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Just Because You Can Build a Bot, Doesn’t Mean You Should

This year is being heralded as the year of the bot. But as with all passing trends, just because you can jump on the band wagon really doesn't mean that you should.

· Big Data Zone

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Bots have been a hot topic in the news lately after Facebook announced plans to offer bots on its platform for all sorts of things, from customer service to marketing.

I’m far from convinced about the wisdom of rolling out an army of customer service bots, especially after research revealed our general dislike for that kind of automated customer service channel.

This is especially so if the bot is generally hopeless at solving your problem.  If that is the case, you’re often doing far more harm than good by attempting to automate the mollification of your distressed customer.

Build Your Own Bot

So, it’s probably fair to say I think you should proceed with caution, but if you’re determined to give it a go, then Canadian based start-up Meya have developed a platform to get you started.

In true ‘inside-out’ innovation style, the company previously built these kind of messaging bots for the restaurant industry, but they decided to take that expertise and sell that as a service in its own right.

The idea is to make it possible for organizations to build their own chat bot with a minimal amount of coding expertise.  The platform, which is currently in beta, is currently aligned with Slack, Kik, Twitter and Telegram, but they aim to roll it out on a number of other platforms in due course.

Doing the Easy Part

Suffice to say, in many ways the technical side of things is the easy part.  I’ve played around with a number of chat-bots, and they bring to mind the bots that used to be available as a module for the  phpBB discussion forum some 10-15 years ago.

These were very basic ‘expert systems’ that used a range of rules to provide certain responses when certain posts were made on the forums.  If they had nothing in their database to build upon, they would provide a generic and random reply.

Whilst it was possible to code in specific types of conversation, the complex nature of normal discourse often meant the discussions would take on comic turns very quickly.  As such, the bot was largely installed for entertainment purposes rather than anything more useful.

That may be acceptable for light-hearted discussion forums, but is most definitely not for customer service encounters.  So I urge people thinking this is a cheap and easy way to deliver customer service to proceed with caution.

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bots,customer service,messaging,chat

Published at DZone with permission of Adi Gaskell, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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