- IBM created a chatbot for the Wimbledon tennis championship that uses its Watson artificial intelligence (AI) technology to answer visitor questions through Facebook Messenger. The bot will give fans access to tailored information about scores, news and players, the company said in a press release.
- The Wimbledon Messenger experience brings more content to mobile platforms where fans increasingly spend their time, per the release, and complements the in-app AI assistant "Fred." Wimbledon’s organizer, the All England Lawn Tennis Club, debuted Fred last year to help visitors at the event in London.
- IBM's AI-powered feature also includes automated video highlights for Wimbledon fans. The tech giant taught Watson to better recognize player emotions to help screen through video clips and identify key moments of the tennis tournament.
Wimbledon began adopting AI tech in 2015, mostly to support broadcasts of tennis matches and gather information about the tournament. This year's addition of a chatbot for Messenger is another indication of the growing importance of the technology, which automates conversations in natural language. Chatbots have been criticized for providing awkward conversations that don't help customers much, but tech titans like IBM, Microsoft and Google are working to refine chatbot interactions and develop software to handle more complex requests from customers. By integrating the chatbot into a platform used by more than 1.3 billion users each month, IBM is smartly making the tech accessible to a larger audience, pointing to the potential increase in everyday adoption.
Brands are expected to turn to chatbots as they abandon mobile apps that are costly to maintain, per a report by consulting firm Gartner. Many brands founded that apps didn't deliver the level of adoption and customer engagement they had expected. ROI didn't meet estimates because of the cost of support, maintenance, upgrades, customer care and marketing to drive downloads. That has led brands to instead invest in consumer messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat, to reach customers where they spend a high percentage of their time, Gartner found.
Twenty-five percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant or chatbot tech by 2020, up from less than 2% in 2017, Gartner predicts. Companies are mostly motivated to use the tech to save on labor costs. Chatbots have led to a reduction in call, chat and email inquiries of as much as 70% for some companies, which also report increased customer satisfaction and a 33% saving per voice engagement, per Gartner.