Chatbots could save business billions of pounds a year with banking and healthcare expected to be the biggest sectors to benefit.

Responding to customer queries using automated messages for instance, or advising patients on symptoms, could save $8bn (£6bn) in costs every year across global business by 2022, analysts at Juniper Research forecast.

“We believe that healthcare and banking providers using bots can expect average time savings of just over four minutes per enquiry, equating to average cost savings in the range of $0.50-$0.70 per interaction,” said researcher Lauren Foye.

The effectiveness of bots, which are already being used in both sectors and beyond, is expected to increase hugely in the coming years. In banking, the analysts believe more than 90 per cent of interactions with bots will be successful without any human input by 2022, and in healthcare it will be over 75 per cent, up from a current success rate of 12 per cent.

Lloyds Bank has revealed details of how it’s using chatbots. Speaking at the AI Summit London, Marc Lien, director of digital development and applied science at the bank, said the bigger impact of chatbot technology was in “augmenting” service by helping staff internally.

“Chatbots actually for me have a bigger power, not in the customer facing side, but on the colleague facing side,” he said.

“Helping to bring together the entirety of the knowledge base of the institution, to a colleague where and when they want it in a conversational manner is extremely powerful and is actually a really good and positive message for colleagues about how to embrace this technology and not fear it.

And in healthcare, UK startup Babylon is testing out using chatbots for patients as an alternative option to calling the NHS non-emergency 111 number. It believes the technology could help save the UK health system significant amounts of money.

“As artificial intelligence advances, reducing reliance on human representatives undoubtedly spells job losses,” warned Foye. Technologists, economists and politicians are divided on the impact such automation will have on jobs.

While familiar jobs are likely to be lost in areas that are more easily automated, such as customer service or manufacturing, many argue other jobs will be created.

A major study by the Royal Society involving some of the countries top machine learning and artificial intelligence researchers and academics, warned last month that the benefits of such technology must be spread equally across society.

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