Figure: Click here to chat… maybe to a real person, or maybe to a bot

Bots are pieces of software that can speak and be spoken to, either in text form, e.g. web chat, or in voice form, e.g. Siri.

Figure: Often simple questions will be fielded by a bot, and only if it can’t answer your question will a real person be contacted

A bot could enable you to text a number to order pizza and have it delivered without ever talking to a real human.

A bot could also allow you to ask a question in natural language, and will provide you the answer. It can often do this by digesting a company’s knowledge base, and either linking you to the correct place, or else give you the answer directly.

Another use for a bot is to kick off an automated task. If you’ve ever asked Siri to set an alarm or reminder, read you a message, or even turn on the lights in your smart home, then you know what I mean

Figure: Siri reminders have completely revolutionised how I organise tasks

Bots During Coronavirus Season

Businesses at the moment are struggling with both a supply and demand problem. The downturn in the economy has reduced demand in many sectors, while also simultaneously making it hard for many people to work due to social distancing concerns.

There are also record numbers of queries on forums such as job boards, requests for information on welfare, and concerned people trying to get the latest information on what changes are being made.

This is a perfect opportunity for Bots to shine:

  • They are infinitely scalable (i.e. can talk to thousands of people at once)
  • They work 24-7
  • They never get sick

The best customer experience generally happens when a bot fields initial queries, and then passes over to a human agent only if it gets stuck. This combats the possible downside of a customer potentially asking questions the bot can’t answer, while still deflecting the majority of tickets with an instant answer that requires no human effort.

Examples of ways Bots have helped during this crisis so far:

  • Centrelink – the welfare government services have been hammered by applications for the dole as well as requests for information. Bots have been able to deal with a huge proportion of the cut and dry cases.
  • Remote work support – the sudden shift from people working in offices to at home has caused a big change to people’s requirements for their home internet. Bots have helped telecommunications suppliers to make sure their customers’ requests can be answered or actioned in real time, at any time of day or night.
  • COVID-19 information – more powerful general purpose bots such as Siri, Cortana, or the Google Assistant can get key information from certain websites to be able to instantly ask common questions such as “How many Coronavirus cases are there in Australia?”

Bot Frameworks

Microsoft Azure and Google DialogFlow are both excellent frameworks for building custom bots, and both provide voice recognition, natural language processing, and workflow tools.

If you want to build a custom bot for your own company, have a look at and maybe give me a call.

Stay safe.

Further reading: Adam Cogan, who owns SSW, did a piece on bots last year:. Check it out to see 5 simple questions that bots should be answering in your business: