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Yesterday’s news – an old survey critiques chatbots

It’s 2024 -- chatbots, yuck? Given the pace of change in AI technology – both the software and its rate of adoption – it’s curious that recently the Wall Street Journal published an aging survey about what customers don’t use and/or like about chatbots. These observations include the usual: ‘hallucinated’ answers; lack of customer awareness that they are talking to a chatbot (really???); too nosy. Or it asked too many questions; couldn’t handle two questions. Which would make this article, like much of media coverage of AI, sound negative. Too late, adoption happened anyway. This is a commentary, perhaps, on the nature of news media in general, who either are mirroring the AI skepticism in the public, or promoting it. But clearly with chatbot adoption, the public is paying new attention. 

Like much of AI technology, why are chatbots useful? Well, there’s that labor-saving aspect.  Companies clearly view chatbots as an opportunity to reduce call wait times and hangups; get a bit of screening data from a prospective consumer or existing customer prior to transferring them; or even answer a question that needs no further information.  From the company standpoint, these can help improve the user experience, which needs it. Back to the customers – if they get what they need without having to wait or speak to an agent, that is increasingly a positive – and apparently baby boomers agree

Increasingly we will notice when the chatbot ISN’T there.  Imagine if you are an adult child searching for senior living – and you can pre-qualify your choices with a short dialogue with a chatbot.  Imagine that you inquired: is a vegetarian or kosher menu offered?  Are there any single rooms or only double?  Does the community bring residents to nearby concerts? Can independent living residents use a chatbot to sign themselves up for community activities? Or select a preferred mealtime or menu? Chatbots are already making a difference in senior living and care.  As companies improve their ability to tailor a chatbot to a particular circumstance – and even to a particular person, the benefits will be increasingly obvious, even to the media. 

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