We consider chatbots as the user interface of the future. But they are already enabling companies to redesign traditional business processes. In areas such as personnel management, sales, marketing, customer service, and other specialized departments. Here is an overview of the best solutions that startups and SMBs can use to integrate them into their workflows.
Chatbots are redesigning the business world
Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana: Virtual assistants are becoming more and more popular, even if they don’t always work perfectly. In addition to AI and machine learning algorithms, there are other innovations behind these intelligent bots. And they are fundamentally changing the way we interact with software.
The graphical user interface that made the PC mainstream in the 1980s has completely disappeared with Alexa, Siri and Co. The keyword is Conversational User Interfaces (CUI). The term describes user interfaces in which inputs and outputs are made in natural language, in writing or orally. However, the concept is not new. In the 1960s, computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum developed one of the first chatbots with “Eliza”, a virtual psychotherapist. But thanks to the rapid developments in the areas of cloud computing and artificial intelligence or machine learning, chatbots have become so powerful in recent years that many industry experts consider them the user interface of the future.
Chatbots have become so powerful in recent years that many industry experts consider them the user interface of the future.
Back in 2016, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke at his Build developer conference on “Conversations as a platform”. He said that the future of Redmond’s leading software company lies precisely in this. Since then, dialog-oriented bots have become increasingly integrated into users’ everyday lives. Today, they play a central role in modern collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Google Workspace, and Slack. As well as in chat apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Co.
Bots for each specialized department
We will naturally start delegating some routine HR tasks to a bot. For instance, annoying timekeeping, vacation requests, travel expense or expense accounting, among others. We can easily automate them due to clearly predefined rules and legal regulations that apply in these areas.
On the other hand, use cases are strongly transaction-oriented (book output, vacation request, sick leave submission, etc.). Therefore, we can optimally implement them in conversational UIs. HR bots don’t necessarily have to work with complex AI algorithms to provide valuable services.
Next we’ll share some bots that will definitely optimize your routine HR tasks.
TrackingTime Bot for Timekeeping
Made for all kinds of professionals, but especially for those who work by hours and monetize their time. By creating bots, TrackingTime seeks to simplify billing and payroll work. With a simple yet elegant product, helping companies efficiently manage their most valuable resource: time. Find out how TrackingTime bots can help you and your team.
TrackingTime Bot for Microsoft Teams
With this seamless integration with Microsoft Teams, business teams of any size can not only track their time. They can also see what their colleagues are currently working on. And get an overview of their open projects and tasks, and much more.
TrackingTime Bot for Slack
By using the TrackingTime bot for slack, timer workers can easily track their time directly within their projects and tasks in Slack.
Google Workspace chatbot
The TrackingTime bot for Google Workspace allows people to create tasks, track time, and monitor project progress. It also helps them see what their team is working on. They can invite team members to Gmail, Drive, Docs, and Meet based on their needs. All in one place.
AttendanceBot is a simple time tracking solution. It is specially designed for Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Workspace. Employees can record their working hours directly on a channel with simple commands such as “in” and “out”. Additionally, they can request vacation days via chat, change their work shifts, or call in sick, to name just a few typical use cases. In turn, management can create timesheets and reports, manage vacation requests and much more without leaving the chat platform of their choice.
TimeBot is a similar alternative to Slack, but unlike AttendanceBot, it focuses on projects and tasks. The online service developed in New Zealand is mainly aimed at project-oriented teams. Not only to know when the employees are working, but to know what they do during their working hours. You can easily assign work times to existing projects and tasks using Slack commands. Convenient for PM: Use the “/ t status” command to get an overview of what your team is working on. TimeBot also sends you an email report every day, showing the progress of ongoing projects and tasks. Along with NikaBot, Jibble, and Calamari there are other available HR tools for Slack and other chat platforms.
Bots for agile teams
Products developed exclusively for Slack, Teams, and Co. also include Polly. The company was founded in 2015 by former Microsoft developers. The Slack Fund, among others, supports it financially. So it’s no wonder this survey bot focuses on Slack and Teams.
Polly helps companies of all industries and sizes gather feedback quickly, from the right employees, at the right time and place. It allows to create autimated surveys in no time. Distributed teams often use it to make their stand-up meetings more productive. Everyday, all team members take a short survey. They answer which tasks they have completed since their last check-in, what they are currently working on, and whether they are blocked and should discuss issues with their colleagues. Agile teams looking to automate their stand-ups and optimize their productivity should also take a look at GeekBot and DailyBot.
In the area of knowledge management, bots can also help companies to be more productive. This is the case for Niles. The Slack bot is marketed as a “wiki to chat with”. Highlight: the bot acts as another member of the team that you can ask questions to. If it already knows the answer, it will answer back right away. Otherwise, it will wait until a user gives an response and automatically save it to the wiki. The central wiki that is built in this way is not only available in Slack, but also traditionally in a web dashboard. With Kono and EventBot, there are other productivity bots. You can use them to easily manage group meetings and calendars in Slack.
Sales Automation and Support
In external corporate communication with clients and partners, more and more teams are discovering the potential of chatbots. They are especially used in sales or customer support to accelerate traditional lead generation processes through automation. Nowadays, you can find chatbots anywhere on the web. While visiting a new website, a virtual assistant often greets you. It also encourages you to chat from the bottom right corner of the screen.
The main providers of this type of chatbots are Zendesk, Drift, and, above all, Intercom. Intercom is a comprehensive business messaging platform. It has long made a name for itself in the IT industry and it’s very popular with startups and SMBs. In addition to “Inbox” for email and live chat support, the solution consists of other by-products. “Platform” for user analytics, “Messages” for automation of personalized sales and marketing campaigns, and “Articles” to create a customer service portal. Thus, the software can cover all interactions between a company and its customers in every phase of the customer life cycle.
Chatbots are especially used in sales or customer support to accelerate traditional lead generation processes through automation.
Automation plays a central role in this scenario. With the offered chat and reply bots, companies can create their own bots. They can automatically answer frequently asked questions and speed up repetitive tasks. For example, if a software customer asks about a certain product feature, the bot can suggest a suitable article from the integrated help center. As the manufacturer explains, bots are based on machine learning and therefore should get increasingly better with every customer interaction.
APIs, tools and frameworks for developers
Even if these “do it yourself” solutions are very flexible and feature rich, they will eventually reach their limits. If you expect maximum freedom and flexibility in bot development, you should implement your bot yourself. The good news is that software developers who want to work on their own bots can now turn to a wide range of tools, APIs and frameworks. These make their work easier, offering access to powerful technologies that they could not implement themselves. All of the leading language assistants like Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant now have useful APIs for their groundbreaking technologies in the field of speech recognition and natural language processing. So, developers can integrate them into their own projects with relatively little effort.
On the other hand, the proven bot frameworks offer a solid foundation for creating individual bots. This includes the open source project Hubot. The bot framework, based on Node.js and originally developed by GitHub, is ideal for beginners who want to experiment with conversational UIs. With Bot Framework, Microsoft introduced a comprehensive development environment in 2016. Developers can use it to develop their own bots and deploy them on Azure, without deep technical knowledge of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
With Amazon Lex, the cloud giant offers another alternative that allows developers to implement conversational interfaces for speech and text in any application. As the provider explains, the service offers the same deep learning functions that form the core of its Alexa voice assistant.
For example, developers can develop their own complex voice or text chatbots, which can realistically carry out conversations. You can publish them on mobile devices, in web apps, and chat services such as Facebook Messenger and Slack. As is common with cloud services, there are no upfront costs or minimal fees. Customers are only billed for the text and voice inquiries that are actually performed.
Bots for every type of business
A bot that frees us from all those annoying tasks that we don’t like to do, so that we can fully focus on creative and value-adding activities is still a long way off. But bots don’t have to be so futuristic to perform valuable services. The success they have had on the main business chat platforms is the best proof that they are delivering real value to companies.
From personnel management through product development to customer service and sales: the application scenarios are extremely diverse. Startups and SMBs that are rethinking their processes in the course of digitalization should consider integrating digital assistants into their workflows. As we have shown in this article, bots can make every department more productive.