Chatbots: A powerful way to simplify and automate business processes
The number of people using messaging apps has skyrocketed. Apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, Slack and Viber have over 5 billion monthly users worldwide. With this kind of growth, virtual chatbots — which imitate human conversations — are becoming very popular among users and the demand for instantaneous chat to solve problems is increasing.
Forecasts say by 2020 over 25% of customer service operations will use virtual assistants. And the opportunities provided by chatbots can go far beyond just responding to customer queries. Chatbot technology can be used to automate different business processes, collect information, help users organise meetings and more. So there is no surprise that the market for chatbots is booming.
The ‘Zaizi Leave Chatbot’
At our innovation hub, we looked at how quickly we could develop something using a chatbot — and so the Zaizi Leave Chatbot was born! Essentially, the chatbot automates and streamlines HR processes; in this case an employee’s leave request.
The chatbot takes away the need for employees to log into a sperate portal to request leave and its user-friendly natural language capability make it easier and more personable to use.
For instance, an employee can request leave on Slack with a simple phrase like “I need leave tomorrow” or “I would like to take leave on August 15th” and the approver will receive a message notifying that a request is pending.
Solution architecture and technologies used
- Slack: Slack is the interface for users to communicate with the chatbot
- RTM API: The Real Time Messaging API is a WebSocket-based API that allows you to receive events from Slack in real time and send messages. Zaizi Bot Service uses the same protocol to communicate with Slack.
- Zaizi Bot Service: The ‘Zaizi Bot Service’ is developed using the Botkit development framework and NodeJS. This will execute the ‘Zaizi Workflow Service’ steps retrieved from Slack.
- AWS Lex: Amazon Lex builds conversational interfaces into any application using voice and text. It provides the advanced learning functionalities of automatic speech recognition (ASR) for converting speech to text, and natural language understanding (NLU) to enable you to build applications with engaging user experiences and lifelike conversational interactions.
- Botkit: An open source development framework for building chatbots for major messaging platforms such as Slack, FB Messenger etc.
- Zaizi Workflow Service: Zaizi Workflow Service manages business workflows defined using Activiti. This is developed using Java. Zaizi Bot Service is communicating with this service using REST API
- Activiti: Activiti is the java-centric open-source BPMN engine supporting process automation needs.
Where and how can it be used?
Startups and savvy companies are incorporating interactive elements like this into their daily operations. It separates them from the competition and provides real value. We used the chatbot to simplify and automate a HR process, but chatbots can be used in a number of ways.
Here are just some of the ways chatbots can save time, keep customers engaged and enhance staff productivity and efficiency,
- E-commerce bots: From ordering pizza to ordering shoes, chatbots can be used in e-commerce applications easily to interact with the customer.
- Event reservation – restaurant reservations, doctor appointments, movie tickets etc.
- Agenda/Scheduling – we already use to-do lists and calendars, but bots could automate this time-intensive task.
- Travel bots – from saving you money on booking flights, to helping you connect with locals and tourist guides.
- Improve customer service - the best option for those who do not want their customers to “please stay on the line’ or painstakingly search for an answer in the FAQ sections.
- Automate business processes - Most of the processes performed in companies are repetitive. A chatbot can automate these processes.
- Personalise communication - A chatbot can answer questions which are very specific to a customer/user.
- Improve response rate - Most questions sent to businesses remain unanswered. Chatbot responds to 100% of questions by customers.
This technology is still at an early stage. Its capabilities continue to increase and the best chatbots are yet to be created. But investing in building a chatbot for your business and understanding it’s current and future capabilities will put you at forefront of innovation!