A Warrington based specialist computer programming business is at the centre of the world’s next digital revolution – Chatbots.
Chatbots – programmes that automate processes on command – are set to boost productivity per employee by as much as ten per cent a year, leaving them free to do higher value work. And Warrington-based business Chatbot Labs is already winning contracts to deliver what it describes as ‘game-changing’ boosts to company efficiency.
Widespread take-up of the technology should create 10,000 new jobs in the north west alone, predicts company boss Chris Bain. The developers, located in The Base on Dallam Lane, Warrington’s hi-technology hub, says a chatbot is ‘the office equivalent of Alexa or Siri,’ taking verbal or written instructions and interrogating all the company’s software systems and databases to find answers to queries or undertake menial tasks such as uploading programmes.
“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,” explains Bain. “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.”
And, just as the fear that automation would be a ‘job killer’ in manufacturing has proven to be a myth, so it will be with chatbots, predicts Bain. A ten per cent boost in productivity might not sound much, but in people-intensive or value-intensive service industries such as call centres or accountancy practices, that’s a huge gain in output that will allow the firm to direct people to do more higher value work.
“The system is in its infancy and we’re one of just a handful of companies leading the way, but it’s moving quickly,” says Bain. “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.
“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, says Bain.
“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.”
Bain believes that Warrington and the wider north west, with its thriving tech scenes such as those found in The Base, could lead the way in jobs growth.
“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,” says Bain.