Chatbots adding new features as businesses get back to work

In previous years the number of new chatbot launches easily outstripped the number of bots that were given new skills. In 2020, as the post-COVID return to work starts, that trend appears to be changing as businesses empower their existing bots with new features.

A regular scan of the news headlines in the many years we have been covering chatbots would result in a neat cache of new bot launches to cover. From Asian and Indian banks to western airlines and a growing number of B2B bots, the trend seemed pretty strong. Part of our interest was in following these bots along, to see how many would be retired early on, perhaps due to faulty design or lack of interest. We were also interested in how many grew additional features or were replaced by better bots.

Everything seemed to grind to a halt earlier this year with the arrival of the coronavirus, except for the health sector where an explosion of new bots came to provide key information and advice around the world, and fight the spread of false stores.

Now, companies are heading back into the office, they have seen how these health bots could address a massive audience, be rapidly updated and address key questions. So, many companies, both in technology and traditional markets, would be taking an interest, but it will take time for them to develop their bots, even with speedy cloud-based solutions on offer.

Bots with big updates

So, it is perhaps not surprising that the first rafts of news to hit our in-boxes comes from brands and companies updating existing bots. This shows that the growing interest in bots has reached decisions makers, and they want to expand what their bots offer to help in the hectic times as working shifts and patterns are still fluctuating among support and customer care workers.

UK bank Nationwide is one of the first out of the traps with an update to its Arti chatbot.

  • The bank has been training its virtual assistant Arti to handle common Covid-19 mortgage holiday queries.

  • The new abilities mean Arti can support frontline colleagues during unprecedented times.

  • Despite announcing the news today, the new service went live at the end of March and has handled thousands of queries to date.

  • Arti freed up hundreds of hours for colleagues to deal with more complex queries from the Society’s members during these difficult times.

Since 2018, Arti has been supporting almost 15,000 first time buyers on their journey to purchasing their first property and, since 2019, guiding members through the Society’s later life product range. This experience saw Arti become a key part of the Society’s on-going response to COVID-19 to support frontline colleagues and their members, according to the bank’s update.

ROSS is a US/Canadian AI for legal advice that users subscribe to for $69 a month. It is regularly updated and the latest addition includes the “complete legal Statutes & Regulations for all 50 States, the United States Code, and the Code of Federal Regulations.”

That huge addition of information will help make its A.I.-powered legal research platform more useful to the legal profession and demonstrates how vertical or market-specific expert knowledge can be used by bots to add value and generate income directly.

Among the major bots, Google’s Duplex has now expanded into Spanish helping local businesses, with the AI chat agent using robocalls to update businesses’ changed opening hours as part of the company trying to keep search results and maps information current during a major post-virus update.

COVID also crept into the language that chatbots were seeing people use since the start of the crisis, prefacing now-common questions that banks and health agencies had to find answers to quickly. In future, AI systems will be better positioned to track changing habits and alert businesses to upcoming issues that they need to be aware of.

Plenty more new bots will launch in the coming months as businesses get back on track. And many more will receive updates to help customers, clients or internal staff deal with the many issues we all face. Learning the lessons from these bots will help businesses launching their first efforts with advice and best practices that can help make better chatbots and services for everyone.