Disrupting With Chatbots Is Good, But Chatbot Disruptors Must Tread a Fine Line

Disrupting With Chatbots Is Good, But Chatbot Disruptors Must Tread a Fine Line

The claim that businesses are “disrupting” markets with technology, services and new features like chatbots is getting a bit long in the tooth, but plenty of marketers still want to bang that drum. Consider the wider issues with your planned disruption and whether you need to focus on something other than disruption for disruption’s sake.

Look at any business or market these days and there are plenty of thought pieces, industry articles and vendor push about being disruptive, usually through technology. Look at the relatively traditionalist restaurant trade, like this piece on Disruption in the Restaurant Technology Space:

“Whilst virtual chatbots and robots taking over the restaurant may sound exciting, it has its own shortcomings. Although Facebook Messenger is a popular chatbot platform, it’s not very reliable in the long run, given the rate at which the popularity of social media platforms changes. Similarly, robots are game-changers for restaurants, however, they still need to be tested in different environments before they can be used extensively at restaurants.”

Then there are the issues that external parties and partners can have when it comes to using a chatbot to shake up a sector or a specific niche. These rumblings about a tourist chatbot for the Scottish island of Skye will have a familiar tone for anyone working in tourism.

In an email sent by the former chairwoman of SkyeConnect Shirley Spear, she said board members were “alarmed” that Mr MacDonald had “launched his own attempt at marketing Skye without any consultation with anyone who is involved with SkyeConnect”. Mr MacDonald added: “The whole idea behind my business model was to create this chatbot to address the issues Skye was facing together but Skye Connect has provided zero support.

Disruption done well

Before charging on with a disruptive project, anyone launching a chatbot or service that they think is disruptive needs to consider the true landscape they are working in, and the meaning of disruption when it comes to innovation.

 “Too frequently, they use the term loosely to invoke the concept of innovation in support of whatever it is they wish to do. Many researchers, writers, and consultants use “disruptive innovation” to describe any situation in which an industry is shaken up and previously successful incumbents stumble. But that’s much too broad a usage.”

There are many poor examples. Very recently, the mighty Google launched Stadia, a streaming game service to challenge XBox and PlayStation consoles. Is a subscription gaming service disruptive? Especially when it still costs £119 for the hardware.

Is the lag time that players experience on a less than perfect broadband setup disruptive? There’s much mirth online at some of the delays players are facing in real-world online situations.

Are people playing the same games they played elsewhere on a slightly different service a sign of disruption? Even with Google’s massive AI and data centre power, what has really changed? Yet, there are huge numbers of articles claiming disruption is imminent.

Building the Disruption

So, when you have a business idea, especially one involving a chatbot, look at what you are really doing and consider whether the disruption is real, or being disruptive to your neighbors or partners for disruption’s sake? Causing a fuss doesn’t make something disruptive, even if it gifts you a few headlines.

Some people claim chatbots are disruptive by appearing on new platforms (say for example, only on your new app). Yet, will that really compete with Facebook Messenger’s 2.5 billion potential users? In reality, your chatbot needs to be where the users are, not where you hope they will be.

Then there’s the industry you hope to disrupt. Is an airline or airport chatbot still disruptive when most players in the market now use them to great success? Your bot might have a new feature that is disruptive, but how long will it be until rivals clone it outright or do something even better?

Then there’s the trend of combining a chatbot with something else, blockchain will be a particularly popular partner in the coming years, aligning security and accessibility, especially in finance. But how many others are going down the same route, hint: lots.

“Insurance companies need to adopt a “digital-first” mindset, and are already feeling the benefits of past investments in robotic process automation and digital assistance chatbots. Cloud-based technologies or blockchain could bring new future benefits, and a number of use cases have been developed.”

What is sure is that no users or customers will be talking about “the most disruptive chatbot” now or in years to come. People will talk about the best chatbot in a market, industry or within a local area depending on the use case. Marketers like to talk about disruption and vendors promoting their latest upgrade feel the need to shout about it too.

Before you jump on that bandwagon, make sure your chatbot delivers the best customer experience it can, in the right places for them. Then look at how you can use it to make your business and their experience better.

Perhaps during those efforts, you will find something disruptive that others may give you kudos for. That will probably be worth shouting about and doubling down on to find your next big thing. Just remember that as chatbots become a part of the mainstream, it will be harder to find that unique feature. But, doing what you can very well should help outperform businesses who launch a chatbot just because they can, or they have seen their rivals do it and think they should too.

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Chris Knight

Chris Knight writes about where technology will take us next, from the power of neural networks, artificial intelligence and chatbots, to the endless worlds promised by augmented and virtual reality. From the latest in gadgets and hardware to how digital businesses can use technology to grow, Chris makes the future clear and understandable to all.
Disrupting With Chatbots Is Good, But Chatbot Disruptors Must Tread a Fine Line - TNTIC December 10, 2019

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