Time for a chat?

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How are you getting along with Siri? Or Cortana? Or Alexa? Voice controlled digital assistants seem to be all the rage… (though personally I am not looking forward to sitting in an office full of people shouting at their computers).

Malory Davies FCILT, Editor.

Malory Davies FCILT, Editor.

But the range of uses for this technology is expanding – only this week UPS launched a beta version of a chatbot – an artificial-intelligence-enabled platform that mimics human conversation to help users find UPS locations, get shipping rates and track packages.

The chatbot is available through Facebook Messenger, Skype and Amazon. Customers can use simple phrases like “shipping rates” to get voice responses in English.

“We see chatbots becoming an important communication channel for our customers over the next few years, and we’re setting the stage for the incorporation of artificial intelligence throughout our customer-facing technologies,” said Stuart Marcus, UPS vice president of customer technology marketing.

UPS developed the chatbot in-house and plans to continue to update its functionality, including integration with the UPS My Choice platform, enabling customers to manage the delivery time and location of incoming packages.

Of course, voice recognition has been successfully used in warehouses for years. But creating a system flexible enough to deal members of the public is not trivial.

But once the investment has been made, the potential savings could be huge, and the result could be a substantial reduction in the number of people required for customer service operations.

Chatbot technology is going to become more and more common in logistics – just don’t expect to phone up just for a chat.

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