Chris Bain, boss of Chatbot Labs, says the growth of the office equivalents of Siri and Alexa could boost productivity by 10%. Tony McDonough reports
Chatbots could lead to the creation of 10,000 new jobs in the North West by boosting productivity.
That’s the view of Chris Bain, boss of Chatbot Labs, located at The Base digital hub in Warrington, which is winning contacts to deliver what he described as “game-changing” boosts to company efficiency.
A chatbot is a programme that automates processes on command. We already widely use chatbots in our everyday lives via Siri on iPhones or Alexa on devices such as Amazon Echo.
Mr Bain says the use of chatbot technology in an office environment could be transformational. Chatbots can take verbal or written instructions and interrogate all of an organisation’s software systems and databases to find answers to queries or undertake menial tasks.
“By drawing a link between all the software resources an organisation has, a chatbot can find information or the answers to questions hidden amidst piles of data quickly and efficiently,” he explained.
“If you run a law firm and want to know the latest position on a client’s account you can ask the chatbot to find the information for you whilst you and colleagues get on with something more valuable. Factories have had robots for decades and now offices will soon have digital robots.”
Mr Bain dismisses fears that chatbots could be “job killers”, pointing out that, in manufacturing, automation and technology has ultimately been a job creator. Investment in tech is shown to increase productivity and frees up people to do higher value work.
He added: “The system is in its infancy and we’re one of just a handful of companies leading the way, but it’s moving quickly. Within five years every office will have chatbots, just like many homes now have an Alexa.”
Chatbot Labs is already developing a system for one branch of the NHS to help make the training of over a million employees more efficient by allowing trainers to access and package information on command.
Mr Bain said: “Each chatbot will be unique to the host organisation’s software and data sets. It learns as it goes along, essentially becoming like a huge FAQ bank. Every time a new question is asked and answered it’s stored for future replication and even speedier response.
“And because each ‘bot’ is built on a Microsoft platform even the smallest companies can have them developed to suit their needs. Software has a habit of democratising productivity gains and this will be no different. And as Alexa and Siri have shown us, chatbots’ understanding of natural language is increasingly sophisticated and able to cope with regional accents.
“Looking at how the tech sector has grown in the North West I’d expect up to 10,000 new skilled jobs in the region over the next five years creating chatbots for every conceivable type of business. We intend to be at the forefront of it.”