BIA/Kelsey Bytes: Call Commerce and the Rise of the (Chat)bots

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BIA/Kelsey Bytes are excerpts from research reports. This is the latest installment from the recently launched report, Call Commerce: A $1 Trillion Economic Engine. It picks up where last week’s post left off.

The report can be downloaded for free here.

Looking Ahead
Several orbiting variables in the tech and media worlds affect and inform the call commerce opportunity. Some are more imminent than others, but they’re all worth watching. BIA/Kelsey has built long-term predictions and positions on their trajectory, presented below.

Rise of the Bots
Even though the act of talking — and by extension phone calls — is deeply embedded in our sociological fabric, some still question if it can survive a world being taken over by artificial intelligence (AI). Specifically, the looming threat is in “conversational commerce” and chatbots.

Stepping back for the sake of definitions, messaging apps are exploding in popularity (i.e. Facebook Messenger). But they’re evolving from peer-to-peer communication, as consumers increasingly use them to message businesses in order to ask questions or transact.

Also known as conversational commerce, it’s applied to everything from inquiries, to ordering products to scheduling appointments. But most businesses can’t text customers all day, so chatbots have emerged to automate those written dialogues through artificial intelligence.

Though BIA/Kelsey is bullish on conversational commerce, it won’t cause meaningful attrition to call commerce. In fact, chatbots could actually drive more calls. When chatbots can’t fulfill a request, they’ll hand off to a live agent via voice. And this will happen often, given AI’s limitations.

Even if chatbots reduce call volume, the reduction will happen at the low end. In other words, lower-value calls such as inquiries for directions or hours of operation. The result could be elevated value for scarcer high-value calls, which proprietors will then have more time to field.

Chatbots will also cut into lower-value verticals where simple requests can be processed automatically such as restaurant reservations or salon appointments. Calls will prevail for complex and big-ticket items such as telecom, financial services and autos, as explored earlier.

Read the rest.

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