BY Capgemini
This page was produced by FT2, the advertising department of the Financial Times. The news and editorial staff of the Financial Times had no role in its preparation.


IT trends spotted and checked by experts


What happens

The futurologist Ray Kurzweil predicts that by 2029 a web robot (or simply 'bot') will be capable of passing the Turing test, that is to say being able to speak freely with a human being without the latter realising that they are talking to a machine.

so what?

CEO of ViaDialog

Jean-David Benichou is the founder and CEO of ViaDialog, a company specialised in multichannel customer relations management solutions. A serial entrepreneur, he is a graduate of the Institut Superieur...

Internet giants Facebook, Microsoft and Google have announced in recent months that they are developing "chatbot" technology. Until now, these virtual agents have taken care of the most basic customer service requests - but in the near future Internet users will converse with them almost as if they were human.

Why are Google, Facebook and Microsoft infatuated with bots?

This is not a new phenomenon. The technology behind chatbots is fairly old, dating back to the 1950s and 60s. Originally this technology consisted of software programmes carrying out automated tasks - these programs were stripped of their graphic interface in order to integrate them into instant messaging services.
Up to now, these bots have performed extremely well during dialogues in which the questions require standardised answers and offer no ambiguities. When it comes to booking a taxi or buying a ticket for the train or the cinema, the "relevant response" rate can reach 99%.

Progress, however, still needs to be made regarding open-ended dialogues where expression is free. Apple's Siri programme, Google Now and Microsoft's Cortana can respond to simple questions - like telling us what the weather is like in London - but find it more difficult dealing with more complicated searches, thus explaining some of the recent announcements made by Google, Facebook and Microsoft.  In order to achieve more fluid conversation between man and machines, they plan to make the most of the progress that has been made in terms of artificial intelligence, as well as the cheap and abundant computing power of the cloud. 

How much potential do these intelligent bots have?

They are being called upon to become a priority vector for customer relations. Consumers are now more used to texting rather than calling or sending an email. It's also a generational thing, as Milennials have massively adopted chat-style communication. The transition, therefore, will be ensured by one generation.

And then there is also the power of instant messaging. WhatsApp, Telegram, Hangouts, WeChat and Facebook Messenger all operate on a global scale: Whatsapp has passed the threshold of one billion users!

With these bots, these platforms will make users' lives easier by automating a certain number of tasks. Making a bank transfer or changing mobile phone operator, for example, could become automated, at the risk of cutting a certain number of applications that already fulfill these tasks out of the loop. On average, a user has 26 applications on their smartphone but uses only five of them 80% of the time. 

How can a company get involved in this trend?

Consumer behaviour is quite standardised. When a consumer needs something, first they consult Google and then they go to discussion forums and FAQ pages. Next, they make contact with the company via instant messaging. Making a phone call comes in last place, as it is the communication channel that causes the most frustration. A fifth of all phone calls could be diverted or automated.  

It is easy to achieve a return on investment based on the cost of responding by instant messaging, email or phone. Bots reduce waiting time and, as they never sleep, allow for customer service hours to be extended. This leaves human operators to focus on the more interesting interactions.

Who cares?

  All companies engaged in long-distance relations with customers are potentially concerned. Bots can ensure primary assistance, with the possibility of a human operator taking over when the request has not been understood.

In France, Voyages-SNCF, a train ticket reservation website, Axa pour Switch, the insurance company's 100% digital service for young users, and Meetic, the dating website, have all launched their chatbot on Facebook Messenger. In the United States, Domino's Pizza uses Microsoft's Bot Framework. Domino's bot allows you to order a pizza and pay for it too. 

Bots are also entering the business world. Integrated, real-time communication tools such as Slack or HitChat, enhance productivity by automating, for example, reminder messages to prospective clients.  
Innovators Race

As Capgemini turns 50, we give early stage start-ups the opportunity to jump-start their business and win equity-free funding of $50,000.

For more information:

Innovators Race

As Capgemini turns 50, we give early stage start-ups the opportunity to jump-start their business and win equity-free funding of $50,000.

For more information:

Do you think this is a major trend ?

Nigel Lewis, Meet Nigel Lewis, expert in Business Analytics.
Nigel Guy, Meet Nigel Guy your SI Delivery Excellence, BI & Analytics expert..
John Parkinson, Meet John Parkinson, your Data Governance, Data Quality, Data Strategy, Data Management expert.
Subhinder Dhillon, Meet Subhinder Dhillon, your Financial services, Banking and Insurance expert.