Chat-bots are probably the most hyped thing right now in the valley. As evidence, we can see WeChat blowing, Slack becoming one of the biggest and most loved companies in the world, and Facebook coming up with their new messenger platform for businesses. Companies of all types work hard and spend a lot of money to see how they can take advantage of this new channel and reach more customers.
When I interacted with a chat-bot for the first time, I thought it was funny and cool. During the second time, I still thought it’s an interesting concept, but since then I had conversations with dozens more, and now when I interact with one, I tend to think:
Do I really need this service to live as a chat-bot?
The need for micro-services is clear. Simple services, such as checking the weather, should be available in a really fast way, from the screen you’re already in.
I embrace Android Instant Apps announced in Google I/O, Slack’s store is pretty cool, both Google and Bing offer simple service apps in their search results, and this trend should definitely continue. But who says micro-services are better off with chat interfaces? Actually, the chat interface requires plenty of taps for typing the letters, and usually the brain behind them is not even smart enough to know what I have to say.
So I thought it will be cool to compare famous chat-bots with Google. Here’s what I learned about three use-cases.
1. Checking the Weather
In case you didn’t know, typing “weather” in google gives the weather for today and the rest of the week in your location, with great UX and a timeline. Poncho might tell me the current weather in a nicer, more personal way, but it’s definitely not as easy and doesn’t yield better results.
2. Reading the News
Google the title you were looking for and you’ll get trending articles across the web for it. CNN’s relatively new chat-bot is just another way for them to send you push notifications, with a pretty terrible browsing experience for loyal users.
3. Shopping for Clothes
Try Spring’s chat bot, and you’ll see it’s not even a chat rather than an interface that asks you many different 3 options questions in order to get you some specific content from their website. Google exactly what you need to get much more accurate results. Not in spring though, because of SEO problems (isn’t it more important than a chat-bot?), so I used H&M for the example. Needless to say, Browsing is much easier inside the website, rather than inside the messenger.
Chat-Bots are not necessarily worse
Bots can actually come in handy, but we still have a long way before we get there. I believe the main advantage for a bot will be personalization. As long as it feels natural, a chat is a great way for a service to collect data from the user, and by that improve the accuracy of the offers and the language. But right now many of the bots are not better than filling a long and exhausting form.
So do I think bots are the future of everything? Maybe, but probably not. Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft already know so much about me, and they can offer me services and answers in interfaces much simpler than a chat. But aren’t bots pretty damn cool? Of course they are, I even built one myself. It’s really smart.