How chatbots are making a comeback in time of Covid-19

Chatbot technology was a flash in the pan which over-promised and under-delivered. But now it’s back in business, making progress in key industries. In this WORKTECH Briefing we review a new report

Five years ago chatbots were hyped up to be the next big disruptive technology in business. Thousands of companies commissioned their own chatbots in anticipation of a big shift in consumer behaviour. But the anticipated chatbot revolution never really took off.

A key problem was that the first chatbots to be built regularly needed human assistance to understand consumer commands. Even Facebook’s much-hyped personal assistant, M, closed down shortly after it was revealed that human handlers were responsible for some 70 per cent of the chatbot’s responses.

In 2021, however, there are signs that chatbot technology is making a quiet comeback, according to a new report from CB Insights. Covid-19 has played a part in this revival, as many chatbots have proved invaluable in handling a surge of consumer inquiries and concerns during the crisis. But other factors are at play.

‘The first chatbots regularly needed human assistance to understand commands …’

The CB Insights report, Lessons From The Failed Chatbot Revolution – And 7 Industries Where The Tech Is Making A Comeback, suggests that chatbots have evolved from ‘all-knowing virtual butlers’ to something more advanced and far less flashy – ‘highly targeted applications of conversational technology’.

The report discusses seven sectors where chatbots are making steady progress: fintech, law, healthcare, sales and CRM (customer relationship management), retail, education and government. It explains: ‘Harnessing advances in natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI), they’re making healthcare more navigable, shopping more personalised, and lawyers more efficient.’

For companies hoping to leverage the technology, there are some important lessons from the analysis. Chatbots are best at repetitive tasks, not novel ones, and at dealing with structured but limited information. The most successful chatbots utilise a graphical user interface (GUI) to give users more freedom and power in how they interact. Is it time, finally to believe the chatbot hype?

Paradise reborn in Paris

More evidence of the greening of our world cities in anticipation of the post-pandemic era comes with the announcement that the legendary Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris is to have a major US$250 million makeover to create ‘an extraordinary garden’.

The high-profile redesign scheme, announced by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, will cut space for cars by half, turn roads into pedestrian and green areas, and create tunnels of trees to improve air quality.

The Champs-Élysées name is French for the mythical Greek paradise, the Elysian Fields. But, in recent years, the polluted and rather worn-out tourist attraction has hardly been a paradise. Architectural firm PCA-Stream is the design team behind the revamp.

Resource Management in focus

WORKTECH continues to roll out its popular virtual conference series into 2021. The next event, the Resource Management Technology Virtual Symposium, will take place on 9 February at 14:00 – 16:00 GMT. This half-day conference and innovations exhibition will explore how room and desk booking technologies are shaping the office experience and the new world of work into 2021.

As part of the return-to-the-office strategy, we will need new technology and solutions to measure and book spaces as well as other data to provide a safe and secure environment. This event will showcase leading innovations, as well as preview WORKTECH’s upcoming technology guide which analyses the key players in the industry.

Keynote speakers at the event include leaders from Accenture and Sony, and there will be opportunity to network with a global audience of thought leaders across the industry. Book here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional live conference series paused due to the coronavirus pandemic. This edition is posted 20 January 2021.
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