The hype over A.I. and bots shows no signs of simmering down, thanks to accelerating investments, a developer “gold rush,” and the ease of building bots. According to Pandorabots, there are more than 225,000 bot developers and upwards of 300,000 bots in existence today.
However, a rush like the one to create bots is usually backed up by consumer demand. In this case, there’s little to no demand in the form of customers asking brands to adopt bots. In fact, based on BJ Fogg’s behavior model, for consumer behavior to shift, the bot needs to be easier to use than the activity it’s replacing. Bots are clunky. They’re not, at this point, easier than calling, emailing, or texting a company.
Despite the wide disparity in the quality of bots out there, some are actually helpful because they make a single activity easier. A few are utilizing real A.I. and can apply context for more realistic conversations. However, for now, the user experience with most bots is rudimentary, at best.
With so many bots on the market, how will you know which ones are actually helpful? As I suggested in my earlier post, some of these early chatbots may help companies cut costs, but there is still tremendous work to be done to truly create a better customer experience.
From our analysis, there are just a handful of bots delivering real value and offering a taste of what a truly intelligent bot experience could be. The common theme is that a bot built to deliver a clearly defined and specific task, e.g., one in which a user only asks a set of pre-determined questions, is the most realistic option today. So here’s my take on the most useful bots to check out right now:
Amy is X.ai’s personal assistant that can schedule meetings to give you time to do more important things. The key to X.ai’s success is that Amy is limited to just doing one thing well. She effortlessly schedules meetings but doesn’t solve any other problems, nor does she attend the meeting or take notes. I was part of a panel on talking to machines with X.ai’s founder, Dennis Mortensen. He has bet everything on the premise that bots are great for incredibly small tasks and need to be 99 percent perfect. Amy is the full embodiment of that idea. Anyone who’s used Amy to book a meeting knows that the bot makes scheduling easy and conversational.
Birdly is a bot that manages your expenses directly on Slack. For a startup like ours, this offers tremendous efficiency. We can cut down on time spent on expense reports because we’re able to use the data from receipts or invoices and have them be “automagically” recognized.
Howdy is a bot that helps you run meetings. For example, you can give Howdy a set of questions to ask your team, such as “Who is working on what?” or “When will it be completed?” In a nutshell, Howdy assists with team management by collating meeting responses and delivering them to you in Slack. This is a big help for us, because instead of copy/pasting the same question a ton of times, we can use Howdy to ask, compile, and share these questions.
Asist is a chatbot that aggregates with on-demand services like GrubHub, Uber, Lyft, and Open Table. Users can text, Facebook message, or communicate through Asist to book hotels, order delivery, or get a ride. Asist learns as it goes, too, applying machine learning to input it gathers from users.
Pana is a virtual travel agent that blends real humans with A.I. Using Pana, you get access to a human travel team and a messaging A.I. Pana also becomes your concierge and can make vetted recommendations of where to eat and places to go. Any avid traveler can save tons of time with Pana, since booking travel is mostly searching the same thing across a ton of sites.
HealthTap’s mission is to make healthcare more accessible by letting users ask questions, get test results assessed and get referrals from real doctors. It recently launched its chatbot on Messenger. The bot can analyze your requests and show you similar questions asked by other users. This bot is helpful, but some users may not want to want to share information with a robot that actively collects, analyzes, and shares back the data to others. Given the personal nature of health information, HealthTap can be great for those with no inhibitions, or a complete nightmare for those who prefer to keep their health information private.
Ozlo is a personal I.A. that makes finding information from your phone faster and easier. You interact with Ozlo by engaging in a two-way text conversation, and it provides answers in neatly presented cards — with deep links to the apps and websites that provided the information.
Consumers can converse with Sephora to find and buy products and get beauty tips via the Kik chat platform. The Sephora bot acts like an in-store sales assistant and delivers on three key attributes of customer service: It’s always available, it responds instantly, and it’s highly knowledgeable. It’s like a Sephora team member in bot form.