Chatbots have kick-started a major conversation across contemporary tech and IT circles and why not? They’re being hailed as new-age tech ninjas when it comes to ushering in a whole wave of intelligent interactions between customers/employees and businesses while automating these conversations for enhanced productivity. However, is it all rosy when it comes to using chatbots at work? Well it’s a mixed bag justlike any other disruptive, intelligent and empowering technology.

Let’s look at some of the key advantages and disadvantages of having chatbots around at work-

Advantages-

1.       Neutrality/Objectivity- This is possibly the biggest contribution of chatbots who offer similar data/information/solutions in almost every conversation/interaction which keeps human prejudice/biases/mistakes out of the way. Chatbots help in making overall processes more transparent at the customer end also make it far easier to come up with questions which people may otherwise consider too simple (many customers/employees refrain from asking questions sometimes since they feel they’ll come off as dimwits for asking simple stuff!). In fact, employees and even customers may voice opinions or ask questions more freely with chatbots.

2.      Productivity- Productivity is enhanced big-time with chatbots who do not require periodic coffee/food breaks like their human counterparts! They can instantly answer all questions, and this ensures faster interactions and solution providing along with greater efficiency overall for companies. Turnaround times come down by a long mile about answering customer queries courtesy chatbots. They also help in instantly disseminating information to employees such as benefits, leave, incentives and other vital data. Chatbots also initiate the actions/procedures required for any employee/customer requirement.

3.      Better Processes- Chatbots can easily integrate several systems and business procedures. They can help in attaining improved processes across HR, customer services and other domains. Chatbots can easily collate data from various sources while users do not require training for interacting with or using these chatbots.

Disadvantages

1.       Zero Versatility- What this essentially means is that chatbots offer the very same information and solutions to questions and have a specific role and area of operation. Chatbots are unable to immediately improvise or execute any assignment which is beyond their immediate function. In times of crisis, their role is somewhat limited to say the least.

2.      Doing what’s right- Chatbots must be properly regulated and trained in order to achieve the right level of self-learning since there is no ethical/moral judgment ability here. The lack of regulation may lead to a situation like what Microsoft faced with its Tay chatbot which arrived in the year 2016. Tay automatically picked up human-like traits which were not good at all including behavioural maladies. Chatbots are unable to distinguish between sarcastic or funny comments or even wrong and right.

3.      Zero Empathy- This is where human interaction literally wings it! Chatbots do not have any feelings, emotions or understanding of right or wrong. They have zero empathy, and this is something that makes them fall short in interactions where some level of familiarity, warmth and empathy is required for the other person to feel comfortable. Additionally, chatbots operate on set patterns. Say someone has to apply for leave due to a sudden emergency and another person has to apply for leave due to his/her need to watch a movie. The chatbot will not be able to distinguish between the varying level of seriousness in the two applications and will have the same responses/actions to both situations.

Companies should put some more time and research into identifying areas where chatbots can help them enhance overall productivity, efficiency and processes while keeping in mind the need for empathy, human understanding and management.

Chatbots could be complementary towards the pursuit of human excellence in a manner of speaking by taking care of routine and rudimentary tasks, leaving people free to pursue more important professional duties and company assignments. It’s not just about the complementary functioning of employees and chatbots; workplaces should also have regulatory procedures in place for monitoring and improving the functioning of intelligent devices like chatbots. As can be seen, they have their advantages and disadvantages alike. Companies can harness chatbots by playing to the strengths of these intelligent technologies while keeping an eye out for the weaknesses.

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