While your workers were taking their northern summer breaks, chatbots were taking the load for companies around the world, and more are launching in a fresh wave of innovation. Find out what’s new in chatbots that you might have missed from your beach or city break. 

Bots Bring Science To The People

Singapore is always good for technology innovation, and its latest bot to hit the streets comes from bus shelter and poster board advertising giant Clear Channel. To mark Singapore Science Festival, the bus shelters are getting a chatbot loaded with transport information and a raft of science facts to engage passengers and help raise awareness of the festival.

Aimed at the typical local, it comes loaded with colloquialisms to make science more accessible and by going to the people, rather than lurking in an app or social media site many would never know exists, it will help find a wider audience. The festival is encouraging people to interact with AIs in a range of scenarios, something that will be vital as technology and consumers meet.

Also in Asia, WeChat continues to expand and be used for more practical purposes in a new deal with the Yangtze local authorities and Tencent to provide health services and information. The key part is “a trial by four hospitals will use WeChat to fulfill a variety of functions that previously required people to line up in overcrowded hallways.”

Being familiar with AIs and chatbots, and seeing wider benefits from them will help people have greater awareness when it comes to news silly season and clickbait pieces.

Chatbots Making The News

August saw a range of provocative scare stories sweep online in August as part of the usual summer silliness. The BBC “How Talking Machines are Taking Call Centre Jobs” and others use plenty of “maybe” and “might not be” language, even as they cite real examples where affected workers are redistributed, not fired.

Yes, some call centre jobs will eventually be replaced by bots, but since the majority of customers or clients in the west still prefer talking to a person, there’s plenty of life in the call centre business model yet. For now the bots handle the basic queries, leaving agents to deal with the more complex, personal or detailed queries.

More of a pressing issue is when it comes to bots and security. Poorly crafted chatbots could be as vulnerable as any other piece of technology or code. The first big chatbot heist or hack will create major waves. Companies need to ensure their bots are secure and highlighting that fact to customers while reassuring them about the nature of bots and promoting the benefits.

Businesses Are Boosting Their Existing Bots

Retailers in particular also need to be pushing their bots to do more. If giants like Alibaba are loading up predictive analytics and other features for China’s massive shopping days, then western equivalents need to be ready for our own seasonal retail splurges like Black Friday to keep up with demand.

Alibaba’s Alime Shop Assistant bot handled over 100 million queries last year, one reason why China and Asian nations are far ahead on volume and bot technology. These platforms are pushing ahead in making sales and saving customers time, so while westerners might still fancy something approaching the traditional shopping experience, bots will take more of the load as people prefer speed over browsing.

Retailer ASOS made some tentative steps in chatbots last year, but has upped its game with Enki, a bot that offers to match customer’s current wardrobe with the latest designs and accessories. As a chatbot, Enki offers more interactivity and personalisation than an app can bring to the party.

While the focus usually comes from big brands, plenty of niche markets show it is possible to benefit from a successful chatbot project. Classic car rental firm BookAClassic recently launched Oswald, to automate the service booking process and answer questions for both car owners and customers alike. Working in 20 languages, it provides plenty of general information but also helps with customer-specific features like telling car owners exactly when they need to leave to reach a booking location, be it a wedding, photo shoot, graduation or another event.

Whatever your business needs, cloud chatbot services like SnatchBot can offer creation tools, analytics, personalisation, multi-language support, AI features and, recently, voice options to bring bots off the screen and onto more devices. SnatchBot can work with Facebook Messenger bots, LINE, Skype and many other platforms to bring your bot to the widest possible audience.