/ Chatbots

To bot or not to bot, that is the question?


Apps are ‘so last year’. The trouble is that most bots are still so… next year!

Checkout Skyscanner’s attempt on Facebook’s messenger bot. Frankly, in my opinion, it's plain rubbish. Well to be more precise, as another channel for the flight search and booking app it’s perfectly fine, but as a bot it doesn’t really cut it.

Bot – a program operating as an agent in a human like way

The thing is, that is a tough gig. It involves going beyond being an app: a software program to fulfil a specific purpose … and close some of the gap to how a person may behave.

The second thing is it actually has to be useful! You may have seen X.ai in beta - it's sort of cool – it tries to fix meetings for you. But (and that's with a capital 'B') - you need to have a hell of a busy diary to make it worth the overhead of setting up all the constraints so that it will work your way – basically, it can take longer to teach than it saves you in time.

Bots don’t show bad judgement, they show ZERO judgement

So imagine you had enough meetings to warrant teaching the bot, then would you want it to exercise judgement too? I think you would – putting value on your time, putting specific metrics on current and future relationship values, prioritising different tasks against financial and operational factors? You can start to get a sight of just how high the bar will be … it’s got to execute a complex task, and be worth the training to do it.

So what sort of circumstances will make a bot viable? Well I can think of two clear examples (and there may be others). The first and most obvious is when a task has to be repeated many times and so probably is consistent for long periods so there is a payback. Anything involving the two certainties in life – death and taxes springs to mind! But let's not get too morbid…

Bots love repetition and are totally obedient

The second is when you struggle to get a person to execute the task the way you want it done. Forgive my cynicism, but the circumstance that comes to mind is that ultimate herd of cats otherwise known as a sales team!

Forget recruitment, training, commission plans, sales incentives, blitz days, resignations, restrictive covenants and customer poaching. Forget resetting missed targets until ‘the bar’ is so low a Shetland Pony can leap over it.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous sales people,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them – succeed!

What joy I hear you say! Could we really get a bot to undertake a key business essential and relieve ourselves of this misery too? You bet you can.