Bots Are Still A Work In Progress: 5 Lessons So Far


David Skerrett, Managing Partner at Nimbletank

The Bot landscape is being shaped by the four horseman of the tech world: Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Amazon. Whilst the term bot has been around for decades it is only really in the last 2 years that the volume has been turned up with many predicting that bots will be the next app, and that app’s are dead. That is an oversimplification, of course, but given so many young people spend their time on their mobile messaging apps, and given the success of the WeChat “app of everything” in China it is natural agencies, brands and tech players in the mobile space pay close attention to the Bot trends already clearly evidenced.

Here we will look at four interesting trends and examples in this emerging space:

  1. Facebook are tuning their AI to work harder. 

Recently Facebook announced that it was “refocusing” its use of AI after the bots built in its platform hit a failure rate of 70 percent, meaning bots could only get to 30 percent of requests without human intervention. Many brands who were early adopters of Bots have found that they simply don’t offer the level of personalisation and value they thought they might and tend to frustrate customers. Facebook are going to be combining AI and humanity to tackle issues such as fake news and bullying on the platform.

  1. Record Bird Bot & FRAnky, Make life better in a single focussed way.

Facebook’s dramatic switch of focus is symptomatic of all ChatBots being failures. Those that have succeeded are changing the way people go about achieving specific tasks. Record bird bot on Facebook will message you whenever a band or artist you like releases new music. It is focussed, and a neat use of tech to solve a genuine problem, in an innovative way. Check it out!

FRAnky is the world’s first Airport Bot – the ChatBot designed for Frankfurt airport navigates users closer to the airport service they require. Using Frank you can search for flights, view departure boards and find restaurants within the airport. Each feature drives its user down a logic tree of questions that drive them towards the answers they require, and loops them back to a navigation should they require it.

Both Record Bird Bot and FRAnky are able to be successful because they’re built on very specific use cases and real life problems. Their potential to change the mental-models of how people undertake certain tasks is testament the potential power chat platforms have to make our lives better.

  1. Arsenal & Alexa, connected content experience

 Arsenal are immersing their fans watching from home in their games,  With all new technologies though, there is a tendency to claim that they are the unrivalled vision of the future of technology, raising everyone’s expectations of them along the way.

  1. Customer service savings

According to Juniper Research, ChatBots are set to save the customer service industry over £6.2bn by 2022, with healthcare and the finance sector looking to profit the most.

One of the more exciting examples of Chatbot innovation from the Health sector is, Healthtap, a new medical/online doctor startup who are automating triage. When a user asks a question, HealthTap’s bot searches for similar questions and can provide past answers that might be useful before it offers to send the user’s questions to its network of doctors.

As exciting as this is, the success rate of Bots within the healthy industry, is currently estimated at only 12%, showing a need for improvements and evolved intelligence and successful conversion.

5. A tool rather than a friend

Chatbots are gaining most traction among their users when they’re viewed as tools. Though Chatbots are favoured and revered because they create a more human conversation with machines, this can be quite alienating to people, as it’s not how people currently take advantage of platforms such as Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp. People use these platforms to be social. Bots can succeed when their contextual use is well thought out. Those that can be called upon when needed and pulled into chat conversations, such as Slacks Paperbot  – a bot that allows you to pull relevant news into your social channel take the pretense of human imitation out of the equation.
Closing words

In order for Bots to be accepted by the masses, Bots need to exhibit strong experiences that are able to change people’s mental models. A mental model is a users’ perception of how something works in the real world. As a person uses something over time, they grow used to how they execute a behaviour. Although a chat UI is thought to be the most natural – humans are not used to having conversations with robots.

When a new and exciting technology comes along, there is a tendency for everyone interested to push concepts and solutions into the platform, without truly thinking out these crucial use cases. As Marketers, designers and developers it’s our responsibility to make sure that there is value-innovation built into each one we create. They need to be truly relevant, smart and solve valid problems for their end users.

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