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How chatbots have flourished during the covid-19 pandemic

14 December, 2021
4 min

Out of the Ashes

It goes without saying that the covid-19 pandemic has been an absolutely tragic event. However, much as large-scale wars bring about technological and medical advances, it must be recognised that the pandemic has stimulated innovation and brought about a digital transformation that might not otherwise have occurred – at least as quickly.

The rise in the use and popularity of chatbots over this year is a prime example. Many of us were familiar with chatbots prior to the pandemic since they were already becoming a standard feature of the set-up of many websites. From e-commerce to iGaming websites, that little box in the bottom corner of the screen that prompted you to ask a question when you landed on the homepage was something that we were all starting to get comfortable with.

World Health Organization (WHO) consults via WhatsApp chatbot

Automated Customer Service

However, when the pandemic really started to take root and national lockdowns kicked in, chatbots went from being a small convenience to being absolutely critical. Once direct contact was outlawed and working from home became the norm, even telephone call centres – both those in the UK and those overseas – could not respond to the new stresses placed on firms across all industries.

In order to maintain a high level of customer experience, start-ups, SMEs and global corporations alike all leant heavily on AI. While the travel industry processed the seemingly endless cancellations and re-arrangements, retailers worked chatbots into their systems to ensure that food and other essentials could reach the population. And, of course, the overloaded healthcare sector utilised chatbots to field the vast volumes of urgent enquiries and fearful concerns from a public who knew little to nothing about the new life-threatening virus.

As vaccines are being rolled out in the UK, this could be the beginning of the end for the coronavirus pandemic. However, the precedents set for such extensive use of AI throughout this time are not likely to be reversed in a hurry. Now that companies have seen just how invaluable chatbots can be and had such an exciting glimpse at the possible applications of this technology, we should all anticipate many more chats with bots in the future.

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Phil de Gruchy

Phil is the owner of Blue Llama, a digital agency in Jersey, Channel Islands. He has worked in digital for most of his career and has a wide knowledge of UX, web and app design and digital marketing.