The Endless Potential and Use Cases for Chatbots

I have been talking about chatbots a lot lately and for good reason. I believe that chatbots are the future of learning, marketing, mobile communication and more. The potential and use cases for them are endless.

As I pointed out in this article, we no longer use apps like we used to on our smartphones. We have reached ‘app fatigue’. Most of the activity on our smartphones takes place in messaging apps. If you look at WeChat, it becomes clear that we will no longer use a group of apps to complete a variety of tasks.

I recently deleted some apps because I can do the same tasks they did within one app: Telegram. A group of great and helpful chatbots inside Telegram allows me to save time and focus.

Here are some examples of the chatbots I currently use in Telegram (T), Slack (S) and messaging (M) (see screenshots in slider above):

  • Weatherman (T): weather texted twice a day instead of unlocking  my phone and opening a weather app or asking Google

  • Mr. Fitbot (T): I just text this bot how much time I have for exercise and it fires back a complete workout in seconds
  • DeLorean (T): This has replaced my reminders app. I text DeLorean my reminders and when I want the bot to send them back to my phone
  • Todomebot (T): this bot has replaced my to do list app
  • Pomodoro bot (T): I use the Pomodoro method when working, and this bot sets the timers much quicker than other apps
  • Feed Reader Bot (T): Using RSS feeds, this bot gives me the news and info I want in an easy and automated way and all in one place. 
  • And Chill (M): A funny play on the ‘Netflix and chill’ expression, this chatbot gives you suggestions on what to watch on Netflix based on your preferences and feedback. 
  • Datacard (S): Before using this bot, I would check my analytics and stats in Twitter, Facebook and Google Analytics. Now? Datacard messages me every morning inside my PKM Slack team with the data. This slackbot is currently my favourite because of the time it saves.

Some of you may be asking, “Why aren’t there any Facebook Messenger bots on your list?” Fair question, especially since there are about 11,000 chatbots currently available for that platform. I also get asked about Kik since they were the first of the messaging giants to embrace bots and provide a bot store for them.

During a recent trip to Vancouver, I discovered one of my favourite singers, Lloyd Cole, was playing a sold out show. I had to download and use Messenger to converse with a woman selling tickets she couldn’t use. I found the app too invasive and disliked how it asked for permissions that would allow it to take over my phone. Although I preach ‘be where they are’ (where your target audience spends their time), I opt not to use nor create bots for Messenger now. I say this knowing that it’s unsurpassed growth will likely mean I have to change my mind soon.

I don’t use Kik because it's so teenager-centric.  That’s not the demographic I am working with and focused on currently. Also, with Kik, Facebook Messenger, Telegram or Slack, I would be building a bot that lives inside their platform.  I prefer to use Mobile Coach so that any phone with text messaging can engage with my chatbots.

Be Where They Are

One reason I feel chatbots are so full of potential and deserve serious consideration: ‘be where they are’. I preach this message every time I deliver my workshops on personal branding, social media and the future of learning. We keep forcing consumers, learners and customers through too many hoops and barriers. There are too many clicks and taps to get to our content. We create elearning modules that require yet another login and password combination.

I will say it again: we need to provide people with frictionless learning experiences. Don’t make people wade through webpages, paywalls, logins and more to access content and knowledge. If people are already spending lots of time on a platform like YouTube or Facebook, why force them elsewhere?

We text all the time. Every day. Every hour. Text messages exceed a 99% open rate! (For context, email open rates rarely hit 25%.) So, with that reality plus chatbots we can provide frictionless engagement with users. Just make sure every interaction provides value.

Automated ‘push’ and user-controlled ‘pull’ are both possible in a chatbot. Want to change people’s behaviour through random but regular gentle nudges? No problem. Want to make a knowledge base available that employees can access when they need it? No problem! Performance support at their fingertips. Just in time, on-demand.

Let me give you a few current examples of where chatbots are making a big difference:

Obie (Tasytt)

The front page of Tasytt’s website reads, “You don’t need a learning management system.” What you need is their Slackbot, Obie, inside your Slack team. Chris Buttenham and his team have created a brilliant tool that helps solve the challenge of knowledge capture and transfer within organizations. Again quoting from their site, Obie is “the first continuous learning bot built for Slack. Obie can access your company tribal knowledge, deploy processes, and how-to’s without leaving your messaging app. Flows deliver knowledge and information when your team needs it - not all at once.” Wow. Just in time, on-demand learning. Finally!

Using Obie inside Slack allows organizations to develop a culture of knowledge sharing and makes necessary learning available anytime, anywhere since Slack works well on any device. The future of learning is here.

Mobile Coach

Vince Han studies behaviour change and built Mobile Coach to facilitate such change via text messages. I completed my Mobile Coach certification in April of this year and am currently working on two chatbots. What I love about Mobile Coach is that it works on any phone without the need of another app download. If your phone can send and receive text messages, then you’re good to go!

One of the most popular use cases for mobile coaches is onboarding which I think is not only smart, but saves time and money. Rather than a few days of full-day training for new hires, companies are using Mobile Coach to deliver the onboarding.  It lasts for about a month and goes right to their phones in text messages. Learning can take place over those four weeks instead of brain overload over a couple of days of training. None of the employees need to be away from their desks to have this learning experience as it’s fully mobile.

DoNotPay

The story of DoNotPay blows my mind, frankly, and I love it: this bot challenges traffic tickets and after being used more than 9,000 times a day by New Yorkers since March, has successfully challenged 160,000 of 250,000 tickets!

Joshua Browder -the 19 year-old creator of DoNotPay- says, “I think the people getting parking tickets are the most vulnerable in society. These people aren’t looking to break the law. I think they’re being exploited as a revenue source by the local government.” (He is working on a bot that will help people with HIV better understand their legal rights and another one that helps you collect compensation if your flight is delayed more than 4 hours. Browder is also building a bot that helps refugees apply for asylum and utilizes IBM Watson to do the translating from Arabic to English.)

If you want to challenge your traffic ticket, chat with a bot at donotpay.co.uk where it asks you questions like whether signs were visible when the fine was issued or the size of the parking space.

Browder also says, “I feel like there’s a gold mine of opportunities because so many services and information could be automated using AI (artificial intelligence), and bots are a perfect way to do that.” I agree!

Aiday -

Grabbed from their site: “Better way to build a company culture. Aiday is a virtual assistant within Slack that collects and analyzes employee feedback to improve personal skills and company efficiency.

Feedback between co-workers is an essential part of personal development and company culture. Often lack of honest feedback is the reason why a company loses its best professionals. Why not to change it? After all, professionals are what drive a company forward.

Aiday helps to receive personal and meeting feedback right in Slack, so you don't need to use additional tools and create different polls.”

I don’t think it’s difficult to see how useful and efficient Aiday can be. I love solutions like this that aim for a frictionless user experience leading to substantial results and changes. You can easily measure the efficiency of your meetings and Aiday will provide smart suggestions to boost meeting productivity. Awesome!

Truebill

The Truebill bot (available on Messenger) “is the world’s first personal finance management service that allows users to find, track, and cancel paid subscriptions and recurring bills in one place, for free.

Truebill’s primary service allows users to securely connect and scan their bank transactions to identify paid subscriptions like Netflix, AT&T and gym memberships, and request Truebill to cancel unwanted services on their behalf.

Truebill supports thousands of financial institutions, identified over 700 paid subscription services and recurring billing agents, and tracks over $100 Million in annual subscription payments.”

I’m guessing you can see the power of chatbots and the impact they are already having in the world of mobile. Still not convinced? Check out the following:

Despite the thousands of chatbots/bots already available, I believe we’re just getting started. Messaging will remain the most common activity on a smartphone. Chatbots enable seamless, frictionless experiences within messaging for an untold quantity of use cases and solutions.

What do I recommend you do next?

  1. Get Telegram (or Messenger...) on your phone and add a few bots to it. Try them out and see how helpful they can be, the time you can save and ‘the ROI’ everyone feels the need to force into the situation.

  2. Follow me on Twitter as I dig deeper into this world and share the progression and launch of my upcoming chatbots.
  3. Contact me to facilitate a workshop for your team.  You can learn about, experience and plan together the potential and opportunities for chatbots in your organization, especially in the area of learning and development.
  4. Stay tuned to my new podcast, Reaching the UML, for upcoming interviews with Chris, Vince and other leaders and thinkers in this space.

3 comments

Wound_up_Bird

What I find exciting about a bot like Tasytt’s Obie is the idea that formalized learning (e.g. job-specific processes and knowledge, compliance) is delivered as soon as an employee asks a question, rather than when it meets the dates that an organization states. The immediacy creates the motivation to learn, and extends beyond the 10 into the 20 and 70. Here’s my question: given that organizations need to ensure that the money that they have spent on learning frameworks is well-spent, how does a bot like Obie report back to the organization? Is it through xAPI, short/ medium/ long-term performance indicators, requests for further learning?

Chris Buttenham

Hey @Wound_up_Bird! Chris here, from Tasytt. Thank you so much for your feedback.

That’s a great question, and one we’ve given a lot of thought. Most companies want analytics for a couple key reasons: to measure ROI and for compliance. We have the advantage of a backend platform, which means we can track and report on any learning that takes place there. We offer analytics and reporting that show a learner’s progress and additional team-wide insights. We’re working custom reporting features organizations can tailor to their own KPIs, but also pretty excited about using machine learning to push the envelope on traditional metrics.

Continuous learning is where Obie shines. Any team member provisioned as a content creator (the middle of 3 ‘clearance levels’) can not only request new Flows but create them as well. Everyone has knowledge and best practices to share, but until now there hasn’t been a decent medium to share them.

Feel free to reach out!

Wound_up_Bird

I like where you’re going with this. Thanks for your response!

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