The Year of the chatbot

He ended high on the hypecycle this year: the chatbot. With the launch of a Bot Store for Facebook Messenger and the technical framework for chatbots from Microsoft, according to experts the Great Bot Rush has finally arrived. But at the same time it became clear that the chatbot is still in the diapers

He ended high on the hypecycle this year: the chatbot. With the launch of a Bot Store for Facebook Messenger and the technical framework for chatbots from Microsoft, according to experts the Great Bot Rush has finally arrived. But at the same time it became clear that the chatbot is still in the diapers.

Chatting is the new web, researchers from VINT (part Sogeti) wrote earlier this year in their report on the bone revolution. Information will no longer be presented to the end user as a list of blue links in the future. Via voice assistants like Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana and Google Now or via text-based bone conversations, it will only be about 'answers and results'. 'There is a bot for that' is the next paradigm shift that we will experience in a short time, according to the researchers in their report.

It is a race that the big boys do not want to miss. Disney launched an artificial intelligence-controlled chatbot for Facebook Messenger at the beginning of this year. To promote the new Muppet Show viewers could chat with Miss Piggy. Next year Starbucks will also get a real barista bot. The company expects the new service to increase customer loyalty and involvement.

Google Now received an advanced successor this year, the Google Assistant. Now also available on Pixel smartphones. According to Google chef Sundar Pichai, the boning technology is 'much more advanced' than similar solutions in the market.

Dutch companies also did not lag behind. Insurer Univé has been experimenting with automated chats for several months now. Customers who want to report an address change, want to report a damage on the home insurance or want to calculate a premium for the home insurance, have the chance to be helped by a chatbot. Univé expects chatbots to help improve the overall customer experience. For example, they test whether customers like to talk to a chatbot or fill out a web form.

Eneco claimed the Dutch energy first this month with intelligent chatbot in Facebook Messenger. Eneco customers can report their annual meter readings and in many cases get direct insight into their annual bill for electricity and gas.

There is no shortage of initiatives. Still, anyone who looks at the phenomenon with sober eyes must as yet see that the supposed intelligence is often still far to find. A test of chatbots in the travel world by Emerce brought to light that the bot is not yet set to any practical question. Many a chatbot leaves the user in confusion.

In addition, there were several incidents. Within a day, Microsoft had to silence his brand new Twitter bot, Tay, because he had declared love to Hitler. In December, Microsoft launched its latest bot Zo in chat app Kik. He can mess up a bit before he is released on Facebook Messenger or Skype. Over the debacle with its predecessor Zo does not want to communicate:

In short: chatbots still have a long way to go. Market research Forrester warned against the use of bots as a payment channel. Chinese banks are good at it, but Western banks have to work on their IT infrastructure first. The customer experience is full Forrester 'mediocre and sometimes bad'.

Companies should not therefore think that they can relieve the helpdesk with chatbots. At worst, chatbots become a variant of the telephone choice tool maze. At best they can answer a few standard questions. The use of chat bots is certainly not recommended for complaints handling.

Johnny Thorsen, founder of ConTgo, a communication system for business travelers, thinks that bots do get better. He is even convinced that there will soon be no more investments in apps. "You must download, install and update an app. And the traveler needs multiple apps to cover the entire journey. At the same time, everyone has one or more messaging apps on his phone. It is therefore much simpler to offer your services as a supplier, travel agent or technology provider via systems such as WhatsApp, WeChat or Facebook Messenger. "

Second part of a series about the most important (online) events of 2016.