Here’s How Chatbots and AI are Shaking Up the Procurement Industry
Chatbots have made their way firmly into our lives now. What were once novelties and little more than tech-based toys, are now disrupting many aspects of society.
We have Amazon and Google room assistants in our homes, doing everything from playing music to switching off the lights. We also have them built into Facebook Messenger which allow us to order food, book appointments, and get customer service help from our favorite brands.
While Procurement may not be the first industry which springs to mind when you think about the application of chatbots, they can actually be deployed to great effect.
You cannot talk about chatbots without spending at least a little time also talking about artificial intelligence.
Technology companies are presently involved in an arms race to develop the most sophisticated AI and machine learning platforms they can. Once we have computers which can learn and make decisions in a way which is undisguisable from their human counterparts, we can employ that technology to connect with colleagues and customers faster and better than ever before.
“The biggest trend in technology right now is the race to make machine learning more sophisticated,” writes Sylvia Lee Shui Cha of GDPM. “Machine Learning is the ability of computers to self-teach and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. Based on human neural learning, machine learning takes millions of examples and uses layers to build on itself to eventually interpret something without a human first identifying it.”
Advanced artificial intelligence can help procurement employees and customers browse, select, order, and process products and services faster and in a more streamlined fashioned than ever before, and with a higher degree of accuracy.
How then can artificial intelligence technology help create procurement chatbots?
Chatbots can be used in procurement to help make better purchasing decisions. The chatbot can make suggestion based on several factors including the needs identified during the chat, preferred suppliers, preferred items, contracts in place, purchasing history, real-time availability of products, context, and numerous other variables.
And, because chatbots are powered by AI computers they can evaluate all these factors and deliver a response in a matter of moments, whereas a human operator would need to check multiple systems and make several calculations. This would eliminate the need for all too familiar responses such as, “Can I call you back later about that?”
The approval process can also be built into the software. The chatbot can automatically add the approved to the conversation enabling the AI to become the single point of conversation for all stages of the buying process, from order confirmations to goods receipts and more.
The most common application of chatbots in other industries can also be applied to procurement. When people have a query about an order or shipment, they will often have to spend a significant portion of time on the phone, potentially being passed from department to department to try and get a satisfactory response.
However, with chatbots, simple queries can be answered instantaneously without the need to wait in a queue. Users simply log on, enter an order number, choose from a selection of most frequently asked questions, and get their answer. They can also receive all associated information which is available, potentially answering a future question they didn’t even know they needed to ask yet.
If the customer is unsatisfied by the response or has a question which is a little more unusual, the chatbot can then connect them with a human operator to take it from there. However, by having a chatbot as the first point of call you’ll be able to answer a significant number of queries without needed to take up the time of your busy staff.
Artificial intelligence and chatbots can make a huge impact on the procurement industry. Whatever it is you need to purchase, you can make the buying and operational support processes more streamlined and quicker than ever before by deploying chatbots.
As the technology underpinning these bots becomes ever more sophisticated, we will see the complexity and the number of queries they can handle increase in kind.
“Hypothetically, machine learning would be able to predict and understand procurement’s needs even before the specialists do,” said Lee Shui Cha. “Acting as a purchasing partner, the machine would complete the tasks like contract negotiation, and invoicing all without the assistance of a manager.”
Artificial intelligence and chatbots are set to be hot topics at ProcureCon Asia 2019, being held in July at the Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa, Singapore.
You can hear Jorge Juan Munoz Fernández, Head of Strategic Sourcing & Transformation, Maxis, speak at ProcureCon Asia 2019, on how to use RPA to provide information on simple queries like order status, shipment status, stock availability, stock price, supplier status, and contract details to free up your staff for more strategic work.
Please download the agenda today for more information and insights.