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Chatbots taking over big NZ business inquiries

Madeline Newman – ED, AI Forum

Chatbots, or business virtual customer relations staff, are now taking over much of New Zealand big business, AI Forum NZ executive director Madeline Newman says.

The banks, insurance companies, Spark, Vodafone, energy companies and councils all have chatbots to deal with people’s inquiries, she says.

Tower insurance’s chatbot Charlie answers 10,000 utterances a day, or about 2000 conversations daily. Oscar at AirNZ manages 2000 sessions every day, she says.

They gather large amounts of data (to give them something to say) and use natural language processing to ‘talk’ to users – the intent is to mimic natural human language.

“From a user experience perspective they are aligned as digital humans. Uneeq worked with Mentemia to create a digital John Kirwan life coach. That’s a pretty advanced bot delivering wellbeing coaching. Soul Machine has produced some outstanding chatbots too.

Some research shows 33 percent of customers questions are instantly resolved by chatbots; Aside from the new Jack Niklaus digital twin, Soul Machine’s is probably the most engaging and coolest new example in Aotearoa.

“Next generation interfaces for chatbots are likely to see these incorporated with augmented reality. It will be a bit like having a conversation with a virtual bot that is sitting on the chair opposite you, not on a screen.

“And then there is the Metaverse where a chatbot avatar could walk you through a virtual experience rather than just talk about it, bringing things like teaching to whole new levels. Imagine sitting down for a chat with Stephen Hawking, Isaac Asimov or Wonder Woman.” 

The AI Forum is working closely with the government to develop an AI strategy for New Zealand that includes ethics, principles that will provide the assurance that will underpin our trust in AI going forward.

Every day New Zealanders are becoming more used to being served by chatbots or digital employees, speeding up service and saving companies money at the same time.

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

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.

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.  

For further information contact Madeline Newman on 0212749778 or NZTech’s media specialist and Make Lemonade NZ’s editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188.

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