The Situation That Made Me Think …
One day my girlfriend and I were walking inside a mall, one of the biggest ones in my city. We were looking for a specific shop, but neither she nor I knew where it was exactly. That mall is really big, trust me, walking along and searching the shop “manually” would have taken about 30 minutes from us.
30 minutes of wasted time. No way!
So what should one do in this situation? First, you can surely go for the “social solution”.
Option 1 — The real-life solution
you can ask people. I really don’t encourage anyone to solve a problem with tech, unless tech is the easiest solution. Let’s assume we can get the information from the people approximately in 2 minutes.
However, there are times, when there’s not too many people in the building, they may just not know the answer, or you just simply don’t want to ask strangers, because you are not in the mood or not feeling comfortable with that.
So what then?
Option 2 — The standard solution
you can now grab tech and go to one of the information points. You know, the big touch screens containing some information including the map of the mall.
Okay, but where are those information points?
Wherever they are, it’s definitely not next to me. The thing is, firstly I would have to locate the information point and then get there! Let’s say I found it, then I quickly have to learn its User Interface, only then I am able to check where that shop is.
That machine is big, heavy, and on the top of that, the touchscreen sometimes just not as good as we expect.
It would have taken like 5 to 10 minutes, If we had gone for this solution.
Option 3 — The boring one
So what should we do?
Download the 30MB application of the mall in the middle of shopping inside?
No way. After I go out, I would even delete it.
Option 4 — Why don’t we just text them?
There came my Messenger maniac. But it’s not just me:
Facebook’s study reveals that 56% of people would likely get in touch with companies for the first time on a messaging platform.
I am definitely among them, so I just simply texted to the Facebook page of the mall.
Automating answers of the most important 20–50 questions of a mall would take only 2–3 weeks of development. So it really cannot be considered as a big investment.
However, they had no automation, neither a fast human customer service on Messenger.
Okay, we really didn’t want to find an information machine, neither downloading their app, so we just decided to ask someone. Luckily the third person we asked knew where it is. We found the shop, my girlfriend could check the stuff there. Happy end!
Here Comes the Moral of the Story
Okay it’s not a really serious story, but at that moment this has really opened my eyes, which is why it is really important to me. That’s why I wanted to share my thoughts on this.
I don’t want to pretend that this story is the proof of the “raison d’etre” of chatbots.
I also don’t want to say that a chatbot is better than an app, or better than a hardware-based information machine.
What I want to say is:
for a certain layer of people in a set of situations chat and automated chat is the best solution. What’s more, this particular layer of people and the number of these situations have increased greatly!
There is a big need of this solution now. It’s so easy and cheap to implement and the entry-threshold for using it is so low, that I think it’s just no way that a company would not take advantage of this, like they have taken of websites, phone IVRs and social media channels.
My Message to the Companies
And this is my message to companies that are already using apps, or phone IVRs at the moment: listen to your customers, maybe a significant part of them want to communicate with you on a messaging-based channel! Because,
if you listen to your customers’ needs, they will choose you.
In the end, the Facebook Page admin of the mall answered me an hour later and told me where the shop was. They were very kind, just too slow.