Ever since Mashreq Bank and Emirates NBD introduced some of UAE’s first ever chatbots in 2016, the Gulf has seen a steady adoption of the technology. Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In the UAE, where internet penetration is at 95 per cent and smartphones account for more than 60 per cent of web traffic, having a rock-solid digital presence is paramount to effectively reach customers.

This need for businesses to be readily available to has contributed to the rise of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots. Ever since Mashreq Bank and Emirates NBD introduced some of UAE’s first ever chatbots in 2016, the Gulf has seen a steady adoption of the technology. Today, more businesses rely on chatbots to deliver a personalized content experience, shorten response times, answer common customer service questions, and streamline product purchases.

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Response times

A simple conversational bot built with AI capabilities can assist customers in quickly finding answers to typical queries and avoid drawn-out search actions. Using chatbots for customer support also lower the time and resources organizations need to invest in repetitive tasks. Studies say 64 per cent of agents who use chatbots can spend their time solving more important tasks.

Chatbots built with robust natural language processing (NLP) and self-learning capabilities can provide sustained conversational experiences by gathering huge volumes of customer data across channels and translating it into useful business insights.

Personalize the interaction

An important capability of chatbots is to observe, analyse, and transform. Based on inputs gathered from earlier interactions, chatbots can evaluate buyer behavior such as purchase patterns, better understand preferences, and self-educate themselves on required services.

By maintaining a referenceable database of common questions asked, chatbots can increase response accuracy, which can increase the effectiveness of an organization’s ‘conversational’ marketing. This is particularly critical for businesses in the UAE, where 65 per cent of customers expect brands to grasp their personal preferences and give them individual attention.

Chatbots’ ability to develop well-informed buyer personas equips them to dispense situation-appropriate responses that motivate a purchase.

Timely push

The predictive capacity of chatbots enables them to speculate when customers need an automatic sales push even after the conversation has ended. Chatbots can push out ads, discounts, deals, and purchase reminders to regain the prospect’s attention and get them to take action. Alternatively, chatbots can also send existing customers alerts on just-released product features, maintenance updates, or hot fixes.

The ability to notify the right people at the right time can work both ways for a business. Chatbots can also intelligently monitor prospect conversations and promptly notify agents when it’s time for them to take over the conversation. This sort of timely communication is a powerful tool that helps businesses reach and retain customers.

Automate routine

Chatbots make employees’ lives easier by taking everyday routines and converting them into automated workflows. Instances where chatbots can assist employees range from a variety of business processes across departments and teams — such as sending nurturing mailers to leads or running weekly performance reports.

Today, chatbots are still viewed as experimental technology. On the other side, companies like du that were quick to adopt the technology in its earlier years have a robust chatbot (Blu) that seamlessly integrates across its sales and marketing programmes.

More local businesses must switch to chatbots to modernize customer communications and refine internal processes. A clever investment now can guarantee powerful customer experiences and reduced operational costs in the near future.

- Hyther Nizam is President - Middle East and Africa, Zoho Corp.