Chatbots are redesigning the business world

Chatbots are regarded as the user interface of the future, but they are already enabling companies to redesign traditional business processes in personnel management, sales, marketing, customer service, and other specialist departments. An overview of the best solutions that startups and SMBs can use to integrate them into their workflows.

Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana: Digital assistants are becoming more and more popular – even if they are not always working perfectly. In addition to artificial intelligence and powerful machine learning algorithms, there are other innovations behind these intelligent bots that 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 the inputs and outputs are made in natural language – in writing or orally. The concept is not new, though. In the 1960s, the 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.

As early as 2016, for example, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke at his developer conference Build of “Conversations as a platform” and said that the future of the leading software company from Redmond lies precisely in this. Since then, dialog-oriented bots have been integrated more and more into the everyday lives of users. Today they play a central role in modern collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Chat, and Slack, as well as in chat apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Co.

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Bots for every specialist department

Routine HR tasks, such as the often annoying time recording, vacation requests, or expense and travel expense accounting, seem predestined to be delegated to a bot. Because they can be easily automated due to the clearly predefined rules and legal regulations that apply in these areas. Chatbots have become so powerful in recent years that many industry experts consider them the user interface of the future.

On the other hand, the use cases are strongly transaction-oriented (book output, apply for vacation days, submit sick leave, etc.) and can therefore be optimally implemented in conversational UIs. The HR bots do not necessarily have to work with complex AI algorithms to provide valuable services.

In the following, we want to share some bots that will definitely optimize your HR routine tasks.

TrackingTime Bot for Timekeeping

Made for every kind of professional, but especially for those who work by hours and monetize their time. By create bots, TrackingTime seeks to simplify billing and payroll work with a simple but elegant product to help businesses 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 but also view what their colleagues are currently working on, get an overview of their projects and open tasks and many more 


The Timekeeping Bot for Slack

By using TrackingTime’s bot for slack, timer workers can track of their time right within your projects and tasks in Slack, in an easy way.


Google Workspace chat bot

The TrackingTime’s bot for Google workspace allows people to create tasks, track time, check projects progress, see what your team is working on, or invite team members into Gmail, Drive, Docs, and Meet according to your needs. All in one place.

AttendanceBot

This includes, for example, AttendanceBot. It’s a simple time tracking solution specifically designed for Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts Chat. Employees record their working hours directly in a channel with simple commands such as “in” and “out”. In addition, 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

TimeBot is a similar alternative to Slack, but in contrast to AttendanceBot, it focuses on projects and tasks. The online service developed in New Zealand is primarily aimed at teams that work project-oriented and not only want to know when the employees are working but what they do during their working hours.

Working times can be easily assigned to existing projects and tasks using Slack commands. Practical for project managers: With the “/ t status” command, you always get an overview of what all team members are currently working on. The TimeBot also sends you a report by e-mail every day, which shows the progress of the ongoing projects and tasks. With NikaBot, Jibble, and Calamari there are other HR tools available that are available for Slack and other chat platforms.


Bots for agile teams

Develop your products exclusively for Slack, Teams, and Co. This includes, for example, Polly. The company was founded in 2015 by former Microsoft developers and is financially supported by the Slack Fund, among others. So it’s no wonder this survey bot focuses on Slack and Teams.

This supports companies of every industry and size in collecting feedback quickly – from the right employees, at the right time and in the right place. The surveys can be created in no time and automated if necessary. Polly is often used by distributed teams to make their stand-up meetings more productive. Every day, every team member answers a short survey which tasks they have completed since the last check-in, what they are currently working on, and whether they are blocked and should discuss issues with colleagues. Agile teams looking to automate their standups 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, for example, Niles. The Slack bot is being marketed as a “wiki to chat with”. The highlight: the bot acts as another team member to whom you can ask questions. If he already knows the answer, he’ll give it back right away. Otherwise, it waits until a user gives an answer and automatically saves it in 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 that can be used to easily manage meetings and group calendars in Slack.


Sales Automation and Support

In external corporate communication with customers and partners, more and more teams are discovering the potential of chatbots. They are used especially in sales or customer support to accelerate traditional lead generation processes through automation. Chatbots can now be found everywhere on the web. When you visit a new website, you are greeted more and more often by a virtual assistant who animates us to dialogue from the lower right corner of the screen.

The leading providers of such chatbots include Zendesk, Drift, and, above all, Intercom. Intercom is a comprehensive business messaging platform that has long made a name for itself in the IT industry and is very popular among startups and SMBs. In addition to “Inbox” for e-mail and live chat support, the solution consists of other sub-products: “Platform” for user analytics, “Messages” for the automation of personalized sales and marketing campaigns, and “Articles ”For the creation of a customer service portal. The software can thus cover all interactions between a company and its customers in every phase of the customer life cycle.

Chatbots are used especially in sales or customer support to accelerate traditional lead generation processes through automation.

Automation plays a central role in this. With the offered chat and answer bots, companies can create their own bots that automatically answer frequently asked questions and accelerate 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, the bots rely on machine learning and should therefore get better and better with every customer interaction.


APIs, tools, and frameworks for developers

Even if these “do it yourself” solutions are very flexible and offer many features, at some point they will reach their limits. If you want maximum freedom and flexibility in bot development, you have to implement your bot yourself. The good news is that software developers who want to work on their own bots can now fall back on a whole range of tools, APIs and frameworks that make their work easier. On the one hand, they offer access to powerful technologies that you could not implement yourself.

All leading language assistants such as Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant now have useful APIs for their groundbreaking technologies in the field of speech recognition and natural language processing, which developers can integrate into their own projects with relatively little effort. On the other hand, proven bot frameworks offer a solid basis for the creation of 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 the Bot Framework, Microsoft presented a comprehensive development environment in 2016 that developers can use to develop their own bots and deploy them on Azure – without in-depth technical know-how about artificial intelligence and machine learning.


Amazon Lex

With Amazon Lex, the cloud giant offers another alternative that enables 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 conduct conversations in a realistic manner and can be published on mobile devices, in web apps, and chat services such as Facebook Messenger and Slack. As is usual with cloud services, there are no upfront costs or minimum fees. Customers are only billed for the text and voice queries that are actually carried out.


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 leading business chat platforms is the best proof that they are delivering real value to businesses.

From personnel management to product and 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 would be well advised to think about integrating digital assistants into their workflows. As we have shown in this article, bots can make every department more productive.