4 Industries That Benefit from Chatbots During Coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world, and businesses are rapidly pivoting to address major shifts. Learn how different industries are utilizing chatbots during these uncertain times.
By Edward Pollitt
April 30, 2020
The coronavirus outbreak has changed the world.
It’s changed the way we interact with one another, it’s changed the way our healthcare systems operate, and it’s changed the way we educate and learn.
Across almost every vertical, businesses and governments are being forced to rapidly pivot to find new ways to deal with this gigantic shift.
And, in more than a few of these scenarios, coronavirus chatbots have emerged as a viable and scalable solution.
Let’s look at how different industries can utilize chatbots during these uncertain times.
Arguably the most urgent and applicable use for chatbots in the current state of emergency is in the healthcare industry.
Across the world, healthcare systems are facing an imbalance when it comes to supply and demand.
With a constant—and, in some cases, exponential—influx of patients, hospitals and medical resources are being stretched to their limits just to attend to everyone.
With their potential use as a screening tool, chatbots are a way to ease some of the increasing strain on healthcare systems around the world.
Already we are seeing a number of different solutions emerge as a way for potential patients to get reliable and useful information without troubling frontline workers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been leading the way on this front, launching a custom-made chatbot last month that offers the wider public trustworthy information on how to best protect themselves from the virus.
Hospitals around the world have also started using chatbots as screening tools to assess patients and their likelihood of infection.
This not only provides a more detailed update for doctors and nurses than a traditional form but also helps reassure patients.
Such tools not only help ease the current burden on doctors and nurses but also have the potential to be used as part of the triage process in hospitals in the future.
With schools shut down for the foreseeable future, online learning is now the new norm, with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) having recently declared the pandemic could change education forever.
Online learning is already a tried-and-tested system. However, there are still certain pain points many students and teachers are struggling with.
Again, chatbots have emerged as an effective solution for this industry as it makes the transition online.
Conversational learning is important for the development of students of all ages.
The theory is, if students are discussing and talking about what they’re learning, it is far more beneficial than simply listening in a classroom.
Obviously, with online learning, there are certain limitations to this.
While a bot can never replicate a human tutor, it can be used to answer standard questions and to provide a base of knowledge.
By taking on the role of a virtual support aid, bots can be used to assist learning via dialogue for students working remotely.
Beyond these learnbots, universities are also now deploying artificial intelligence–powered (AI-powered) bots to handle the influx of inquiries.
The University of Sydney has launched the Corona-Bot or coronavirus chatbots to answer questions from students trying to understand how the pandemic will impact their studies.
Another industry that has been forced to make swift changes in light of the coronavirus outbreak has been the retail sector.
With social distancing measures forcing many brick-and-mortar sites closed, businesses are looking to bolster their online presence to cover for any lost revenue.
And while retail has been slowly shifting from in-person to e-commerce for years, brands are still looking for ways to stand out from their competitors online.
Customer experience is something that is, momentarily, digital-only.
And chatbots are regarded as an effective tool to improve the experience of online shoppers, while also allowing businesses to communicate with customers while they are closed.
Since the outbreak, we have seen a number of large organisations (particularly those that have experienced an increase in demand) invest in bot technology as a way to deal with inquiries that might usually be handled by a customer service assistant.
Whether it be instant messaging tools embedded in apps, like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, or in voice-activated technologies, customer-facing businesses are turning to this technology as a way to maintain a presence with customers during these testing times.
This also provides an obvious financial incentive for these businesses, many of which may be struggling during this period of uncertainty.
The obvious downside of this is the potential loss of work for retail workers and customer experience assistants.
However, some businesses, like Vodafone in the United Kingdom, are already training customer service assistants in coding to help them navigate the rise of chatbots in retail.
The entertainment industry also stands to benefit from the increased implementation of chatbots during the coronavirus outbreak.
What we consider “entertainment” has changed significantly in a few short weeks.
With almost every professional sporting league currently shut, esports and gaming have enjoyed a monumental boom.
For the month of March, viewership on game-streaming site Twitch was up around 31 percent, according to estimates.
At the same time, gaming is also dealing with the emergence of bots.
Chatbots can be used for player support in these games, which may be seeing a surge in new users, or they can be used for troubleshooting where gamers have encountered a problem.
Beyond gaming, there is the potential use of chatbots—and automation more generally—to personalize things like music, video streaming, and news media.
The era of technological acceleration
The COVID-19 outbreak is already a generation-defining pandemic. And it is also changing the way we use technology forever.
Technological advancements that are the most effective during this time—whether for online learning, video conferencing, or telehealth—are being accelerated at a never-before-seen rate.
And chatbots are no different.
A technology that many organisations might have previously treated as a “nice to have” is now a must—whether for a retail store or a hospital.
This means developers have to be ready to start creating solutions with a multitude of different uses, and consumers need to prepare for more non-human interaction.
The coronavirus has created a world with very few certainties. However, one thing you can expect to see in the coming months and years is the role of chatbots accelerating across multiple industries.