Misunderstood Millennials: We Don’t Want Your Bots

If you follow the tech space at all, you’ve likely heard terms like “bots”, “chatbots”, or “voice assistants.” You might have heard about their endless applications in business. Or claims of how they’ll solve world hunger. Maybe you’ve read warnings about their eventual takeover.

Image Source: Wired

You might have even read that millennials love them.

Bots, voice assistants, that annoying button you keep pressing on your phone — no matter what you call them, they’re everywhere these days, and most all of them are powered by AI. The most sophisticated of bots actually employ machine learning, but that’s a whole separate story. It’s a more frightening one, too.

Back to the millennials. Because it’s always all about us!!! No, but really: Accenture projects that millennial spending power will grow to a whopping 1.4 trillion dollars by 2020 — that’s next year, and it’s a whole 30% of all retail sales.

Millennials have power, and a lot of it. We’re expected to overtake the baby boomers as the largest living generation this year. In contrast, the generation before us (Generation X, or those between age 36 and 51) won’t surpass the boomers until 2028. With over 1 in 3 labor force participants born in the late 80s to 90s, millennials are already the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Soon, we’ll also make up the majority of government offices, executive boards, and annual lists of influential rich people.

All that is probably why businesses spend millions trying to figure out what makes a millennial tick. Exactly what do we want? And when do we want it? I’m not here to answer that, at least not today. I’m here to tell you that what we DON’T want is more useless bots.

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To illustrate, here’s a conversation I had with my friend Jane (obviously not her real name) a few days ago. It was late, she was submitting an assignment, and her Internet crapped out on her. Cue panicked Jane. She posted a screenshot of messages she received from her cable service provider’s “chatbot” to her Instagram profile.

Unsurprised by the bot’s demonstrated uselessness, I was more interested in the fact that Jane had even used a chatbot to reach out to her cable provider. Her response to me?

More like visual proof that I kind of have friends.

Jane isn’t the first person to express this level of discontent with trashbots. My baby boomer parents hate them even more.

Jane is no stranger to high technology, either. She uses a range of complex software and hardware to create all kinds of digital content every day, both professionally and in her hours outside the 9–5 grind. Millennials like Jane definitely want mobile tools and digital self-service, just not a list of canned responses from a piece of code.

A better application of AI for this cable provider would be to use it to detect potential threats and outages from the onset and send a crew to preemptively fix the problem. Utilized effectively, AI should make your customers’ lives so easy, they never need to contact customer service out of frustration. Predict the friction, remove the friction, prevent the frustration. Rinse and repeat.

Yes, I’m generalizing, but take it from a certified millennial. We want to talk to humans, and we want actual solutions to problems. If the technology you’re offering your customers isn’t delivering that, you might as well go burn a pile of your company’s money. Next time think about giving it to me instead — I’ve got student loans to pay off.