opinion

Step up your chatbot and voice assistant game

Step up your chatbot and voice assistant game 1800 1200 Kane Simms

There’s too many average conversational AI implementations that are ill-designed and not greatly useful. Don’t fall into that trap.

This short story is about a generally less than desirable experience with a chatbot, that sums up where I think the industry is as far as a) use case identification (solving real customer problems) and b) conversation design (solving real customer problems successfully) is concerned.

I found a training course online, ran by a conversational AI provider (naming no names). When I clicked to find out more, up popped a chatbot to say hello. A chatbot, powered by the companies own technology, presumably.

Wanting to enquire about the training, I chatted with the bot. The interaction, though, wasn’t what I expected.

Expectations

When I click a button that says ‘enquire’ or ‘contact us’, that triggers the opening of a chatbot, my first impression is ‘cool, I can ask it a few questions’.

Instead, what happened was that I was walked through a lead-gen form. It asked me three questions, said thanks, we’ll be in touch, and bye.

It asked:

  • Name:
  • Email:
  • Company:

The problem?

There are two problems with this:

  1. It’s not delivering on what the promise was when I clicked the button. When I click to contact or enquire, I have a question in mind. I expect to have the opportunity to ask it.
  2. It’s not a better experience than a traditional online form. In fact, it’s actually quicker to fill in a form than it is to use a chatbot for this use case. With a form, there’s no need to wait for bot responses and no need to confirm what you’ve entered. Just type, tab, type, tab, type, return and you’re done.

The biggest problem

Perhaps a bigger problem than choosing an ill-fitted use case, is the fact that the bot didn’t even understand that “Yep” means “Yes”.

For example, it asked me to confirm my details:

Bot: “Here’s what you said… Name: Email: Company: Is this correct?”

“Yep”, I said.

It then confirmed my details again:

Bot: “Here’s what you said… Name: Email: Company: Is this correct?”

Me: “Yes”

Bot: “Great…”

So not only is one of the leading providers of conversational AI technology finding use cases that are slower than an online form for its bots, it’s also not even trained its models on ‘Yep’.

It’s symptomatic of the conversational AI industry

Yet this is symptomatic of where I feel we are right now. Technology-led, headline-grabbing, ‘just build a chatbot’ mentality.

There’s not enough focus or attention on finding the right use case, that’s quicker, easier and better in conversational form. Nor is there much focus on designing highly successful conversations that deliver on that promise successfully every time.