Say Hello To Chatbots

By Aria Nurfikry | Imagine you’re online shopping for some new cool gadgets. You find the item you want to buy, you like it, it fits your budget, all you’ve got to do is put it in the shopping cart and pay. You enter your credit card number. You click buy… and then the purchase fails. There’s an issue with your credit card. You know for sure you’ve paid the bill, you know for sure you haven’t maxed out your limit.
There’s only one thing you can do. Call the bank. You shudder at the idea of waiting for the agent to answer while listening to crappy music, answering tedious questions, more waiting, and more questions until the issue is resolved.

There’s an easier way for you to interact with your bank, letting you easily get what you need faster. At the other end of this interaction, your bank actually wants something better, too. Running a call center to handle customers is a costly effort, requiring hundreds or even thousands of customer service agents to handle all the questions. Mostly these questions are repetitive, with a lot of similar complaints from numerous customers. It’s a mundane and tedious job.

As we enter the age of AI, there’s a better solution for a business to interact with customers. It’s called a chatbot, a computer program powered by Artificial Intelligence that can answer questions and perform functions through a conversation. It’s basically a robot that can answer your questions and help you through a chat platform such as Facebook Messenger, Line, or Whatsapp.

Instead of having thousands of people answer to millions of questions from customers, within a second these chatbots can handle questions and help thousand of customers all at once. Sure, there may come a time when human intervention is needed for special cases, but for the easier things, the bot can handle most of it.

This is a new trend that has been leveraged by major businesses all over the world. It has become possible due to the development of Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing technology. In short, making AI smart enough to understand and respond to a conversation with humans.

Beyond enabling a better customer experience, there is huge potential for chatbots to become the next big platform after mobile apps. With people installing fewer apps on their phones, making a chatbot that people can interact with inside popular messaging apps can be one solution that businesses should explore. In fact, ride-hailing companies such as Uber have already created a chatbot within Blackberry Messenger that can be used to order rides.

In Indonesia, is one of the pioneer in the field of Conversational AI. It has helped major corporations from various industries in Indonesia to build chatbots that help drive their business goals, whether it’s better customer service, marketing, or customer engagement.

The existing case studies for the usage of chatbots developed by have shown immense success. Among them are Telkomsel, Indonesia’s largest telco company with more than 150 million customers.

Telkomsel’s chatbot is called Veronika, a virtual assistant that can handle all the needs of Telkomsel customers, and can be accessed through various platforms including Line and Facebook Messenger.

Veronika can give users access to product information, latest promotions, customer service, as well as facilitating various transactions such as buying phone credits and data packages, or making bill payments. Beyond that, Veronika can help customers access a location-based service to find the nearest GraPARI (Telkomsel’s brick-and-mortar customer service center), and reserve an appointment for the consumers to meet the customer service agents at GraPARI.

All of this can be accessed easily through simple conversations and questions, so customers can talk to the chatbot as if talking to a human instead of having to memorize keywords to access certain services or functions. About 95% of all customer inquiries can be handled by the chatbot, which improves efficiency for the company.

The other success story is Unilever Indonesia’s female chatbot persona that is relatable to the key audience, emulating a witty and trustworthy best friend. It is designed to entertain and build relationship through everyday conversations.

We decided to name the chatbot Jemma. With a bubbly personality that everybody loves talking to, Jemma is capable of handling various conversation topics, from simple greetings to specific conversation cases such as relationships, food recommendations, and Indonesian pop culture.

Aside from handling everyday conversations, the key features that Jemma offers are weekly zodiacs, lifehacks, and the latest entertainment news. As the user base grew exponentially in the first three months, we found that most users have gotten quite attached to Jemma ‡ some of them even tried to confide their dreams and problems to her.

Given the circumstances, we decided to add one dedicated feature where users can specifically tell their concerns and hopes to the chatbot. Jemma, like the best friend she is, will sympathetically listen and give words of encouragement to users.

While it is clear from the start that Jemma is just a chatbot, somehow users continue to confide in Jemma because, apparently, it feels like conversing to a real person ‡ a best friend. Jemma is effective as one of Unilever’s alternative digital marketing channels to promote products and events.

In less than a year after deployment, Jemma has managed to acquire 1.5 million friends, with more than 50 million incoming messages in 17 million sessions. In October 2017, Jemma won “The Most Interactive Brand Chatbot” award by LINE Corporation.

With these success stories, it is clear that chatbots have turned from an interesting experiment into a mature business strategy that companies need to adapt because not only can it provide a more efficient way of doing business, it also helps you, the consumer, to have a better experience while interacting with these companies.

Imagine how much easier it would be if you could just talk to the chatbot of your bank or internet provider, or even to shop or order food. Life would be better.

About The Author
Aria Nurfikry is Brand Marketing Manager for He uses the power of storytelling to help people understand the impact that Artificial Intelligence technology can bring for society and businesses. Before joining, Aria was the Marketing Manager for Dattabot, another Indonesian startup focused on Big Data Analytics technology. Prior to that, he was a Consultant at a large Indonesian PR firm where he handled major clients from various industries.

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