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AI Forum

Chatbot or digital humans part of daily life in NZ

More New Zealanders every day are becoming used to chatbots or digital employees who serve customer requests which saves companies money.

The AI Forum of New Zealand’s recent research report says chatbots are increasingly being used in New Zealand to resolve any queries or issues.

Support chatbots are often used to provide assistance to people who cannot afford the services of professionals such as a lawyer or counsellor, or do not feel comfortable sharing their problems with another person, the report says.

The report says digital humans will increasingly become a key part of everyday customer experiences. The emotional connection is becoming more important as is the power of embodied brand in a digital world, AI Forum of New Zealand executive director Emma Naji says.

“Bringing humanness into digital experiences can result in increased sales conversions and higher customer advocacy,” she says.

“However, the digital humans market is in the early adopter phase. Market education and gaining traction with customers can be a challenge for service providers.

Some chatbots examples include Oscar from Air New Zealand, which assists customers with commonly asked queries; Rentbot from New Zealand based CitizenAI provides users with answers to tenancy related questions through Facebook messenger.

Woebot provides cognitive behavioural therapy lessons and mood tracking while Clearhead is a mental wellness portal which uses a chatbot to screen users for depression and anxiety, recommending mental health resources and booking professional help.

New Zealand scale-up Ambit deploys digital employees on its conversational AI platform and delivers a solution within weeks. Ambit’s single biggest challenge now is future growth, scaling and tackling the international market.

The report says digital employees operate through a conversational interface and reduce the effort and time for a customer to search a website, make enquiries on the phone, or queue at a store.

Uneeq has a digital human platform that uses AI to create a natural human-like interface for machine to human communication.  Their customers and digital humans include, Vodafone (Kiri), UBank (Mia), Ministry of Primary Industries (Vai) and ASB Bank (Josie), UBS and Southern Cross.  

Uneeq currently operates in Australasia and recently expanded to the USA and Europe. It is investing in research and development in New Zealand and expects the development team to double in size over the next 18 months.

ANZ New Zealand launched their new digital assistant pilot, Jamie, last year. The AI technology was developed with New Zealand company Soul Machines.

Jamie was initially programmed to answer questions based on the 30 most frequently searched for online topics. In its first 100 days Jamie had more than 12,000 conversations with people visiting the site. The most common question was how to open a bank account, which Jamie was asked nearly 1200 times.

Liz Maguire, ANZ’s head of digital and transformation, says Jamie was able to answer about 60 percent of customer queries. To avoid robotic responses to standard banking questions, considerable effort was made to optimise Jamie’s friendly persona.

AI Forum The AI Forum brings together New Zealand’s artificial intelligence community, working together to harness the power of AI technologies to enable a prosperous, inclusive and thriving future New Zealand.