Chatbots: The IT-Girl of Branded Tech

A.I. technology is rapidly developing, in the last 10 years, we’ve gone from Macs that use Intel chips to machines that learn from every human interaction.

Most recently there has been a growing trend for using A.I. technology for more branded and light entertainment means – chatbots. Brands like Harper Collins, Aerie and Starbucks use chatbots to promote and recommend new and existing products and content. Some with a little more humour than others.

I’m @esoelzer on Twitter. Folks can follow Gratify at @GratifyChat on Twitter.

In this rapidly increasing climate, it’s vital for marketers and brands alike to come to understand this technology as its use and prominence grows. The more we understand the better we can adapt our strategies to work with this technology. We caught up with chatbot specialist, Eric Soelzer to discuss his thoughts on the future of chatbots and their place in society.

Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

My name is Eric Soelzer. I’m one of the co-founders of Gratify, a service for connecting with freelancers via Slack. I also work on the Emergent Technologies team at SXSW.

What makes a great chatbot?

Gratify helps people get work done, so I’ll answer from that perspective. I think the best bots do things without necessarily being prompted to do so. When you think about what makes a good employee, it’s someone that sees work that needs to be done and does it well without being asked by their boss. I like bots that work like that. As machine learning and natural language processing improve, the utility of bots will become much more apparent.

I recently spoke to someone who said ‘Content is more important than the coding’, do you agree with this?

It certainly depends on the case and the bot’s desired functionality. I don’t necessarily need a bot that helps me deploy code to have a character-driven narrative attached to it, but sometimes personality will help ease an otherwise unpleasant user experience. In some cases, how the user is handled via content can be more important to their retention than what’s happening on the back-end. This is typically the case in most customer service-type interactions.

Should people be scared or excited about bots? Do you think they will ever take jobs off others?

People should not be scared of bots. They will inevitably free us of many of the menial, plodding tasks that people detest about work. It’s our hope that bots free us to do more of the thinking and creative work that humans are good at doing.

What are your favourite developments of chatbots over the past year?

The tools are becoming better and better. Botkit Studio has progressed wonderfully. We use Dashbot daily for customer service. Recently, I’ve been using Google’s Cloud Platform tools and Dialogflow and I’ve been really impressed. There are powerful starting points for those wishing to build bots today.

What does the future of chatbots lie? Do they have limits?

The future of bots is very bright. We are nowhere near finding the limits of artificial intelligence and machine learning in conversational software, though. Maybe Kurzweil’s singularity is the limit? We are getting a bit outside my realm of expertise here, though!

What is your favourite branded chatbot?

I am a big fan of the QZ app/bot, and of ResistBot, a bot that helps Americans contact their representatives in government.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Gratify is the best way to connect and work with freelancers via Slack! Find us in the App Directory. We are also engineering custom solutions for businesses that regularly interact with clients, so if that sounds like you, please get in touch with us!

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