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Chatbots in the Time of Coronavirus

 

With many countries in lockdown, and most encouraging social distancing, many businesses have implemented remote working where possible. It is no surprise that videoconferencing software like Zoom, Cisco WebEx, Google Hangouts, have seen a dramatic rise in downloads and usage. While most stocks are plunging, these videoconferencing software vendors have seen their stock prices rising.

WhatsApp usage is soaring - with official agencies such as World Health Organisation (WHO) and Singapore government, using the messaging app to communicate updates. And of course, many of us are using WhatsApp to stay connected with our loved ones and colleagues (as a well as a lot of misinformation is being spread via WhatsApp messages too!).

So, where do chatbots come into the picture? How can we use chatbots to stay connected with one another, communicate effectively, while we are physically apart.

Chatbots have often had a bad reputation, due to poor user experience, as the chatbot is unable to provide a correct response due to the inability for chatbots to fully understand context. However, in the time of a pandemic like we have now with COVID-19, chatbots can be leveraged by businesses in several key ways.

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Perfect for FAQs
Chatbots are often said to be “only good for FAQs”. This is precisely one of the ways businesses can leverage a chatbot, in a time where there is a lot of uncertainty and a need for an effective way to communicate essential information to employees and customers.

“When should I see a doctor?”, “Should I take public transport to work?”, “How is your business enforcing measures to keep customers and employees safe?” …. There are many questions that your employees and customers will have. Whilst you could put up a list of FAQs on your website, it is much simpler for your customers and employees to be able to just ‘ask a question’, and get an immediate response. It would also reduce the number of repetitive questions that your managers, information officers or call agents are getting.

Communicate with employees
Like it or not, your workforce will be distributed through split shifts or remote working arrangements. Regular face-to-face meetings are no longer possible. Employees can no longer just pop over to speak with their managers if they have questions or concerns. Yet, it is more important than ever to stay connected with your employees.

A chatbot can provide a way for you to continue to engage your employees. If you already have an intranet, you can embed an AI-powered chat widget on the intranet site. Your employees can engage in conversation and find out about the latest information anytime, anywhere. You could also look at integrating your AI-powered chatbot with popular messaging channels like WhatsApp or Messenger.
 
Simulate human interactions
Humans are naturally social beings. When the daily routine of going into the office, coffee and lunch breaks, and “water cooler chats” all disappear, it might be difficult for some of your employees to adjust. Chatbots are not perfect, but they are more interactive and engaging than a website or an email. You could even train your chatbot to offer motivation, humour, and engage in small talk.
 
Protect frontline workers
For businesses that need to continue to accept visitors and customers, a chatbot can be used to protect your frontline workers such as receptionists and information officers. A chatbot can help to screen your visitors, collect personal details and walk them through the health declaration form that is now required for entry into almost every office and business location. Some chatbots also offer automated workflow integration through the use of webhooks and APIs, so this essential data can be collected into a centralised database.

Understand sentiments
It is crucial to listen to what is most important to any business – its employees. Many chatbot platforms offer some form of analytics, or at the very least, are able to capture conversation logs. Such data enables businesses to understand what is going on through their employees’ minds, their concerns and questions, and to take action where needed.
 
While chatbots may be far from perfect today, there are also many opportunities for businesses to leverage a chatbot to communicate and engage with their customers and employees. After all, technology is meant to make lives better, whether it is to improve productivity, make life more comfortable, entertain, or in this case, to better connect people.

 

CHATBOTS IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS

 

 



 

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