Banter with a bot is no fun

Comment from Peter Saxon.

Artificial Intelligence that replaces human interaction is coming to your radio station soon – if it hasn’t already.

However, there are still plenty of bugs to iron out before AI can engage with listeners in a meaningful way – as I discovered during a “discussion” with Nicolle, the GoGet bot last week.

I hit the CHAT button on the car sharer’s website to dispute a charge and elicit a refund, which Nicolle happily agreed to provide. Our business done, she asked, as is call centre custom, if there was anything else she could do for me. I answered her with a line that often raises a chuckle in otherwise boring conversations with real, pulse emitting humans that populate most help desks – for now.

But a bot has no sense of humour budda bing.

To be fair, Nicolle the GoGet Bot did a pretty good job of addressing my issue and after a short wait (perhaps checking with her supervisor bot) got back to me with an approval for the refund. It was only when I decided to be a bit of a smart arse that Nicolle got a little out of shape.

At least this type of bot attempts to address two of the biggest gripes people (alright, I) have with call centres.

  1. The long wait hanging on the phone repeatedly hearing: “Your call is important to us.” Really, if it’s that important you would’ve answered the phone by now. How come if I call your sales department, or I want to cancel my subscription, they can pick up the phone in three rings?
  2. Speaking with someone in another country with poor English who insists on calling me Misterrr Peeterrr.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to tackle any language barrier to order a dish in an ethnic restaurant in this, or any other country. Unless it’s front-of-house staff at a big international hotel, I can’t expect local people to speak English. In fact, it would be rude of me not to make an effort to learn some of the local lingo.

My point is that when I’m at home in Australia calling for help with an American product like my phone or computer, I’m entitled to expect that the person at the other end has been trained in all the skills required to assist me – including fluent English.

Did someone mention “live and local?”

On the other hand, wouldn’t it be great if you could have your own bot like Siri to advocate for you with other bots in the digital domain. You tell your own bot,  Mavis, Reg or whatever, who has learnt all about you – including digesting all the paperwork, account/invoice numbers etc you can never find when you need them.  It acts as your personal online PA and is programmed to be on your side no matter what when dealing with the bot at Foxtel or even a human at QANTAS.

Imagine, all the PA bots learn from each other, so that when Mavis gets onto, say, Alinta  or AGL to dispute an inflated electricity bill on your behalf, she already knows all the tricks of the trade. And she’s mates with Nigel, the bot at the Ombudsman’s office – which she uses as leverage over the power company’s bot.

How ’bout your own Lawyer bot called Saul?

We can only dream.

Peter Saxon