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Tapping in the Potential of Chatbots

Manash Bhattacharjee, eCommerce Head of Product Management, PepsiCo [NASDAQ: PEP]
Manash Bhattacharjee, eCommerce Head of Product Management, PepsiCo [NASDAQ: PEP]

Manash Bhattacharjee, eCommerce Head of Product Management, PepsiCo [NASDAQ: PEP]

Manash Bhattacharjee is an incredibly successful Product Manager and a keynote speaker who has gained experience working for some industry leaders, like Mastercard, Infosys, Oracle, Wipro Technologies, and Thomson Reuters. Bhattacharjee is currently the eCommerce Head of Product Management at PepsiCo and is focused on developing rapidly evolving platforms, products, and technologies. He has gained a global perspective by living and working across several continents. Throughout his career, Bhattacharjee has proven his passion for innovation, having filled out more than 40 patents and received innovation awards for his projects at Mastercard.

In today’s business scenarios, chatbots and conversational platforms play a crucial role in helping enterprises build a brand, increasing customer engagement, and attaining an edge over competitors. Manash Bhattacharjee, eCommerce Head of Product Management PepsiCo has carved a niche in the rapidly evolving conversational platforms. He shares his insights on the current trends and how he has implemented this technology over his career.

Could you throw some light on your background, and what are some of the projects you have undertaken to date?

Being the head of eCommerce Product Management, I am responsible for establishing the product management vertical for PepsiCo e-commerce. At PepsiCo we are continuallybuilding exciting consumer experiences, including Voice based bots like - Snackable Notes or Tea House Meditation.

Prior to my current role at PepsiCo, I had spent quite a few years experimenting with Chatbots as well as IOT based consumer experiences on various platforms. One of my early iterations wasa Grocery Shopping Concierge experience on the FB Messenger platform. People were using Facebook Messenger in a large number by 2016. We realized that there were some pain points when it comes to downloading and interacting with apps, and that the above problems could be solved by AI-enabled chatbot.

Could you give us your take on the chatbot ecosystem as a whole?

Chatbot technology is a broad area, and to simplify it, I would broadly classify the entire ecosystem into 5 major categories. First comes the Form Factor, and can be explained as the multiple interfaces through which the user is communicating. It could be a Skill on Alexa or an Action on Google Home or a mobile-based form factor for interacting with a Facebook chatbot, or it could be an IoT based device like smart appliance, through which you can have a conversational experience.

Next, the ecosystem can be divided into Signals and Processing. This part deals with the way data is interpreted by a platform-wide level of capabilities in terms of user inputs and then processed. After the data is processed and interpreted, it is then pushed on to the BackendPlatform.

Backend Platforms connects to Different Ecosystemlike Facebook, Google, Samsung. Last but not the least is extending the ecosystem beyond the conversational experience example having a chatbot connects to Order Management System.

What are some of the pain points or challenges that exist within the chatbots implementation?

The biggest barrier is the fact that although there is an abundance of voice applications/ chatbots available over platforms like Alexa, Google Home, FB Messenger — but not every one of them is functional. There are few instances which can create an engagement with the user through conversational experience, but lack of anchor products has reduced the adoption by users.

Challenge relates to sensors too and how these sensory data are being interpreted. To understand the utterance of each word that the user speaks depends entirely on the maturity level of the platform; still, there are many sets of languages or various dialects of English which the platform is not able to understand. But the technology is getting better every day and I are seeing improvement with every iteration.

A major area that is not seeing much improvement is the diverse nature of non connected technology stacks. Apple, Samsung, Google, Amazon are all building technology platform for their voice experiences that don’t overlap. This is a significant limitation for product teams as they have to typically build separate instances of their experiences if they want to leverage more than one platform.

Lastly, I would talk about extending the conversational platform to the external world, which can go beyond the ordinary experiences, just like WeChat. WeChat has multiple integrations with external ecosystems to give the user aworld of experiences wherein users can shop, invest in a mutual fund, call a cab - all on a single platform.

What would you advise your colleagues or peers as to what can they do to adapt to the new technologies?

To all my peers who are new to this industry, I would suggest starting with simple use cases where organizations are trying to solve the challenges to provide real value to the customers. Prototypes and research, although they can be good reference points, can never replace actual data points collected after launching a product. So instead of spending most of the time in planning, I would opt for launching the product live in the market quickly and then observe the consumer adoption and see how it excites the user.

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