The role of automation in business has gathered significant pace over the past few years. Today, you will be hard-pressed to find a business whose operations are not at least partially automated. Chatbots, for instance, have become increasingly pervasive in the past few years and according to a 2017 HubSpot survey, nearly 57% of consumers like engaging with them due to the instantaneity that they provide.
One reason why businesses love automation is because of the high ROI that comes with it. Cloud-based bots that handle various components of a business cost you not more than a few hundred dollars a month. Using human workers to process the same tasks can cost you several thousand dollars.
Another reason why bots are popular is because of their predictable efficiency. The efficiency and accuracy of a human worker varies from person to person and also fluctuates over time. Bots, on the other hand, are very predictable and offer consistent efficiency.
That is however not to say that bots outdo humans at every task. Despite the advances we have made in areas like machine learning and artificial intelligence, bots still operate on the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ model. In other words, a bot does not know to differentiate between right and wrong. This is best exemplified by Tay, the AI chatbot that Microsoft introduced in 2016. Within a day after it was introduced to the world, the chatbot started spouting racist and bigoted epithets, all thanks to the ‘garbage’ that internet users fed the software.
As a general rule of thumb, the best bots are where the data input is carefully administered and those that do not take “life and death” decisions. Here are a few examples of where bots can help you in your business.
This is by far the most popular and visible area of bots taking over human roles. While chatbots are not technically “life and death” situations, they can still heavily influence customer satisfaction and experience — factors that can make or break a business. In essence, a poorly built chatbot could frustrate users and could bring down loyalty
Although chatbots are primarily associated with the live chat feature on your website, you may also adapt this feature to other sales and support channels. You may also integrate these bot technologies to other platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp or other social media channels that is popular among your user demographic.
Businesses no longer rely on a centralized workspace to get stuff done. Online collaboration has made it possible for workers from multiple locations to seamlessly work together in managing a project. However, in large teams, this is easier said than done since any worker may be pulled into multiple projects that makes it difficult for them to efficiently manage time across all these tasks.
Today, there is a small, but growing adoption of AI in project management. The objective of this automation is to streamline business activities without the need for a human project manager. A project management bot, for example, can assist in scheduling meetings, distributing resources across projects, proactively manage workload on each of the stakeholders, plan and allocate efficiently and predicting future bottlenecks and risks. While human workers have been doing a good job here, automation brings down the cost while making the process more predictable and efficient. Gartner predicts that by 2030, as much as 80% of the grunt work in project management would be completely automated.
Marketing, especially digital marketing, is an area where bots can dramatically improve ROIs. The digital ecosystem delivers thousands of data points that can be aggregated and used to deliver insights to improve and optimize your marketing strategies — all of this with very low investment.
Bots today are used to run ad campaigns, automate social media marketing, and even deliver high performing content marketing campaigns. For example, you may bots to identify gaps in your current marketing campaigns, use Natural Language Generation (NLG) to build content, optimize them for SEO and also monitor your performance on a continuous basis. All of this can consume thousands of man hours each month, and with bots, this can be significantly reduced.
In addition to these areas, business operations already have a number of departments where automation has taken over partially or sometimes, even completely. This includes segments like warehouse management, inventory sorting, supply chain management and advertising management. While some of these technologies are straight-forward software applications, others involve more advanced technologies like IoT, VR and AR.
The future of business is in automation whether we like it or not. So although this risks the loss of human labor, there are other areas like automation programming and administration that will evolve to consume more humans workers. It will be interesting to see this evolution take shape over the next decade.