Boring Chat Bots are coming #Opinion

Disclaimer: Before you ask…as always all opinions are mine/personal

Dear Product Managers/Chat Bot enthusiasts /Builders ,

Heard this? “bots are the next big thing” and “Chat bots will solve your communication needs” and especially “your apps will become redundant” and let me not forget “your business is dead if you do not have a bot”

Yes bots are great and you will probably see more of them around and we need to prepare , especially you ..the next gen Product Manager trying to build the best awesome personalized human-like bot .

So here is a list of my complaints/rants against bots and how many Bot scenarios are sometimes portrayed

Chat Bots to replace everything

God knows what all can Chat bot’s replace or even God does not know what Chat bot’s cannot replace.

One of the most common examples I have heard is “Pizza ordering bot” , Like a full scale pizza ordering bot

Heaven’s it is a bad idea to even think of.

This is how many scenarios play out in our heads(Would seem normal to some and unnecessarily drawn out to many..to the latter, I am sorry)

Me: Hey I need Pizza
Bot: Awesome, what type? Your regular?
Me: Naah, want to experiment. Suggest me some veg options
Bot : We just launched Awesome Veggie supreme pizza. It has pineapple, mushrooms and tomatoes
Me: Anything with broccoli
Bot : Sure , How about Broccoli surprise ?
Me: Swell . Broccoli surprise would do
Bot: What size
Me: Medium , oh and please add extra cheese
Bot : Cool! Anything to drink? We have coke, pepsi and Mirinda
Me: Coke 1 ltr please
Bot : Great . Total is 1 gazzilion Rs.
Me: ok
Bot: Your address is same as before
Me : yes
Bot: Great , order received. Will keep you posted !
Me: Thanks

Sounds decent enough, like talking to a normal person at the counter, doesn’t it?

NO! THIS IS A BOT.

Typing Typing Typing and Typing

You basically ordered Broccoli pizza and a coke and had to do a long drawn conversation. What if you wanted to replace pineapple in one pizza with broccoli ?

What if you got in a mood for No extra cheese? And god forbid if you were ordering for a group.

It takes me 30 minutes trying to get a group to agree to a pizza order, I don’t want to have that same conversation with the Bot. This negotiation does not work.

It’s a BOT

What’s all this crap about having a conversation …”Natural language” . Yes giving a personality to a Bot works, but why exactly are people trying to impress a Bot?

What is this need for ” Hey ” “Can you please” .

Not people’s fault, it seems that is how many advertisements around bots expect us to behave.

These are dumb machines, can’t even pass a Turing test (1 did I guess) and we are trying to be Nice to them?

Think about all the human potential wasted trying to be Nice to Bots

Do you go to google and type , “please tell me the nearest pizza places since I am hungry”

Someday, bots will feel bad but that day is not today. Last time I checked, my car does not give better mileage if I talk nicely to it.

You could argue that this can be further simplified , heck you could, and that is exactly the points.

Many Chat Bots will and should become dumb and stop hiding that they are bots. You would either see many new bots that do just 1 job (while the app can do 1000–Eg Dominos bot–you say Pizza and you are done) or drop the pretense and talk to you like they should…Like an IVRS system. Yes the ones that everyone hates , but are still very prevalent

Eg–something like this

“Me: Pizza
Bot: Please select which one
Your previous order (Broccoli blast)
Veggie paneer
Spices Maximus
See Non veg also
Me: 2
Bot: Please select
Complete order
Order more
Edit order
Me: 1
Bot: Great ! The total is 1 gazzilion dollars”

This Bot is BORING , this bot is efficient.

It is like an IVRS. Whenever you think about bot scenario, think about how an IVRS system works, would you do that on an IVRS?

IVRS: Please speak your name after the beep
Me: Hello IVRS, My Name is Madhur
IVRS: You are stupid Madhur

But there is ray of hope.

Bots platforms have started and soon will go gung-ho on giving a rich interface to bots within chat .

So in the pizza example, you could open the entire menu inside the chat and just Tap on the one you want

You would make a selection on the first chat message and add cheese on the next, again by a simple click/tap

This sounds very familiar. Where have I seen it? THIS IS AN APP

Now you see? Bots are just screens of your App, starting with few functionalities and possibly finally your entire app,just another UI surface .

Do not force fit your entire app into a chat interface, it will just give you PR, not happy customers.

Would you browse amazon using an amazon chat bot ?

Do Bots fit nowhere:

They do, they are awesome, especially when you do not initiate the conversations, but an external event does. These are the best use cases IMO

Eg:

Finance Bot : Pssst: ICICI just crossed 1200 Rs. Wanna sell? I recommend sell , all of it. Press Y<numbers to sell>
Me: Y100
Finance Bot : Kewl! Sold for 1210, you made 10,000 rs profit…you rich spoiled brat.

Your apps are not dying, you can survive without BOTS,it is OK.

There are a LOT of advances made using AI and computers can figure out your stated needs : Eg:”Veggi delight pizza enough for 4 people” can directly order aVeggiei pizza large size.

But you need to know what you really want

So yes, dear product managers and users: your next wave of bots will be boring , they will be as close to chatting with a person as IVRS is talking to a human. Even Siri and Cortana wear off the novelty in a day(OMG, it can tell me a joke)

Things will improve,but you need to go past boring bots first( we are still dealing with IVRS, remember)

A new ERA begins…The Boring Bot Era

Sincerely Yours

Broccoli pizza fan #LeaveMyPizzaAlone

First Published on Boring Chat Bots are Coming