers do not buy products or services. Instead, they buy experiences. Chatbots can also help businesses to deliver personalised experiences by making conversations relevant, interactive and engaging. Chatbots have greatly improved customer service by ensuring queries are responded to immediately any time of day or night.
Research from Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of customer service interactions will be powered by chatbots and that the average person will have more conversations with bots than their own spouse!
Earlier this year we launched AIICO Ella, a chatbot for a Nigerian insurer which runs on Facebook Messenger and Web. Ella enables customers to purchase auto, shop or travel insurance complete with payment to acquire insurance in a matter of seconds. Ella is also able to advise customers on policies about to mature or have matured. Ella is also able to provide customer support in collaboration with human call centre agents. We have seen the successful completion of transactions and a significant reduction in the volume of queries handled by customer service agents.
Chatbots will not replace humans but will complement the work of human agents so as to offer faster and more efficient support simultaneously to multiple customers. Chatbots will initially handle the most frequently asked questions and tasks which can be automated end to end without the need of any human intervention. The human agent can then handle more complex task until machine learning algorithms evolve and become smarter.