With artificial intelligence (AI) assistants and chatbots gaining a foothold among businesses around the world, Vietnamese enterprises and retailers have decided to follow the trend.
More and more Vietnamese businesses are using virtual assistant, with the help of AI, to take charge of customer service and sale via the internet, in lieu of human employees.
Chatbot, or computer programs capable of communicating with human in real time through voice or text messages, can be integrated into websites, mobile applications or instant messengers to spare businesses from assigning employees for customer care tasks.
The technology enables businesses to get rid of routine tasks and to simultaneously process multiple requests from users. The virtual customer care employees are also available for giving responses to customers’ inquiries on a 24/7 basis without asking for any extra wages.
One of the most common type of chatbots are those that work on Facebook Messenger, the messaging app and platform run by the world’s largest social networking site.
The bot will help a company to communicate with customers who contact them through Facebook Messenger, whether answering their questions, introducing new products or guiding them to the main website to start the purchase.
Many Vietnamese businesses, from retailers to clothing stores to food and beverage shops, have employed chatbots to engage with their customers via Facebook.
|The Facebook Messenger chatbot of VPBank-run digital bank Timo allows users to find the nearest ATM. Photo: Tuoi Tre News|
Most of the bots will greet customers, offering to help them review the menu or even browse products. Some also allow users to start a conversation with the real customer service personnel.
At present pace, these ‘artificial employees’ are only able to politely chat with customers in simply programmed sentences and the nature of the conversation is not always natural.
First Vietnamese chatbot developer
At the moment, Harafunnel, run by tech firm Haravan, is arguably the first Vietnamese-developed platform that allows users to create their own chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
As of the end of March, Harafunnel-powered chatbot reached 20,000 users in Vietnam, according to its website. The company boasts such popular customers as The Coffee House, Bitis, and Nhipcaudautu newspaper.
The platform allows even those with no knowledge of app developing or programming to create a chatbot; all they need to do is connect their Facebook page with Harafunnel and make some configurations.
According to Haravan CEO Huynh Lam Ho, only a few Southeast Asian companies can provide Messenger chatbot due to strict requirements from Facebook. The executive proudly said the company currently has several hundred subscribers.
At the 2018 Vietnam Mobile Day summit in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City earlier this month, many experts believed that the growth of chatbot has created a positive impact on the business. The industry insiders are upbeat that the technology will continue to gain more traction in the coming time.
The topmost reason is the popularity of the messaging platforms and apps in Vietnam and the familiarity of Vietnamese users with them, according to experts.
“Users are more likely to read SMS than emails; the industry average SMS read rate is 98 percent, which is 4.9 times higher than email,” said Nguyen Thi Tra My, head of product marketing at Zalo, a Vietnamese messaging and calling app.
According to Duong Thanh Trung, an expert with market research firm Nielsen, the Southeast Asian country has about 49.5 million smartphones.
“It is estimated that the number will increase to 58.4 million by 2020,” Trung said at the summit.
“Moreover, Vietnam is among countries with the highest number of Internet users in the world, with more than 55 percent of Vietnamese users expected to be connected to the Internet by 2020,” he continued.
These are the ideal conditions for chatbots to grow in Vietnam’s market.
Despite this, most chatbots employed by Vietnamese businesses are not really smart. They are only capable of doing a limited amount of tasks, and most of the time suggest customers contact a human employee, or visit the companies’ websites.
|A chatbot automatically replies to a customer’s inquiries. Photo: Harafunnel|