As digital continues to rewrite the rules of engagement across industries and markets, a new competitive reality is emerging: “Being digital” soon won’t be enough. Organizations will use artificial intelligence and other technologies to help them make faster, more informed decisions, become far more efficient, and craft more personalized and relevant experiences for both customers and employees.

One of the first stepping stones to this future are AI-powered messaging solutions, or conversational bots. A conversational bot is a computer program that works automatically and is skilled in communicating through various digital media—including intelligent virtual agents, organizations' apps, organizations' websites, social platforms and messenger platforms. Users can interact with such bots, using voice or text, to access information, complete tasks or execute transactions. 

56%

Of CIOs and CTOs surveyed say conversational bots are driving disruption in their industry

57%

Agree that conversational bots can deliver large ROI for minimal effort

What are the types of conversational bots?

Informational
Informational bots move beyond conventional search results to uncover useful information and resolve customer and employee inquiries.

Enterprise productivity
Custom enterprise bots can connect to enterprise data resources, streamline enterprise work activities and improve efficiencies.

Transactional
Transactional bots serve as powerful interfaces for mobile applications through which customers can book tickets, order food, and manage bank accounts. The bots currently lack a payments functionality, but this will change quickly as payments firms begin enabling bot purchasing.

Device control
Device control bots support conversational interfaces that enable connected devices such as wearables, home appliances and vehicles to interact with each other—thus enriching the user experience.

Where did bots come from—and where are they headed?

Bots have been gradually evolving since the early days of simple text-based chatbots. In fact, bots that are prevalent today are a big step up from those of even just a few years ago.

Today’s bots, built on the first generation of AI-powered platforms, can learn over time and perform complex tasks combining one or more interfaces.

Soon, we’ll see massive leaps in functionality as bots and associated technologies continue to advance. Within the next year, for example, bots will be able to act without human intervention and take relevant actions in light of a problem’s context—although integration across nodes, interfaces, and ecosystems will remain a challenge.

Eventually, we expect bots to break through these constraints, working seamlessly across AI interfaces to become pervasive systems independent of modes.

But many companies aren’t sold on bots—why?

Despite bots’ potential benefits, a slight majority of companies are reluctant to embrace this new technology.

53%

Of organizations have no intention to invest in conversational bots

9%

Of organizations have a clear strategy for leveraging conversational bots

Three main reasons are often cited for this reluctance: the first is the human side—they think users will be reluctant to engage with a bot. The other two have more to do with bots’ expected performance: there is skepticism that bots will be able to appropriately incorporate history and context to create personalized experiences and believe they won’t be able to adequately understand human input.

Just under half of these executives also said concerns about security and privacy, the expense to acquire or build bots, and the immaturity of current solutions are important reasons for not implementing the technology, as well as, most importantly, a lack of senior leadership buy-in.

What about bot supporters?

Companies most likely to be supporting bots operate in the health, communications and banking industries, with informational bots garnering the majority of attention. However, challenges still abound, even among bot supporters, with lack of skilled talent to develop and work with bots cited as a challenge in implementing solutions, followed by deployment and acquisition costs, as well as data privacy and security.

Where do we go from here?

The critical first step for companies that are adopting this technology, is to develop a bot strategy aligned with the company’s broader technology vision and strategy, as well as consider three other integral things.

  1. Determine where and how to use them
    Companies need to define their workforce of the future to ascertain where to apply bots, and which type, to get the greatest return.
  2. Set realistic expectations for returns
    Organizations should understand that a lot of what bots deliver can be intangible, so they need to be realistic about how they’re measuring return and what kind of return they should expect.
  3. Figure out the best way to get them built
    Companies need to assess whether they’re sufficiently equipped to handle bot implementation on their own and, if not, where to go to get the right help.

With the AI future closer to becoming a reality, companies need to begin preparing to join that reality—or risk getting left behind. Bots are a small, manageable first step toward becoming an intelligent enterprise that can make better decisions more quickly, operate more efficiently, and create the experiences that keep customers and employees engaged.

Cecilia Nguyen

Senior Manager – Accenture Digital Growth and Strategy


Karthik Srinivasa

Managing Director – Digital Platforms


Praveen Tanguturi, Ph.D

Senior Thought Leadership Principal – Accenture Research

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