Ok, maybe I’m reaching with this one.  I doubt most of you even know what a Tribble is. But, to those of you who’ve enjoyed Star Trek reruns of James T. Kirk (circa 1967) up to his ears in fuzzy little space puffs, you’ll understand the reference completely.   Today, we see ChatBots popping up just about everywhere digital communications occur.  From websites and portals to toys, games, social media, search engines and even ChatBots in field services solutions.

In short…they’re everywhere. 

We’ve all interacted with a ChatBot at one point or another, as an automated menu on the phone (Press 1 to speak to a representative) or in a pop-up chat box in the bottom corner of a website you visited. Modern ChatBots are smart and fast enough that they have become part of our everyday lives. Now, we have ChatBots in the form of personal assistants in our computers, phones, and homes. They provide us with the convenience of being able to take notes, manage our schedules, find information, and even connect with others. Of course, this applies to business as more companies are implementing ChatBots and AI into their operations. Gartner predicts that “by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.” (Gartner Customer 360 Summit) It makes sense that ChatBots are being utilized exponentially to improve the quality and speed of service for customers, enhance the productivity and efficiency of technicians, and increase revenue. But what about ChatBots in field services?

Where you’re used to seeing ChatBots… 

Customer Service 

One of the most common uses of ChatBot is as first-level customer support. ChatBots are able to collect information from customer responses to recommend the proper type of service for their needs. They can provide answers to questions (provided they have the relevant information to answer) and they can assist with completing certain tasks. For simple requests, they are often faster and more efficient than a person would be. ChatBots are generally available 24/7 to aid a customer when a live agent may not be available. By helping customers with simple tasks, they allow employees to focus on more important matters. 

ERP, CRM and HR Software 

ChatBots can help save time that would be used in searches, but they can also help manage time and assist with scheduling. For sales representatives, ChatBot can provide support through real-time alerts and reminders of high-priority tasks.  Having the right information at the right time can help create a plan of action for a sales representative to successfully complete a sale. ChatBots can also help with scheduling appointments, allowing users to easily book a service call quickly through the ChatBot instead of spending time on a phone or filling out a request.  

Chatbots are about taking the power of human language and applying it more pervasively to our computing.”
Satya Nadella

It isn’t uncommon at all to interact with ChatBots when applying for a job, or when reviewing resumes.  HR and recruiting teams have been leveraging these time-savers for years.  Today, you’re seeing ERP systems like Microsoft Dynamics 365 on board as they integrate ChatBots to handle customer queries, eCommerce, calendaring and other interactions using their “Bot Framework“.

Where you’re NOT used to seeing ChatBots…

Field Services 

AI has already influenced field services, particularly when combined with connected devices and IoT. Connected devices and sensors can monitor the status of equipment in real time and AI can analyze the data to create a predictive maintenance plan and place a work order before any breakdowns occur. By sending automatic push notifications to technicians, ChatBots in field services act as the link between connected devices and technicians. These push notifications can alert technicians of a work order and updates without having to open their mobile service app. Some bots are also able to reschedule appointments in live-time based on traffic conditions, weather, and technician availability. 

When the technician has arrived at a work site, ChatBot integrated with field service software can serve as a personal assistant to enhance the productivity of mobile technicians. Currently, field service technicians may need to use mobile field service software to manually search for information or customer history, often having to navigate through multiple menus and groups of data. By speaking a single sentence, a natural language processing ChatBot can help reduce the time of the search and instantly provide the necessary information to a technician. There is even the potential for ChatBot to provide step-by-step instructions for the required maintenance, a capability which could be of significant help for newer technicians who may not have an experienced technician available to guide them.  

ChatBots still work for us, right?

ChatBots are available 24/7 to help regulate time-management and optimize scheduling. Most importantly, they allow employees to focus on priority tasks while the ChatBot provides first-line support. As this technology evolves and people become more comfortable interacting with ChatBots, they will be able to take on more important interactions with clients, prospects and employees. But they aren’t ready to replace humans and haven’t “evolved to self awareness and set their sites on world domination” just yet. Most still prefer to communicate with a live agent who can understand each individual situation and relate to them, help with more complex needs, and offer assurance in urgent situations.