Imagine that you arrive at a friend’s house party. He proudly opens his minibar and asks you and your other friends what you would like to drink. After asking for several colorful, cheery cocktails with umbrellas, you find out that your friend hoped you would all just ask for rum and coke, as that is the only drink he has the ingredients for… Even though you might end up having a good time, I bet you wonder why your friend did not just say that he only could serve that one drink from the beginning?
I feel like being invited to that friend’s house whenever I try most Danish speaking chatbots. They proudly ask how they can help me, as if they were able to give me advice on everything from cocktail recipes to tax deduction. After asking a few questions it becomes clear that they are just a dialogue-based version of the website’s FAQ. Maybe they can point me in the direction of a phone number if I actually want to get in contact with the company. However, am quite sure that I speak for a lot of users when I say that I want to use the chatbot to skip the phone queue…
It is a shame so many companies do not let users do that. At this point, technology is not the bottleneck. Simple and inexpensive chatbot tools can let users interact and share information with the company. It can even be more effective than calling the company. As an example, users who have been exposed to thrown-up pebbles on their windscreen, and want to book an appointment at a workshop should be able to use a chatbot to upload a picture of the damage, so the workshop can evaluate whether they can repair the exciting windscreen or need to order a new in advance.
Of course, it can be asked why activities like booking an appointment should be handled through a chatbot and not just a normal web form. My guess is that many users like the feeling of humanlike service. In opposite to a web form, chatbots can also serve the bartender’s other purpose – listening to people complaining about their life. Now just without alcohol. At this point, chatbots are still far away from giving us real humanlike service, but that does not mean they are no more than a fancy gimmick. However, the chatbots need to make us believe they can actually help us. First of all by telling us from the beginning what is on the menu card in the bar, so we don’t keep asking for fancy cocktails. And maybe use the technical possibilities and serve us a little more than just a rum and coke.