Chatbots to the Rescue?

The end of frustrating customer service and better service interaction may be here thanks to automated messaging services—that is if you don’t mind chatting with a “chatbot”.

A growing number of startups are using automated messaging to help consumers do everything from hailing cabs to paying bills. Some say these services, known as chatbots, could be the biggest digital to-do since mobile apps. The bots are forms of artificial intelligence that create personalized one-to-one interactions.

The emergence of chatbots could have profound implications for brand interactions with their customers. Agencies say they’re getting more inquiries from brands and more business pitches from platforms. Last month, iCrossing hosted an event featuring speakers from three chatbot startups—ReplyBuy, Arcade and—and messaging platform Kik. Famous consumer brands like Barbie and Uber are also getting in the game.

“Everyone is watching the space right now, and that’s great,” Mike Roberts, head of messenger services at Kik, said. “Every major messenger is in [the chatbot space], and I can’t remember the last time we’ve all made a bet together. It’s only going to drive more interest.”

Of course, with new technology, there can be glitches. Microsoft built a Twitter chat box named Tay that talks like the Millennial generation including its sayings and text message abbreviations. The OS giant’s artificial intelligence (AI) bot not only uses modern vocabulary that might be added to future dictionaries, but also has a little attitude. Hours after Microsoft introduced a Twitter chatbot named Tay to the world, humans had corrupted her so terribly that Microsoft was forced to shut down her account.

At the beginning, Microsoft stated that Tay had the personality of a 19-year-old girl and that she’d be able to handle internet slang and teen-speak, which seemed impressive for an actively-learning chatbox.

By the end, Microsoft was second-guessing their decision to turn to Twitter for wisdom…

So, with this, as with all new technology, we ask is this really better than human interaction—even if it’s frustrating and puts you on hold for an eternity? Only time will tell. In the meantime, let’s hope companies don’t create too many bots that are as corruptible as Tay!