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With Bots Like These, Who Needs Anyone?

By Elevate

May 16, 2017

Technology

Chatbots aren’t exactly a new trend in the digital world. We’ve all run into them before on various platforms. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, a chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate human conversation with its human users. In fact, this technology goes as far back as the ’60s. One of the first programs was ELIZA, a psychotherapist you could “talk” to with questions and concerns. I decided to go ahead and introduce myself to her.

ELIZA screenshot

While it’s obvious the technology has been through some updates since her initial launch, the conversation got me thinking: What would it be like to seek out all your information through chatbots? What if I never had to speak to an actual human being again?

This concept prompted me to perform a little experiment. I wanted to replace as many human interactions with chatbots as possible. While there were many options out there, I opted for the chatbots that fit right into my day-to-day life, and they were easier to find than I expected.

Whole Foods Virtual Chef on Facebook

If you were hoping to read about a robot that cooks for you, I’m sorry that I have to disappoint you. However, the Whole Foods Virtual Chef is still a useful tool for anyone out there like me who likes to cook but doesn’t necessarily plan ahead. Send the chatbot a message on Facebook and it will give you recipe options as well as help you find your nearest Whole Foods store. In fact, you don’t even need to speak to it in full sentences — if sending an emoji is more your style, this bot will still work for you.

What do I love about this concept? Not only will it give options geared toward two random ingredients I already have, but the emoji feature allows me to get maximum results with minimum effort. I found it helpful in easily planning my dinner for the night without having to do too much thinking, because let’s face it, after a day in the office, who wants to do more of that?

Whole Foods Virtual Chef recipes

My rating of this bot’s human-like helpfulness: 👍

Dom, Domino’s Ordering Assistant

We’ve all seen Domino’s commercials for their popular Easy Order options (and if you haven’t seen the latest one, click here, you won’t be disappointed). With its convenience, it’s obvious why this bot is the most well-known. I chose to go this route for two important reasons:

  • I’m still on the waiting list for the TacoBot on Slack (tick-tock, Taco Bell).
  • I’m already part of the Domino’s Piece of the Pie Rewards program, so not only did that make my decision to use “Dom” even easier, but I also got 10 reward points with this guilty pleasure.

Whether you’re using Facebook, Twitter, a text message, or something else, getting your favorite Domino’s menu item is easier than ever. Send them a 🍕 (pizza emoji), 🥗 (salad emoji), or 🍗 (poultry leg emoji) and your saved Easy Order item will be on its way to your preferred location.

Domino

If you ask me, it’s safe to say that Domino’s is the clear front runner when it comes to fast food ordering. Now if we could get a drone to deliver, like the one Domino’s has tried out in New Zealand, it would be absolutely perfect.

My rating of this bot’s human-like helpfulness: 👍 👍

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines on Facebook

I love to travel, and for anyone who has ever planned a trip in their lives, we know how time-consuming it can be. While this Dutch airline isn’t the first to try to simplify the travel booking process, they’re certainly leading the pack with their Facebook chatbot. I’ve flown with KLM before and remember being pleasantly surprised when I received a Facebook message from the airline containing my flight information and boarding pass.

KLM boarding pass
actually book my next flight with them almost entirely through a Facebook message.

KLM flight booking

At this point there is an option to click directly to their website to continue booking. While being able to go through the entire process via chatbot is great in theory, I have more peace of mind providing my credit card information on a secure website. This brand has some more work to do in terms of building user trust on this platform; until then, I don’t see myself entering such personal information on Facebook. However, their service doesn’t stop there. You can share your location, and with as little as an emoji, KLM will navigate you to a variety of local establishments.

KLM local information

Some other fun options include an 🐘 for a zoo, 👯 for a nightclub and even a 💍 for the nearest jewelry store (just in case you spontaneously feel like proposing). Overall, while this experience isn’t entirely through chatbot, it does two things for me:

It’s simple and useful on the go. Regardless of where you are, and even if you’re not a KLM customer, this service is always available to you. It’s cute and interactive and it keeps this airline at the forefront of my mind — and with that, I’m much more likely to come back and use them again.

My rating of this bot’s human-like helpfulness: 👍

Sephora on Kik

Let’s face it, if I could afford a professional makeup artist, I’d rarely do my own makeup again. However, in the real world, this is not an option, so I’ve had to teach myself the tricks and techniques I use to look my sharpest. Sephora’s Kik bot came in somewhat handy on a Friday when I was looking for ideas to achieve the perfect eye look for a night out.

It will generate random tips based on the category you select (face, eyes, lips, etc.) and allow you to shop products quickly and easily. There are also a variety of mini quizzes available to identify the best Sephora product for your needs.

Sefora product chat

What I like about this? It provides straightforward text and images that I can look at without rewinding video or listening to someone’s voice. However, If you’re requesting a specific type of look, this bot does not have your back.

Sefora product chat

Overall, as much as I want to like the idea of buying makeup this way, I’m the type of person who needs to see the product in person, especially if it’s my first time purchasing it.

My rating of this bot’s human-like helpfulness: 👎

Insomnobot 3000 via Text

Personally, I think this idea is close to brilliant. On those nights I find myself tossing and turning, whether it’s because my mind isn’t slowing down or because I took a little too long of a nap that afternoon, I always wish I had someone to talk to. What’s an alternative to waking up a potentially cranky friend or family member? Let me introduce you to the Insomnobot 3000.

Here’s the thing — this chatbot is only available for conversation between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. If you try to text it outside of that time frame, you’ll be hit with a vague response like this.

Insomnobot 3000 chat

Color me intrigued. I’ll admit, I was excited to stay up past my bedtime to see where the conversation would go with this late-night chatbot. This was the closest to a human experience I got throughout this week — and honestly, it was almost creepy. Created by Casper, an ecommerce company that sells mattresses, the campaign for Insomnobot 3000 launched less than a year ago on Twitter with the hashtag #linksomnia. Our conversation was brief, but I applaud the company for giving this easily distracted bot a sense of humor.

Insomnobot 3000 chat

Let’s not forget that this is still a retailer. However subtle, they did not miss out on an opportunity to market their raved-over mattresses to my sleepy brain.

Insomnobot 3000 chat

My rating of this bot’s human-like helpfulness: 👍

People vs. Chatbots

Now as much as the idea excites me, so far I’ve found eliminating people isn’t possible (not yet, but I am super hopeful for the future). This technology still has a long way to go. Overall, these chatbots are not perfect, and human interaction is still necessary. Was I able to achieve what I was going for by using artificial intelligence over picking up the phone or just hopping on a website? I would say yes, in some ways it was easier and a little fun, but in others a bit more of an inconvenience.

My biggest takeaway is this: Companies need to continue to make these bots fun, easy, and useful — not because we actually want to replace all humans in our lives, but because that’s what keeps us going back to them for goods or services. Right now, this technology is still in its early stages, but the future looks bright. A world full of these bots might not be as far off as we think. We remember how convenient (and cool) it is to send a pizza emoji and quickly have our Domino’s delivery initiated, and that will almost always win our business over the other local pizza chains. What a time to be alive.

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