A year ago, chatbbots weren’t the talk of the town, let alone the talk of SXSW Interactive. But, this year was different. According to Dharmesh Shah, 2017 will be the year of the bot. If you haven’t heard of Shah, he’s the Co-founder and CTO of HubSpot and a founder of onstartups.com, a top-ranking startup blog and community with more than 500,000 members. What Shah had to say about bots in his SXSW Interactive talk, “How B2B Bots Will Help Your Company and Career”, mirrored much of the discussion at the conference around making 2017 the year we embrace bots as a tool to bring customers what they want, faster and more efficiently.
Shah started off his talk by discussing the idea that, contrary to popular belief, software has not yet managed to make things easy and intuitive. Rather, as he sees it, software still requires us to go through a multi-step translation, and therefore things have merely been made more easy and less counter-intuitive. And that’s why everyone is so excited about Conversation UX —we want transactions to be natural, and chat-bots have the potential to give us this for the first time. Not having to translate what’s in our heads eliminates wasted processing effort and allows customers to get to their goal a little faster.
So why should you care, now? Well, according to Shah, “the frameworks are finally available”, so if you’ve been waiting to design your perfect bot, now is the time. This past year alone we saw massive improvements in technology (just ask Facebook, Microsoft, or Google), so now we can all develop better bots that have natural language recognition. But keep in mind, while inevitably bots will become the shortest time between a customer’s question and an answer, you’ll want to build bots that supplement your website, not replace it. And Shah’s prediction? Every website trying to answer customer’s questions will eventually have a bot (search just doesn’t always work for this).
If the bot is a tool, then it purpose is to amplify, not replace, human ability. Shah believes that “machines will make us more human because once we embrace them, we can move human energy to the things humans do best —things requiring creativity”.
So, how can you become a part of the bot conversation?
- Try a few bots yourself (if you haven’t already, start with Slack) you’ll get a better sense of how bots work.
- Read. That’s right, all you have to do is read up on some of the plethora of stuff out there to get an idea for where things are heading in terms of AI and machine learning. We’ve seen more progress in the past year or two than in the past ten years, so it’s a great time to get informed. You’ll soon find that “things will seem less artificial to you, and become more intelligent”.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Shah, “bots don’t feel love, but they also don’t feel pathological apathy”. And if that doesn’t make you feel optimistic, I’m sure there will soon be a bot to help you with that.
(Featured image sourced from cio.com)