I’m an introvert who hates talking on the phone. The rise of chatbots changed my life.

Bots can actually be pretty human-like.

| Jason Fan | Sponsored | March 10, 2021, 06:17 PM

Like most kids, I loved eating pizza when I was younger.

My family used to have designated “pizza days”, which would often be the highlight of my week.

What I did not look forward to, however, was the process of obtaining said pizza.

You see, my mum often delegated the task of ordering the pizza to me, which wasn’t a difficult task, aside from the fact that I absolutely detested making phone calls.

Many phone calls are simply unnecessary

Till today, I cannot fully explain why I hate making phone calls so much.

I only know that I routinely stare at the numbers of unknown callers on my phone, wait for the ringing to end, and then do a quick Google search of the number, hoping to find out who called me.

Even if my friends call me, I’m likely to pretend that I’m “busy” and text them back later on.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m largely an introvert, and feel that many phone calls are simply unnecessary.

After all, what’s wrong with sending an email, or a text message? If you just need to tell that my dental appointment is tomorrow, is there really a need to call me?

In particular, I hate talking with strangers on the phone.

While I can read visual cues if we talk face-to-face (I can tell whether he’s having a good day, or he’s actually really bored), such cues are absent when I’m on the phone.

The fact that the pizza guy may be rolling his eyes at me the entire time, and that there’s no way for me to know, makes me want to avoid phone calls at all costs.

Small wins

I still remember the day pizza companies introduced online orders, because it changed my life forever.

No longer did I have to rehearse my order, take a deep breath, and dial the dreaded hotline in order to get my pizza delivered.

I could simply key in my order, input my payment details, and be done with it.

It was the end of phone calls, at least for this particular task.

It was a small, but significant victory.

You can get a lot done talking to the AI

It gets better though. These days, thanks to technology’s progress, there are increasingly fewer tasks that require me to actually speak to someone on the phone.

The rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) worldwide has resulted in more efficient processes among many notable companies.

According to Gartner, a global research company, the number of businesses adopting AI increased by 270 per cent between 2015 and 2019, with more and more businesses adopting it every day.

Chatbots, for example, help companies to serve their customers more efficiently and effectively, using AI.

After all, a single chatbot can liaise with hundreds of customers at once, cutting down the transaction time significantly.

This means less time spent on the line waiting for a customer service representative, listening to tinny music being played on loop, and more time for getting things done.

For an introvert like myself, a well-optimised chatbot is a godsend.

How does it work?

These days, one can get a surprising amount done by chatting with a bot.

For example, if you have a bank account with OCBC Bank, you can easily ask for a waiver for your credit card’s annual fee, or any late charges, by chatting with a bot.

Instead of having to come up with an excuse for why you forgot to pay your bills on time to a real person (I...simply forgot), you can just explain your circumstances to a bot, and receive your answer in real time.

No awkward silence, no fears of getting judged by someone on the other side of the line.

OCBC’s Emma is a really good listener

In addition, if you’re in the market for a home or renovation loan, OCBC’s very own Emma is an AI-powered chatbot which is trained to address the questions of both current homeowners and potential homebuyers.

Emma, which you can speak to at the OCBC website, can do many things.

Calculate the amount of loans you qualify for? Done.

Unsure of how to go about applying for a loan? She will send you detailed instructions.

Got a really amateur-ish question to ask, but not sure whether you should? Fire away, because Emma won’t judge.

Emma is astonishingly human-like, and can interpret most questions thrown her way by customers.

In the event that she doesn’t understand a question, she is programmed to ask certain leading questions, in order to better understand your question.

If you happen to be cheeky, and try to ask Emma on a date immediately after speaking to her, she will likely reject you awkwardly, just like a human being would.

And you know what’s the best part about speaking to a bot? You can end the conversation anytime you want. No questions asked.

AI is integral in many digital processes

Emma, of course, is not the sum total of OCBC’s AI efforts.

OCBC is actually the first bank in Singapore to establish a specialised AI unit in 2018, in order to develop its in-house AI capabilities.

The bank utilises AI to help detect suspicious transactions, allowing it to counter money laundering, as well as allowing staff to take on other valued tasks.

Many other digital processes you take for granted today are assisted by AI, even if you don’t realise it.

If you haven’t spoken to Emma yet, perhaps you should.

And who knows? Perhaps one day, you’ll be able to call into OCBC’s contact centre, and speak to an AI chatbot regarding your investment needs.

It may very well be as easy as ordering a pizza.

This sponsored article by OCBC makes the writer wish we could use AI to help plan our lives.

Top image via Unsplash.