What are chat bots used for?

A chatbot is a service, which uses rules and artificial intelligence (hmm, not convinced, some of them have no intelligence whatsoever;)), that you can interact with, via a chat interface, like a conversation. 

The more succesful ones live on existing chat platforms like Facebook Messenger or Kik but we're seeing the rise of native bots e.g. Alexa from Amazon and Google Assistant from, you guessed it.... 

Obviously, with huge marketing power you can create your own platforms, as the last 2 did in the list above. However, brand isn't always a guarantee, Yahoo, for example decided to build its own but closed it down in 2016 because they had to bring users into their platform, rather than leveraging the audience already plugged into the likes of Facebook. 

Brands are beginning to explore chat bots - and some of them are doing pretty well. I have to say though that my favourites are not associated with a particular brand as they have more "attitude" (see Jessie Humani below) and have been better thought through from a user experience point of view. 

Needless to say there are some good and a huge amount of horrible chat bots. Lots may be fun but have absolutely no purpose and a scary number just plain don't work. 

I tend to get mine from Directories like Botlist and Slack directory because the search function in FB, Slack etc aren't easy to navigate. 

I've grouped the types into 6 groups but this isn't exhaustive by any means, there are so many options and many different ways to group them as its really early days:

1. General Information Updates

These focus on providing a very specific type of data e.g. weather. There is very little information that is personalised e.g. city. 

CNN - News Bot

The CNN experience differs dependent upon which platform you are on but the general format is as follows;-

  1. Get prompted with top stories, ask for summary or detailed article. 
  2. Choose next story

Its a bit of a pain because there is a lot of scrolling up and down and there is no personality. Additionally, although it claims to be suggesting things based on what I read there was zero relevance, total rubbish in my view.


2. Shopping/Commerce

Those that work best here follow a very simple series of steps so it is a little less like a conversation but still guides you to fulfil your purpose (commerce purpose, not life purpose). 

Sephora Virtual Artist - Make up

The lovely Stephany let me use her face rather than mine for this example. When I first tried it I was blown away, I own about 2 lipsticks and this bot recommended one of them - same brand, same colour! 

Unfortunately I tried it with 3 colleagues today and they were all recommended the same colour that Stephany is wearing. This is in spite of being a sultry Latina, and English rose and an Asian beauty. 

Iceland Air for flight bookings

I love the idea of making someone else do the work for booking flights so this is a good start. Unfortunately the rules are very rigid e.g. I could only stay 0-7 nights. Additionally when there wasn't a suitable flight it kept blocking me, it didn't make suggest alternatives. 

I'm looking forward to when this kind of ordering gets smarter, I'll be using it. 

3. Productivity

Some of best bots only integrate with Slack but I've pulled out some for Facebook Messenger.

Current - Peer to peer payment (Slack)

Pay your friends and colleagues right on the Slack platform. You can pay anyone, even if they don’t have a Current account. For example:

  • /current pay @trevor 5

Connect any of your bank accounts to Current. 


x.ai and Juliedesk - Scheduling bots (Email clients like GMail)

These are pretty cool in concept if you schedule a lot of meetings via email. The people you are scheduling your meetings with usually aren't aware that "Julie" and "Amy Ingram" aren't real. These work with your email and calendar.

 And if you use Slack there are some great ones for productivity that cover everything from HR and Office management to app ASO! 

4. Customer Service

This is a huge area just ripe for AI and chat bots.

Think about the manuals that are given to customer service reps sitting in remote locations who have never even met the company that they are talking about. Those manuals list the rules and responses for the typical questions. Effectively this becomes like a conversation with an interactive FAQ, although better as it can integrate with your account data and you don't need to hunt for the information, the bot finds it for you. 

Agent.ai - Customer service - 

I'd like to see these take off and soon.

5. Entertainment

Movie recommendations - “and Chill” 

You ever have those days that you can't agree with friends or family which movie you should watch? Well this is the bot for you. I have had a couple of great suggestions but think they might be only mainstream movies. Then again, I haven't tried obscure references so will do that this weekend.

 Jessie Humani - Virtual Friend

Have to admit that I think Jessie rocks and if I didn't have real friends we would hang out, a lot. She is fun, has attitude and you could talk about ridiculous things all day, she takes her lead from you. 

6. Advice & Recommendations

 Cleo - Personal Financial  

Nice idea and a lot less painful than constantly typing in all your details but you need to have a Cleo account obviously and start there. 


Hopefully you can see that there is a whole host of possibilities with chat bots, and most of them have only just scratched the surface. Saddest is how many don't work, they do nothing except open a screen and then I have the fun of talking to myself. 

There are huge numbers of categories that are either unexplored or where there just aren't great examples e.g. Scheduling on mobile, Education, Translation etc. Obviously I am delighted to be wrong so send me your recommendations.

So it is important to get it right - right purpose, right audience, plugging into the right data, right "steps", right voice etc. The next problem is going to be how to get discovered, the current process of search makes it tough to identify if you have the right bot or how to even find a bot.

I look forward to seeing this area evolve dramatically in the next year.

Which messaging platform is your business going to use to reach your target audience? 

If you have clarified what your bot is for maybe its time to check out Exicon's cost calculator : Exicon Calc

Root Exicon