Despite the promise of a revolution in how we interact with services and companies online, progress has been utterly miserable - the vast majority of chatbots are gimmicky, pointless or just flat out broken.
One bot that gets the job done come from Alec Jones, a 14-year-old from Victoria, Canada. Alec has been working on Christopher Bot, a chatbot that helps students keep track of homework they've been given over the course of a week.
What makes me so impressed by this is that, of all the experiments I've seen so far, it is the first time a chatbot has genuinely been the best way to tackle a problem. Other chatbots are a lesser experience of something else. The CNN news chatbot, for example, is worse at giving you the news than any of CNN’s other products. And popular weather bot Poncho, while cute and well-branded, has a habit of telling me it's about to rain five minutes after water started falling on my head.
But Christopher Bot shows the potential for producing a service that is completely at home within chat - it's a product those companies banking on chatbots being a winner should seek to emulate.
Our bot, called Epytom, strips away the daily headache of having to choose what to wear. Through micro-learning, you gradually take your style to the next level; next thing you know, the amount of attention and compliments you get double. Epytom is geared toward casual, everyday use. Our third-week retention is 57 percent.
We didn’t get here through some magic formula. Instead, we tested rigorously. Today, I’d like to share with the bot community a few tricks for increasing user retention.
For large B2C businesses, reducing costs through increasing the share of service interactions handled without human intervention is a top priority. Research suggests that customers are on board with this – Forrester finding the share of customers self-serving via web increased from 67% to 74% in 2014, with the percent using virtual agents increasing from 28% to 55% over the same period.
Resolving the potentially conflicting goals of experience improvement and cost reduction is a tough but not impossible challenge. It requires a fundamental change in understanding on how chatbots work and what they need to be effective.
At the moment the focus is primarily on the technology, that is important – speech recognition, biometric authentication, natural language processing, search, predictive modelling and next best action decisioning will all play a role. This article covers six other, less obvious factors will also determine success.
Anyone who’s used a device like Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home smart speakers—the physical embodiments of the Alexa and Assistant software—knows that the experience is compelling. Asking for a specific song over dinner, switching off a smart bulb on the way to bed, or setting a timer while cooking all make life just that little bit more pleasant. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that Morgan Stanley estimates that Amazon has sold 11 million Alexa devices.
But anyone who’s spent months living with an AI voice assistant will also know that they have limitations, too. So the tech giants are preparing to add extra features in an attempt to make the devices more useful.