Chatbots for Business: Good or Bad?

May 23, 2017

By Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor for BBB serving Mainland BC


The future is here. Artificial Intelligence is taking over!! Run for your lives! Ok, maybe it’s not taking over just yet but the use of chatbots for business is growing. For many businesses, this is a good thing. So...what is a chatbot?

noun: a computer program designed to simulate a conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.


Basically, your are interacting with a business via computer program where the computer has taken the place of a living person. Ideally, the consumer is left with a user experience that is comparable to dealing with a human being and with a high degree of success in solving a particular problem that the consumer has. This can be through audio where the consumer is speaking to the bot, or a more simple messenger service.

Is it good? Many are calling chatbots the marketing tool for a new generation. There are simple, surface level chatbots, but the ones that are being incorporated by large firms are the chatbots that can learn as they interact with human counterparts. Many legal and medical practices are looking at incorporating learning chatbots as a way to share information in a more timely manner. Chatbots, after all, are available 24/7 and don’t need to be fed.

A Montreal-based company is employing a chatbot to help immigrants with legal advice. Another legal chatbot has used the law to overturn thousands in parking tickets in London and New York.

Some of the benefits of chatbots for your business include:(in a nutshell)

Better customer service. Consumers can interact immediately without having to wait for staff to get to the phone. They provide responses in real time. Chatbots can be the point of sale and even offer advice depending on the situation. As the chatbot learns, the percentage of correct answers that the consumer can use surpasses 90+. Suffice to say, they can be more accurate than a human employee. This, in turn, enhances productivity and thus the company’s bottom line. As consumer around the world become more and more tech savvy and the programs more effective, consumers are less likely to miss a loss of context that might otherwise be found through direct human interaction.

This is AI at work but it does raise some privacy concerns. As industries like law, health, and banking move forward with chatbots we need to ask ourselves questions such as who gets the information, how long is the information stored and who has access to it. If a health chatbot is designed to provide some sort of diagnosis, who is held liable should something go wrong?

Are chatbots at risk of being hacked and information stolen? These are still a relatively new thing on the digital landscape so at the moment there is little information on whether this is an issue or not.

Other limitations (at the moment) would be that chatbots, as they are now, function with somewhat contrived scenarios. This may be lessened by the fact that some chatbots can learn as they deal with different inquiries. They haven’t been around long enough to face potential problems we may not even be aware of. For example, bots have limited ability, if any, to handle crisis calls. They may not recognize if the person on the other end of the phone or keyboard is experiencing a very real emergency.

Either way, it’s an interesting time to watch this technology develop and help create an engaged marketplace.