â€śGood evening, Matthew. How was your day?â€ť
â€śwhatevs. Iâ€™m hungry.â€ť
â€śWould you like to order something?â€ť
â€śyes please. Something spicy. Dunno what.â€ť
â€śWould you like tom yam soup?â€ť
â€śSounds great. txsâ€ť
â€śYou are stressed.â€ť
â€śhow can you tell?â€ť
â€śWould you like a beer?â€ť
â€śyeah, I reckon!â€ť
â€śSorry, I donâ€™t understand reckon.â€ť
â€śWould you like a Thai beer and tom yam soup?â€ť
â€śPerfect. Go ahead.â€ť
â€śA drone delivery is on its way.â€ť
You might think this is something from British sitcom Red Dwarf or 2001: A Space Odyssey, but this is not the stuff of science fiction. Chatbots promise to revolutionise the way we interact with brands, through artificial intelligence.
A conversation like the one above will likely take place in the not too distant future between a hotel guest and an algorithm that will not only understand sentiment but also well-being, as measured through self-tracking technology (such as devices that monitor blood pressure and sleep quality). Combine that with IoT technology, and you could well have a drone dispatched with your soup order. Canâ€™t handle the chopsticks provided, and need a fork instead? Perhaps you could just print one using the 3D printer provided in the room. This isnâ€™t tomorrowâ€™s technology â€“ itâ€™s available today.
While the possibilities seem endless, there will be implications:
- Bots will replace humans as conversational agents. Their 24/7 availability and immediate attentiveness will render common situations like the frustrated airline passenger complaining through social a thing of the past. Social engagement â€“ responding to a customer through a Facebook comment or tweet â€“ will matter a lot less. Social media users are already gravitating away from public forums to messaging apps – bots will take this a step further. This will have consequences for customer service teams, from concierges to contact centres.
- Bots will offer a personalised experience in a way that social media cannot. Social analytics can tell us how a brand is generally perceived by consumers and where their interests lie, but a bot will read all that and more â€“ listening and responding to an individualâ€™s needs, and building a relationship through learning. It might not be an authentic relationship as we understand it in human terms (though even that will change), but that wonâ€™t necessarily matter.
- There will be implications beyond customer service. Bots will be able to seamlessly â€śspeakâ€ť to other connected devices that will act quickly and intelligently upon a request. As such, other parts of a business will be impacted.
But there will be limitations too. Humans ultimately prefer to interact with other humans â€“ supermarket customers, for instance, are known to prefer cashiers to self-checkouts. Bots are also unlikely to hold meaningful conversations with other bots â€“ one of the joys of social is watching brands interact with each other, often through banter.
What do you think? Do you see AI having a role in your organisation, and do you see this co-existing with social?
The writer is Matt Brady, digital director of Sinclair Communications.