In 2020, the chatbot market was valued at 17 billion USD, and this number is expected to increase to 102 billion USD by 2026. One of the reasons for their predicted increase can be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 introduced an array of challenges for companies to address. Digitization took the front seat, and the service demand shifted online, calling for offering seamless online support to customers with limited resources.
Chatbots had already proven their capabilities to handle multiple customer service queries and improve customer experience through instant messaging and self-service pre-pandemic. Although, until recently, chatbots were widely underutilized, and covid-19 just accelerated the process of adopting automated tools for various purposes. Chatbots played a massive role and will continue to do so in the future in areas of permanent changes brought by the pandemic. Let’s take a look at some of the top use-cases of chatbots during such times.
Virtual Healthcare Information Center
With the virus outbreak, misinformation spread like wildfire, calling for health organizations to have an authorized communication channel for communicating the correct information to the masses. World Health Organization deployed a covid-19 bot on Facebook to combat misinformation and have the right symptoms and precautions communicated to the people. WHO addressed multiple issues with this single solution:
- It deployed the bot on its official page on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp- platforms that collectively have more than a billion users.
- It deployed a multi-lingual bot in English, Spanish, French, and Arabic- reaching maximum audience globally.
- It facilitated a two-way communication where the audience can ask any covid-19 related query and get accurate information from experts. It communicated with billions of people at once- 24/7 at low operational costs.
In the region hit hardest from covid-19, total messaging through Facebook’s family of apps increased by more than 50%.
WHO set a prime example of leveraging the chatbot technology in the time of crises. Many corporates adopted similar methods of providing covid-19 related information to their employees and customers and communicating the changes in operations during unprecedented times.
For example, Penn Medicine (University of Pennsylvania Health System) also utilized a chatbot to interact with users and provided answers to questions like “where can I get tested?”, “How do I get my results?”, “What do I do if I’ve been exposed to the virus?” and “What are the symptoms of Covid-19?” etc. A Healthcare information chatbot two primary advantages to Penn Medicine: scalability and accessibility. The Government of India also deployed WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger bots to address covid-19 related queries, visa-related queries, medical help emergencies to its population of 1.3 billion, streamlining information and aligning it to different states.
Aiding Employee Engagement
The most significant change that came with covid-19 was the enforced work from home norms by companies and government alike to curb the spread of the virus in workplaces. This induced corporates to allow flexibility with working hours and enabling a virtual workplace. But how do organizations transform their IT service desk and handle repetitive queries of hundreds of employees at once without overwhelming the IT & HR departments?
Although companies used bot for customer communication, their potential in employee engagement was largely unexplored until the pandemic. Companies started to use bots in the pandemic for:
Offering employee support
Chatbots easily solved standard employees’ help desk queries like password reset and ticket management. An employee working from home can raise tickets at any time of the day. A chatbot can resolute them quickly without the need for human intervention, thereby reducing the burden of the HR department.
Covid-19 made it mandatory to onboard new employees online. Along with online training through video calls and team communication channels, chatbots acted as a go-to tool for answering FAQs and company policies to recruits.
Retrieving Company Information
The pandemic brought about many changes in the work environment with online meetings and adapting a work from home culture. Chatbots were used to regularly get company updates on important events and dates, including changes in the company policies due to the pandemic. It became a top source for providing repetitive employee queries, reducing the mundane tasks of the HR department.
Chatbots have also allowed companies to track entries in office or factory premises by deploying appointment scheduling bots during covid-19. Anyone visiting the premises needs to first interact with the bot to go through its screening process for symptoms and interaction history in the past 14 days to allow and restrict entry. This allows companies to limit access and ensure the safety of employees working on the premises. For example, Gulbrandsen- a leading chemical company, deployed a WhatsApp bot with WotNot to schedule safe appointments amidst covid to track its walk-ins and restricted access to people with a covid interactive history in the past 14 days.
Online Customer Service Agent
With the absence of workers in the office, businesses were under constant pressure not to disrupt customer experience and keep the communication with them intact. While eCommerce companies were already using chatbots as a mode of customer service, many retail outlets also had to shift to a complete online-only model. IBM witnessed a 40% increase in traffic for their Conversational AI assistant IMB Watson between February to April 2020- the time when the virus had started to spread across the globe. Messaging apps with AI and Machine Learning and self-service FAQs chatbots quickly became popular to provide reliable and quick answers. From March to May 2020, retailers saw an 86% increase in customers using self-help services through chatbots.
Customer service is at the heart of offering a wholesome customer experience, and chatbots provide a path for doing so in times of uncertainty. Chatbots are not only is resolving customer queries but also providing valuable customer insights to companies, dictating them in developing successful marketing strategies for the future.
Luckily, with chatbots, one doesn’t need to have a comprehensive understanding of adopting tech in business operations. Its code-free functionality makes it easy for everyone to use and deploy, with just needing the correct conversational script. As a result, small businesses quickly adopt bot to offer continuous customer service, especially when they don’t have full-time employees working in the office.
The pandemic surged the use of chatbot technology across various industries globally. Apart from their regular benefits, chatbots delivered more and fulfilled their core value of providing information in the absence of humans. Their true potential was realized when the world craved the right information, and bots gave it to them when they needed it the most. During health emergencies and empty offices, we witnessed how the customer was still heard and cared for. As we move beyond this pandemic, it is apparent that chatbot adoption will continue to grow to maximize the benefits of a highly connected and information-driven world. While we are still witnessing and recovering from a situation we didn’t see coming, chatbots are thriving and are getting embraced like never before.