Getting more done in less time is the holy grail of driving productivity, in our own lives and in a manufacturing enterprise. Personally, I find that mobile devices enhance my productivity, whether I’m improving my knowledge, socializing with friends, or complaining to a company about poor products or service. (I recently used social media, along with my powers of persuasion, to receive a new tire for my Triumph Explorer!). Most of us who are comfortable with the modern age are on our mobile devices all the time, trying to squeeze as much as we can from every minute of our lives.
At the same time, our mobile devices are increasingly in contact with one form or other of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is rapidly working its way into the fabric of our lives, both on and off the job. And while AI has myriad functions, many of them relate to productivity – helping us go about our busy days in the most efficient, hassle-free manner possible.
If that holds true for life, it makes even more sense when it comes to business. No matter where you stand in the manufacturing ecosystem, your customers have the same pressing needs and schedules that you do. When they take the time to place a call, they need answers to their questions and solutions to their problems – and they need them delivered now.
Enter the chatbot.
The Evolution of Chatbots
First, a caveat – not everyone is in love with chatbots. A recent study by CGS shows that when the questions are complex, many people would still rather wait for a human representative. All the same, chatbots are improving every day, and as they become more efficient and human-like, our attitudes towards them are evolving.
In a sense, CGS’ conclusions could be turned on their heads. For example, CGS claims that:
Beyond simple customer support, many consumers still prefer human agents to chatbots. Nearly 50 percent of U.K. respondents and around 40 percent of U.S. respondents said they’d prefer a person.
CGS sees those numbers as negative. My takeaway, however, is a little different. To me, it’s fascinating to note that a relatively new and socially challenging technology, such as chatbots, already has support from some 50 to 60 percent of the population. Note that in the US, only 40% of respondents said they’d prefer a person – that, to me, is phenomenal. While I agree that a blended, bot-optional experience may be the best thing for some consumers, I think that a 50-60% acceptance level is an excellent predictor for widespread chatbot acceptance. I suspect this is even truer now than when the study was performed, given the rapid evolution of AI and chatbot technology.
One of the most interesting innovations in chatbot tech is the use of natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning, which allow chatbots to translate and interpret normal human input – whether spoken over a phone or entered manually through a device. Unlike last-gen chatbots, new chatbots can summarize long texts, contextually relate words to the objects they represent, resolve ambiguities, and even use speech patterns to identify the emotional state of the person they’re speaking with.
Benefits of Chatbots in the Manufacturing Supply Chain
To my mind there are some compelling customer service reasons to put chatbots on the to-do list:
- End-to-end visibility: To start with, the size and complexity of some manufacturing environments, especially as we move towards flexible, agile, pull-paradigm supply chains, makes AI an enormous asset for end-to-end visibility. Where a human representative might struggle to supply a realistic delivery date, a chatbot can interpret massive amounts of resource, capacity, and transportation information; then, rapidly arrive at a realistic date for order promising and fulfillment.
- Order placement: This is just one area in which chatbot functionality with natural language capabilities excels. For example, even when a human touch is required, there are often times when customers are forced to wait on hold. During those times, previously unproductive (and often musically objectionable), the caller can now ask the chatbot questions that will shorten their time on the telephone – price queries, purchase history, the status of a different order, etc. Just as robots are now working side-by-side with warehouse and shop floor personnel, the efficiency of phone representatives can be greatly enhanced by the presence of a chatbot.
Introducing Ken the SYSPRO Bot
If you’re still on the fence about chatbots, give us a call at SYSPRO and let us introduce you to Ken. Ken is one of the latest emerging technologies to come out of our pioneering BlueSky division. An offshoot of our artificial intelligence research, Ken is at the head of the chatbot class. He is intelligent, quick, and adept at natural language. In addition, he is extensible, allowing for future growth and subject to regular updates. Beyond customer service queries, Ken can be easily customized to include new skill sets – as he extends across the enterprise his functions will be limited only by our imaginations.
If you’re interested in staying a step or two ahead of your competition, I recommend you get in touch with your SYSPRO support team and find out how Ken can improve your customer ratings, and how his presence can bolster, and even improve, your bottom line.
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