Although chatbots and virtual personal assistants are getting more and more prominent each day by providing a new channel for certain types of processes; it should be noted that just like any other interaction channel, they are just means to an end, which is usually about interacting with the user in the most productive and mutually beneficial way.
For this reason, chatbots should not be considered as inferior or superior to the other channels. Each interaction point, whether it is a web site, a mobile app, a call center agent or a chatbot, has advantages and disadvantages and works best in specific use cases.
In that sense, chatbots are more suited to things like:
- Conversation-oriented processes, replacing human agents in the first line of contact
- Responding to frequent, small and automatable tasks
- Structured and well-defined processes usually followed in a specific order and/or specific inputs
- Running decision trees with finite and definable options
These processes are more prevalent in B2C use cases and this makes chatbots more suitable for B2C applications in terms productivity and positive business impact. They are usually a part of a corporate website or provided through public chatbot channels such as Facebook Messenger.
Although there are even more use cases in B2E/B2B space for mobility, chatbots may not be suitable for most due to the following limitations:
- Offline operations, as chatbots require an always-on connection.
- Execution of complex processes that require different types of inputs, not just text entry; since the means of interacting with chatbots are limited compared to touch interfaces.
- Difficult-to-predict use cases, which have a wide array of branching steps, which require high efforts in chatbot development.
- Quick data entry such as order collection, in which interaction with chatbots may slow down the process.
- Processes which require one-handed use of the mobile device, where typing full words and sentences is difficult.
- Public locations where speech to text is not viable.
- The requirement of a private and in-house distributed client since using channels like Facebook would not be viable for internal enterprise operations. However, if a mobile app only contains the chatbot itself, then it would be a missed opportunity in terms of enterprise mobility as more services can be provided in a mobile app.
Therefore, especially for B2B/B2E, where using public channels is not an option, the decision is not about choosing between a mobile app or a chatbot, it is about finding the right combination of conversational and touch interfaces in a mobile app.
As an example, in an employee HR self-service mobile app, the leave request process can be handled with a chatbot, reducing it to a single step instead of selecting options from pickers to define the scope of the leave request. In the same app, the expense request process can be handled with mobile interactions like image upload or location detection.
In more complex apps, chatbots can be used for navigation, even though everything else is done with touch interactions. Similar to the IVR (interactive voice response) mechanism used in call centers, the user can just type in or tell the function to be accessed and then the related screen can be displayed with further steps to be completed through the touch interface.
For developing fully native mobile apps with chatbot capabilities for iOS and Android, Smartface SmartApps offer a convenient solution. These are open-source full-featured enterprise mobile apps which you can use freely and extend as you wish. A chatbot client is also available in the SmartApps portfolio. You can use the native Smartface Chatbot Client in any mobile app.
In a cherry-pick manner, you can combine different functionalities from different SmartApps in a single app, including the chatbot client to provide your users the best combination of touch and conversational interfaces.
For more information on Smartface SmartApps and the Smartface Chatbot Client, you can visit https://smartface.io/smartapps