In customer service, the use of voice and chatbots is now completely normal. The benefits are obvious: the more customer enquiries that can be answered automatically, the more time employees have to concentrate on more demanding tasks.

But can this be transferred to procurement and purchasing? How can voice and chatbots relieve employees here too?

For 95 per cent of companies that use chatbots (...), the primary goal is to give employees more time to deal with more complex enquiries in the future. (Industr.com)

Where can voice and chatbots be used in procurement and purchasing?

Procurement processes

Voice and chatbots support buyers in their search for suitable suppliers, products and prices. They can, for example, send automated enquiries to suppliers to inquire about the availability of materials and products.

By connecting the voice or chatbot to the e-procurement system, the suppliers' answers can be fed into the system immediately and are accessible to all employees at all times.

In addition, a voice or chatbot knows all contracts plus discount agreements and conditions and can thus ensure that all price advantages are utilised for orders.

Updating supplier data

In this way, suppliers can also inform companies about changes in their product portfolio. To do this, they contact the voice or chatbot and identify themselves, for example, via an identification number or password.

They then tell the bot which products are new in their portfolio. The chatbot then asks for the necessary information during the conversation and stores it in the system. This way, companies can access updated data and information from their suppliers at any time.

Adherence to company guidelines in the procurement process

Chatbots are suitable for guiding users through entire processes by means of questions and instructions. In this way, employees from other departments can place orders independently without having to rely on the purchasing department.

The chatbot guides the employees and ensures that they adhere to the company guidelines in the procurement process. This can reduce maverick buying in companies, for example.

If an employee has a question during the ordering process, the chatbot can answer it directly in the chat. It then guides the employee back to the last ordering step and the ordering process can continue.  

Approval processes

The approval process can also be handled via a bot. The chatbot integrates the decision-maker into the conversation. If the decision-maker is not immediately available, it opens a new, separate dialogue with the responsible manager. The manager can ask the chatbot how much budget is still available and then immediately decide whether to agree to the purchase and give the approval. Afterwards, the chatbot can inform the employee about the approval. Or the chatbot can process the rest of the order on its own with the help of RPA as soon as the approval has been given.

Document processing

Missing data and incomplete information can quickly cost a company dearly. However, with the help of a chatbot and AI, unstructured documents such as invoices and receipts can be converted into structured data. For this, the chatbot accepts offers, invoices or other documents from suppliers and customers, processes them and feeds the data into the system. This can be made possible, for example, through the use of the Google Cloud Service Procurement DocAI.  This can be easily connected to a chatbot via a conversational AI platform like BOTfriends X be connected to a chatbot. 

This means that procurement data can be processed automatically on a large scale, operational efficiency can be increased and decisions can be made based on data. 

Supplier and invoice management 

The accounts payable department usually receives frequent enquiries about open invoices. The manual processing of such enquiries is time-consuming.

However, with the help of a chatbot, this process can be standardised and automated. The supplier contacts the chatbot and identifies himself using the order or invoice number. The chatbot accesses the system and can provide the supplier with the requested information.

Negotiations

Negotiations are time-consuming and are therefore often only carried out in companies above a certain price level. With a chatbot, however, negotiations can also be carried out cost-effectively for smaller amounts. A detailed description of this use case can be found in our white paper "Chatbots in Purchasing".

Support for asynchronous communication

In large corporations, employees, but also suppliers, are not always in the same time zone. This can make smooth communication difficult and slow down processes. This is where voice and chatbots can provide support, as they can be reached at any time and respond in real time. For example, suppliers can submit their offers at any time and the negotiations described above can also be carried out by the voice or chatbot at any time.

Another example of how Conversational AI can make processes and communication more efficient across time zones are approval processes: For example, an employee needs approval from his or her supervisor to place an order. However, the supervisor is in a different time zone and cannot be reached immediately. At this point, the chatbot takes over the contact and, as soon as the approval is available, can immediately carry out the ordering process with the help of RPA.

Mentoring and onboarding

If an employee falls ill and a colleague fills in, the chatbot can support him or her and guide him or her step by step through the work processes. Of course, the same is possible for new employees. The chatbot helps them with onboarding and is always on hand to answer questions.

Conclusion

Similar to customer service, requests from suppliers or internal customers in procurement can be processed automatically with a voice or chatbot. This can relieve procurement staff and give them more time for more demanding tasks. In addition, a voice or chatbot can also provide advice to employees and automate entire processes such as negotiations.

 

If you want to know more about the use of chatbots in purchasing, you can download our whitepaper.