Kenyan firms urged to adopt chatbots to cut costs

Local businesses have been advised to take advantage of the rising dominance of text messaging over voice calls to cut staff costs.

This they can do by investing in virtual customer assistants such as chatting software.

Consultancy firm Deloitte predicts a slowdown in voice calls importance in Kenya and globally and a steady rise of other forms of communication, driven by the proliferation of messaging options.

Text messaging remains the preferred method of regularly communicating - with 78 per cent of respondents in Kenya with instant messaging and communicating via social networks rising since 2015.

“Opportunities abound for businesses to use digital tools such as chatbots to improve customer experience and acquisition, reduce churn, increase revenue per user and minimise the cost to serve primarily in the customer service centres,” Deloitte said in its 2019 Global Mobile Consumer Survey.

The report says by 2023, most cellular networks will already offer super-fast 5G Internet on phones.

This means that even more customers – regardless of the time of day and place of stay – will want to contact businesses. Most likely, their first choice will be through social media channels.

To meet these expectations, companies must adapt to the requirements of clients and adjust their social communication to current trends.

If they fail to do so, consumers will enter into a dialogue with another brand.

Insurance firm Sanlam last week announced that it was laying off 50 employees to cut its operating costs through automation. Most of these layoffs are expected in customer support.

Consultancy firm Gartner says customers today expect more from virtual customer assistants and chatbots. Barclays Kenya Chief Executive Jeremy Awori said the bank was investing big in artificial intelligence chatbots to save millions in salaries.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, the average person will have more conversations a day with bots than they do with their spouse.

In April 2019, Americans received 4.9 billion robocalls, or 163 million calls per day and by 2020, over half of all calls could be originated by robots.

The report says more people making phone calls to their colleagues or friends get chatbot responses such as: “Can’t talk right now, please text me.”

The adoption of chatbots according to Deloitte, will enable consumers to interact with business, leading to increased opportunities. Many companies already have whatsapp contacts and chatting options but many remain dependent on traditional telephone lines.