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Be careful what you automate

Communication, Development

I recently had a rather funny experience with a large business’ chat bot. I knew pretty quickly, as most would, that it was a chatbot I was dealing with. Now, keep in mind that this business works on user experience through interactive displays and some very clever retail automation tools.

Here’s exactly how that went. I emailed them the previous day asking about a case study, and heard nothing back. The chatbot in this case was named Amy.

Amy: Got any questions? I’m happy to help.

       Before we get started, what’s your name?

Me: Hey Amy. Jeff here. I sent a note yesterday looking for a case study on apparel retail applications.

Amy: Thanks Hey Amy. Jeff here. I sent a note yesterday looking for a case study on apparel retail! Can I get your email address, in case we get disconnected.

Me: Hahaha ya it’s

After this train wreck I was transferred to an actual human.

Marketing automation is a big topic. You can automate very simple things, like email autoresponder, or a bot asking that first question. If you’re going to automate deeper, you need to consider variables in responses. This snippet from my conversation clearly didn’t take into account that I’d answer the question, and try to fast-track the conversation because my time is also valuable.

Tip 1: Don’t assume your audience will only provide a simple response. Take into account every conceivable variable before publishing your responders.

So should you automate? Yes, if you need to, or if it provides value to the customer experience. However, if the point of the automation is to tee-up information to the human that’s sitting idly by, don’t do it. I had someone on the line immediately ready for me. I didn’t wait at all, which tells me the person was there ready to go.

Tip 2: Don’t automate something that doesn’t NEED it. People like to talk to people. Yes, there are exceptions to that rule, but I’ve never spoken to anyone that LOVES hitting a phone automation system. Chats are the same.

Bots are not intuitive. They might get there someday, however today they simply are not. Google is the closest company to having a bot set up that can be a convincing human and respond in a human manner, and demonstrated at the last I/O event where they had the Google Assistant book a haircut. That was impressive, however that is not the case for most businesses.

If bots can get to the point of being as intuitive as a person, be able to improvise and go off-script, they will be worth every penny the developer charges for them, and you should get one.

Until that time comes, automate CAREFULLY.