Play time for chatbots is over, serious business is stepping in
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With any technology, there is always a period of playful developers getting to know it. We see designers coming up with quirky use cases and plain exuberant fun from hackers and early adopters. For chatbots, that time is rapidly ending as the new bots are set to work.

That may be to increase customer service scores, to help drive revenue or provide information and reduce costs for the business. Even though the newer bots may still have that playful welcoming angle, this is more of a way of ensuring that customers aren’t scared off by them, that engagement remains high and so on.

The good news is, corporate types can’t dumb down or suit up most chatbots, they need to be fun to engage.

 

Do you want emoji with that?

Take the engaging tale of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s new emoji-focused chatbot that is making waves. Focused on the younger cook who is quite happy to use emojis, it can get over a lot of the language barrier that cooking faces.

There’s a world of jargon and many different categories of recipe ingredient that people might have, so making it easier with some emojis might be one way of helping people communicate and decide on a meal idea. It maintains that fun factor, and while it might not be for everyone,

If nothing else, it generated a huge amount of press and some kudos for the Jamie Oliver brand, something that other high-profile companies will be looking to replicate.

Chatbots are also taking the travel world by storm. A recent award winner at the Startup Weekend Singapore hackathon was a chatbot that helped provide local knowledge to travellers, which could be a key feature of future travel apps.

The key here is that travel apps are converging at speed to offer tickets, hotels, experiences and meals, to become that all-in-one trip advisor. But knowing what people want across multiple categories will take extensive knowledge collection. By using a chatbot at brief points during journey planning, or during the trip itself, these apps can help the customer decide what the want to do or eat with relative ease.

 

Chatbot horses for courses

Based on those two examples alone, we’re already seeing deeply focused bots for a specific market. But, the basic techniques can be applied across any niche, or used for general purpose apps. Internationally focused apps could skip the translation barrier, or the perils of auto-translation by going with common sets of symbols.

When it comes to AI bots, they can build a knowledge of the customer that can help match suggestions to that the chatbot knows they like and build up a relationship over time. That will help build trust and avoid faux pas like recommending a Chinese restaurant to some who don't like that sort of food.

As the relationship deepens, knowledge and trust grow, so eventually, people make be more open to “left field” suggestions from their chatbots and that’s where things get really interesting.

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