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AI chatbots are changing the job landscape for enterprises

AI chatbots may take over a variety of traditionally human-based tasks. What does that mean for human work?

As the automation trend takes shape in various industries, AI chatbots are becoming more and more critical to human work. These smart bots are having verbal and written conversations with customers to address customer service needs.

Powered by artificial intelligence, chatbots are the next candidates to staff contact centers, displacing some agents.

So what is the value that bots bring to the table for companies? How can bots be more beneficial than their human counterparts? 

Chatbots are computer-aided programs that use machine learning and natural language processing to take requests for human work through text or voice. After processing, chatbots use algorithms to identify a request and offer a response. Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and Google have all introduced services that allow companies to build bots and to enable them to exploit some of their artificial intelligence capabilities.

In 2016, during Microsoft's Ignite event, the company showcased a recent collaboration with McDonald's that enabled the fast food chain to build a bot that could take a complex order with ease. Taco Bell took a similar step in developing its own bot, which was later integrated with the Slack platform, enabling participants to order their meals through their interaction with a chat window.

Bots are not limited to taking orders over a speaker in a drive-thru. Chatbots can assist website visitors with common questions and aid online orders for retailers. The ability to use machine learning and natural language processing opens the door for several real-life use cases.

This is further reinforced by the fact that many company executives are faced with the reality of the rise in minimum wage, which is driving up their labor costs and pushing them toward a software-based solution that, unlike humans, doesn't call in sick, ask for a raise or take bathroom breaks.

Some of the areas in which bots can prove to add value to companies include the following:

Customer service. Since bots are computer systems, they can assist with customer needs 24/7 and year-round. This adds significant value for an organization, allowing the company to staff its night shift with these systems and to offer its customers round-the-clock customer service assistance.

This would also increase a company's customer satisfaction scores, while still keeping its costs down by replacing human work with chatbots after hours.

Labor costs. AI chatbots are likely to take less time to transition into the labor market. The technology is continuing to be fine-tuned for the different positions that it could replace. But one thing that many are confident in is the fact that many entry-level jobs in retail, fast food and customer service can be replaced by these systems.

The technology is continuing to be fine-tuned for the different positions that it could replace.

This offers an alternative to the traditional approach of cost-cutting labor practices through outsourcing jobs overseas. Bots are cheaper than outsourcing human work, and they eliminate the constant need for employee training due to turnover.

Internal employees. Bots are being considered for internal conversations and assistance, as well, within companies. In fact, several HR departments and managers have recognized that bots can provide valuable assistance to new hires in their first few weeks on the job by providing feedback and assistance on day-to-day tasks. New team members can gain clarity and direction by asking the bot to perform a task without interrupting coworkers.

The bots can also be used to execute complex tasks that require multiple steps behind the scenes. For example, in manufacturing, an employee can request the following from a bot: "Bot, please reorder X quantity of Y, if Y is below Z."

Bots can offer automations throughout a company, and employees can use the technology to help them be more efficient and productive.

Scalability. Once built, AI chatbots require little infrastructure investment. A single bot hosted in a basic cloud environment can carry on thousands of simultaneous conversations, and, if it needs to scale, it takes little effort to do so. Bot administrators can just add some more processing power and memory and, within minutes, they can double their workforce.

Integration. Companies can integrate bots with their internal systems. In retail, an AI chatbot can interact with the company's ordering system to retrieve the details of an order about which an online customer is inquiring. Also, in healthcare settings, a bot can connect to an electronic medical records system and retrieve specific information about which a patient is inquiring.

These integration options make bots more valuable to companies and customers alike, and can be programmed as part of the bots' connectivity.

While acknowledging that the advancements in AI are making the case for bots to perform several tasks that have been done by humans and will likely to replace them, AI chatbots have limited positions in specific industries.

The increase in the adoption of bots will also drive the demand for those who can build them, train them, host them and manage them.

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