When was the last time you read something about chatbots or Artificial Intelligence? It must have been hardly two or three days. This is the truth, and as said by Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the last 10 years were about creating a mobile-first world but the next 10 years will focus on creating an AI-first world.
One of the main applications of AI has been the deployment of chatbots for multiple industries. The use of chatbots and AI has become mainstream in the accounting industry as well. Tasks such as providing customers with basic information are now automated with the help of chatbots. They not only collect data but learn from it and improve themselves.
As per a global trend study from TCS, 40% of financial and banking services have integrated AI into their accounting software.
But what are chatbots exactly?
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What are Chatbots?
Chatbots are computer programs that mimic human conversations. Users can interact with a chatbot to get answers to various queries via chat or voice – just like they would while talking to a real human. They have the ability to understand the customer’s needs, look for the information in the database, and deliver it to the customer.
Chatbots understand and process the user’s phrases, words, or speech and give an answer accordingly. Some common examples of platforms providing chatbots are Whatsapp, Facebook, Wechat, Kik, etc.
How Do They Work?
They are developed using AI algorithms that interact and engage with users without any human interference. For instance, checking your bank balance or asking Siri to book a cab – these are some day-to-day examples of chatbots that we come across.
Chatbots can also help businesses automate processes and minimize their time, effort, and expenses by eliminating human error.
Chatbots process inputs from the users and use language processing to understand the user’s message. Then, they dig into the database, come up with relevant results, and deliver to the users.
Also, chatbots learn from the data they receive. For instance, a chatbot in accounting software may understand how you log receipts from a certain vendor. It will then automate most manual tasks independently and save your valuable time.
Applications of Chatbots in Accounting
In the accounting industry, chatbots can be used in a variety of ways.
1. Customer Service
One of the most popular ways of using chatbots in accounting is by answering users’ questions. Most users ask basic and repetitive questions – a chatbot can easily communicate with them and resolve their queries without any human help.
One simple example is helping people doing taxes, as most of them do not know about the rules and regulations. There are many services like AskMyUncleSam that use chatbots to answer questions related to personal and business taxes.
2. Payroll Queries
Accounting firms with a large team size find it difficult to manage their employees. They have a significant number of employees and their payroll queries become difficult to handle after the strength crosses a certain number. Also, these queries are similar in one way or another and such firms have appointed chatbot programs.
These programs answer queries like completing a W-4 form, direct deposits, or questions about pay dates and cycles. The payroll department can then focus on other business-related tasks rather than answering queries. However, if any query is complex, the payroll management department steps in.
3. Tracking Finance
Another recent use case of chatbots is their ability to submit receipts and track them. They can have a conversation with the chatbot instead of contacting or emailing the concerned department for follow-ups.
For instance, the user can ask, “Are there any pending invoices?”. The chatbot will quickly search the database and communicate its findings to the user.
How Accounting Firms Should Choose Chatbots
1. Automation Rate
The main purpose of deploying a chatbot is to automate mundane tasks so that the employees can focus on other productive tasks. Accounting firms should ensure that the chatbot they are deploying should have an automation rate of at least 60%.
2. Ease of Use
Accounting firms deploy chatbots to handle the queries of their clients and employees. Thus, they should ensure that the support team and accounts department are consulted in every phase of implementing the solution; they are the ones who will be directly benefiting from the automation.
Deploying and using chatbots is trendy. But should accounting firms do the same and follow the trend because it’s a buzzword, or should they think about the ROI as well?
The initial investment may seem to be intimidating (especially for small firms), but it might be the fix they need if their support team is overloaded with work and employees aren’t satisfied with their jobs. One or more chatbots could do the trick here and offer returns more than the money invested.
Accounting firms are not tech-savvy as IT firms, but experts believe that chatbots in accounting (even for small firms) will stay for long and will become mainstream in a few years. They are already being used by quite a lot of firms and gaining popularity.
Do you believe that accounting firms should use chatbots? What are the areas which are still untapped by chatbots? Share your thoughts in the comments below.