The nearly ubiquitous use of mobile-messaging applications worldwide represents the fastest adoption curve ever for communication technology, and recently messaging apps have surpassed social-media platforms in terms of active users.
Intelligent automation via chatbots provides brands and businesses with an incredible opportunity to chat with millions of customers at scale on their platform of choice. In addition, they offer the potential to deliver a better customer service experience and can bolster additional social transactions.
Although the sky is the limit in terms of the potential for chatbots, the industry is far too complacent about the privacy implications surrounding mobile messaging and bots.
Companies across intensely regulated industries such as banking, health care, insurance, telecommunications and utilities need to be very conscious about how they use the highly sensitive data residing in their messaging streams with customers. These industries are built upon trust, and the privacy of their customers' information is paramount to their success.
Take banking for example, which has seen a number of bots recently announced by major banks and financial institutions that can be used with Facebook Messenger and other messaging apps.
Last week, Bank of America announced the launch of its chatbot, Erica, which will be available to customers late next year. Erica, which will be hosted on BofA's own mobile app, will analyze customer financial data to generate recommendations on how to best handle their finances.
Mastercard customers in the U.S. will soon be able to use an artificial intelligence-powered bot to ask more than 1,000 questions about personal finances and other subjects.
But a recent report from Forrester's Peter Wannemacher suggested that chatbots aren't ready to handle the high-stakes world of managing people's money. At least, today's bots aren't.
"We are bullish on the long-term prospects for bots," Wannemacher said. "But we advise banks to invest in the technology that will make next-generation bots."
Bots can only carry out basic requests, such as to answer questions such as, "What is my account balance?" or "Can I pay my mobile bill?"
Although these chatbots may provide basic utility, like helping users to check account balances or transfer funds from different accounts for example, there is an inherent risk in enabling any further functionality within such an insecure channel.