We have started an interview series, where we bring you the stories of growth hackers, entrepreneurs, marketers and influencers in the hope that you can learn a few insider tips on how they tackled the barriers to achieve success.
To kick off the first episode of our interview series, we had influencer, founder, and bot podcaster Chad Oda join us! Chad has been in to world of Bots for a bit now and has started the Botrepreneurs Facebook Community, the Bot Podcast, and is currently the Head of Consulting at Chat Mode. He also helps run the The Chatbot & Voice Meetup in Seattle, Washington.
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🤖 What got you into Bots?
It’s always interesting, "origin stories", especially with new technologies. I started back in 2016 with bots, when I was running an automation-workflow consulting firm and it’s sorta funny that my co-founder had read something that day about Chatbots, and it clicked as like “whoa, you can automate messaging channels and scale interactions out”. It was even funnier that just a few weeks later, we had an opportunity with a large client that wanted to get some automation done and from there we realized that chatbots can be used as the solution.
😎 What drew you to become a Bot Evangelist?
I didn’t really plan on being an influencer, but when I was getting into bots, I didn’t feel like I was an expert, but, I was ready to talk to the smartest people in this space. This is where the idea of the podcast came in for potentially benefiting the community, but also helping learn about it myself. My whole objective and mission is to really try to surface what’s tangible and feasible in the bot space and cutting through the noise.
🌍 How will bots change the world?
Bots have moved from command-line interfaces, to web-based interfaces, and then to mobile interfaces, making them powerful tools for startups and enterprises alike. The potential that exists is the friction and intuitiveness for interacting with a conversational interface. This gives someone who is 70 years-old a chance to experience an interface in the same way someone at 4 years old can. What we get are interfaces that render more visual interfaces useless at times in favor of something more accessible.
👀 Tell us more about the Bot Summit in Berlin you attended?
The Bot Summit really proved one thing at the moment: Bots are coming back from the Trough of Disillusionment. The sessions showed a renewed sense of confidence that bots can be both useful in the world of enterprise and in the consumer world, and that renewed sense was a major forefront of the event.
🌐 What do you think is the future of bots in Enterprise/B2B?
In the near term, the enterprise has a lot of the major opportunities to hit their true potential, as mentioned with the consumer/marketing side, but also with customer support, and even in the concept of internal chatbot tools and automating workflows internally. There’s a lot of potential in how bots can not only help teams, but also the individual. Something around managing a business trip, or keeping a personal workflow, or even something like working with expenses and having a conversation with a bot to get this done.
👜 How about future of bots in Consumer Industry?
I believe that, if we look at the trends, messaging is the main channel for consumers, with messaging platforms having more active users than the top social apps themselves. This indicates a change in ways consumers want to interact, much like they do with friends, family, co-workers, etc. And from that, they want to feel the same things from brands and companies. We can see opportunities to make an impact in industries like eCommerce or hospitality in the situations where on-demand help can be really impactful in the long-run. We can imagine a world where we’re just interacting with a voice interface and you’ll be able to go down the sales process in a major brand and, perhaps, this will be done with one centralized virtual assistant rather than multiple different interfaces you’ll have to switch around. We’re also going to see enterprises tap into their data to allow conversational interfaces to become more personalized and a first-point of contact for consumers who will need help.Going even further, location-based chatbots could be in the near future as well, with the concept of creating bots that will activate when you walk into a department store and gather your data to really give you the proper recommendations, maybe even based on searching you’ve done on a website.
👥 You’ve built a pretty successful community around the niche of bots, what’s been your biggest lesson in starting an online niche tech community? What made you actually start up a full community?
It’s all in line with the idea I had for the podcast: It’s the idea of “how can we bring more people together?” and “how can we figure things out together?”. To me, it’s about hearing from smart people is a way to learn fast, and utilizing that opportunity and focus on video content to really build out an engaged audience. For our offline community, our meetup, it was the same approach of trying to bring passionate, smart people together, just in an offline space. I think the more people we’re able to bring into a community and learn from one another, the faster we can solve hard problems and make things happen through pooling resources and knowledge, and understanding that is probably one of the biggest lessons in starting a community.
📢 Tell us a little bit about pitching bots to businesses?
I think first of all, there is a component here that actually involves companies that are creating the bots or offering the tools for creating bots. In any new technology, there’s always an idea of trying to hit every use case, and people forget the business case. There were definitely companies in the early days of bots that hyped things a little too far, and not really talking about the business case. It’s not atypical, and it goes back to simply thinking about how we market business solutions in general.It always comes down to what a business needs and understanding the benefits of taking a chance on new technology, like bots in this case. Specifically, get the innovation departments or RnD departments of companies on board is really the key to properly selling bots. Also really talking to the customer support needs of a company, as there has been a lot of talk around that as well. At the end of the day, it’s exciting for people interesting for people who live and breathe technology like us, but to the major decision makers and stakeholders, it really comes down to the ROI and results.
🔄 What do you think it’ll take for bots to come out of a slump in the hype cycle?
I certainly believe that bots are coming up the initial slope out of the trough of disillusionment right now, and the reason I believe that is that a lot of the noise of “AI will solve everything” and the crazy expectations for chatbots are finally coming to a close while more realistic expectations and use cases are starting to rise back up. While there have been some companies that have been able to keep up from the days of hype, today, we see more select companies that have started to really “figure it out” on how to understand best practices and processes that will better appeal to certain use cases and lead to success in the long-term.
💬 What are your thoughts on audio interfaces (Alexa, Homepod, etc) and the future of voice bots?
I think from a tech perspective, for the most part, the tech is similar, but that being said, with voice user interfaces, channels don’t exist. For Google Home, you could say there is some level of channel through some Android phones, but for Alexa, there’s constantly new devices at different prices coming out to try to build out that channel.That said, chatbots are more mature than audio interfaces, and it really comes down to discoverability. Until that’s really solved, voice will still be an adjunct channel, and expanding discoverability to the skills themselves is key. Even really understanding what people want from voice interfaces is still something that needs to be focused in on. Then it can go into opportunities to monetize, which is where the bottleneck starts, where people may not even know what they want out of their voice-activated device, and therefore, unsure of what they would even be purchasing. I think within the next couple years though, we’ll see some more complex user interfaces, but it will still take some more time to really get it right in the world of voice interfaces.
😎 What do you think of Non-AI conversational interfaces?
I come back to the context of “it depends” on the matching the “flavor” of chatbot with the proper use case, whether it’s a rule-based chatbot, NLP chatbot, or even a hybrid chatbot. I think people don’t give enough credit to rule-based, non-AI chatbots that can still drive quite a bit of revenue for brands once you dig in.With technology right now, NLP is pretty good but I think there’s still a lot of work to be done. When we think about it, bots really can’t quite do non-sequitur or good context management right now like humans can. Some of the most basic/common things that happen in our conversations with friends, family, and co-workers, most bots can’t quite handle that both in functionality and scale. And right now, I think there’s a lot of different ways and methods it can go in the overall. And to conclude it, we just look at the potential of a lot of these different options and flavors, but at the end of the day, it’ll all come back down to use cases and results when we think of where chatbots could go.