Duo help SMEs build chatbots
Virtual assistants no longer reserved for large companies
Chatbots may be all the rage for big finance and government agencies, but a company here wants small businesses too, to create such programs to help with customer interactions - even if they do not know how to code.
Chatbot Koosu, which began operations last month, held its first two-day Facebook Messenger chatbot-building course on Dec 18 and 19 at the Lifelong Learning Institute, using the free version of third-party software.
The software allows users to customise functions by specifying keywords and using drag-and-drop functions.
Chatbots can be programmed to provide round-the-clock replies about a company's products and respond to comments on the company's Facebook.
Customers can also make purchases in the conversation and request to talk to the page administrator.
Chatbot Koosu founders Jason Tan and Lian Jin Hoe, both 36, said the company will offer a service to build these virtual assistants starting next year.
Said Mr Tan: "Artificial intelligence has been a big talking point, but previously, only multinational corporations have had the capital to invest in programmers and R&D and integrate it in their business and website...
"But after Facebook launched their chatbot platform, it has become a big business opportunity for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) because they can enjoy what the big boys are doing in a much simpler way. Anyone can have their own chatbot."
After Facebook launched its Messenger chatbot function in April last year, the primary school classmates, who are involved in real-estate sales, tried to make their own and found it much easier than expected.
Mr Tan said: "We realised that so many pain points, so many business procedures can be automated, to the extent that we wanted to master it and provide this solution to all SMEs in Singapore."
A dozen people attended their course, which cost $896 for each attendee. The firm will continue the course next year.
Mr Joseph Seah, founder of interior design firm Monoloft, said the class provided detailed guidance that he would not have been able to handle alone.
He wants to build a bot that can get information from potential clients about their home needs and show pictures from the company's past projects. This could lighten the workload for the company's sole marketer who handles enquiries.
He said: "I was surprised at first, because I thought a chatbot would take up a lot of money."
Mr Deon Tay Tong, sole proprietor of engineering company Zoncepz Solutions, attended as he wanted to explore how he could adapt chatbots for the business-to-business model.
Chatbots have been on the rise. OCBC and DBS as well as some insurers have launched their own. The Government has also created virtual assistants such as Ask Jamie, which can answer questions about government services.
Mr Nicholas Kontopoulos, global vice-president of fast-growth markets for SAP Hybris, said chatbots are likely to grow among small businesses as they become more cost-effective.
He added: "The decision to invest in chatbot technologies needs to be driven by a company's customer experience strategy... Customers don't judge a brand solely on how great your chatbot is."