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Bots Are All Nice, but Companion Bots Are the Future of Customer Engagement

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Bots need to be an extension of the consumer instead of that of the business.

Saying “I will have my assistant talk to your assistant” may be above my pay grade today but I believe it’s going to be fairly common in the next few years to say something like “I will have my bot talk to your bot”.

Businesses are expeditiously creating chatbots and other variants of an AI assistant as an extension of the business entity itself. This might be a good strategy for the purpose of automation and cost efficiency, it’s not the best plan if companies are looking to engage with people at a deeper level.

Great bots need to be an extension (or a replica or an alter ego or a trusted friend) of consumers instead.

People are more comfortable chit-chatting with and getting things done using Alexa, than with, say, a bank’s chatbot. Sure, Alexa has over 10,000 skills and Amazon has over 5,000 employees working on Alexa. It is naturally hard to compare a bank’s bot developed using a fraction of the resources and executive attention.

But more importantly, Alexa has her heart in the right place. If Alexa, Amazon, and I go out for a meal, Alexa and I would be sitting on the same side of the table and Amazon would sit across us. If my Amazon order is delayed, I can trust her to spend 10 minutes chatting with the Amazon people on my behalf to expedite it. When our friends, or our kids’ friends come over to the house, we introduce them to Alexa and show off her skills.

She rarely feels like a bot representing Amazon. She is on our side, and that’s why we increasingly love her more.

A bot built by a bank is at best a different way to talk to the bank, and get things done using rich conversations instead of menus and forms. Such conversational experiences will and should continue to evolve until they are able to handle most of the mundane use cases effortlessly.

AI, however, needs to play a much deeper role in our lives.

Just like we have different friends and family members we reach out to for relationship advice vs. investment advice, there will be companion bots around us we will reach out to depending on their area of expertise.

That boilerplate bot from a bank trying to meet their quarterly targets will be treated like a person trying to sell a pyramid scheme at a close friend’s party.

Such bank bots are best suited for the non fiduciary conversations and transactions. Financial advice, however, needs to come from someone who inherently doesn’t have an adversarial agenda.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series where I will talk about some concrete strategies and examples of a financial companion bot.

magnoliaBots Are All Nice, but Companion Bots Are the Future of Customer Engagement

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