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Enterprise chatbot adoption has reached what some would call a fever pitch. But the reality is that the capabilities and possibilities of chatbots are just beginning to be mined, and the space is expected to grow exponentially. Social media messaging platforms — with over three billion users between the four most popular messaging apps — are just the start; new functions for chatbots from enterprise businesses that recognize all they can gain by adopting chatbots into their conversational commerce toolset are constantly popping up.

Wanting to know more, I sought out Murray Newlands, founder of enterprise chatbot platform Chattypeople and a leading expert in the chatbot field. Newlands, who has keynoted at major conferences all over the U.S., was keen to answer my questions on the newest developments.

Rick Ramos: What is an enterprise chatbot?

Murray Newlands: While most of the chatbots we create at Chattypeople are for small businesses, enterprise chatbots are for larger brands. Enterprise chatbots often need many functions cross-platform, and cross-ecosystem, as they support both internal and external functions. You would see enterprise chatbots supporting resellers at Salesforce, for example, providing support, extra info, and functional details, or inside a software platform providing help for customers who are navigating something complex. The possibilities are endless. Big players such as Oracle and IBM are working on chatbot tools alongside startups.

Ramos: What’s the importance of enterprise platforms in larger businesses?

Newlands: Truly, the importance cannot be overstated. Enterprises are beginning to adopt chatbot platforms in the same way they are currently embracing mobile and IoT platforms, and that number is expected to grow exponentially. App downloads are slowing, and messaging platforms have proven their staying power. Customers and employees on interoffice messaging platforms like Slack — who, by the way, just invested $80 million in chatbots for their platform — use messaging for the same reasons: It’s monumentally convenient for the user, incredibly cost- effective, and gets results faster.

Today’s enterprise chatbots are comprehensive toolsets that every company needs if they want to compete. Chatbots can handle complex multi-step workflows, answer questions, and even make software platforms easier to use, giving them more value to your users.

Ramos: What kind of costs can enterprise chatbots save for big companies?

Newlands: It’s literally in the tens of millions. The AI has gotten smarter very quickly, and as that improves, the potential savings grows. Juniper Research in the U.K. recently predicted that chatbots could save businesses $8 billion annually by 2022, up from $20 million in 2017, and that number will only climb as the bugs are worked out and chatbots are able to provide more and more of the customer service-related time wasters that eat up so much bandwidth in a company. Each chatbot inquiry saves 4+ minutes of customer service time. For large companies, that’s more than huge.

Ramos: What are some of the key examples of enterprise chatbots that are already being deployed?

Newlands: Slack, as I mentioned earlier, has commissioned bots that live inside Slack to help with customer service and IT help. Cisco launched a partnership with Gupshup last year that connects chatbot developer capabilities with Cisco’s cloud-based messaging services, Cisco Spark. And Amazon launched Amazon Lex, which gives developers the capabilities to build voice-powered bots using the AI that powers Alexa. Lex uses NLP and speech recognition to make chatbots even more powerful and natural-seeming, and Lex can be developed on almost any platform.

Ramos: Who are some of the people in the chatbot space to look out for?

Newlands: Anand Chandrasekaran, director of platform/partnerships at Facebook, is doing a great job leading their efforts and listening to the developer community. What Gaurav Mathur is doing with voice and chatbots in the fitness space with Electric Sheep Inc. has changed the way I think about how we will interact with bots. Robert Harles, from Accenture Interactive, gave an interesting talk at SXWS about how they are working with enterprises. Prashant Pitti’s NearGroup dating bot has reached 10 million daily chats. Jin Hitoshi Tanaka’s Foxsy bot has done a great job truly engaging users. If you want pure entertainment, look at Tam Le’s chatbot.

Ramos: What is the future of enterprise chatbots?

Newlands: Right now, text-based customer service solutions offering question-based responses are a big driver for bots, but I think that is going to change. On the user side, voice and proactive AI will change our interactions; bots will read out emails or heart rates and make recommendations about meetings or health suggestions. Enterprise chatbots will similarly pull in data from across businesses and external sources to make intelligent business management suggestions.

Rick Ramos is the chief marketing officer of HealthJoy, an app for workplace health.

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