Econet Zimbabwe launches a chatbot

So recently Econet Zimbabwe launched their Facebook chat-bot nicknamed “Bud-e”, which for some reason, took long to respond to my messages at first but it was quickly rectified. All the same, I do think this is a step in the right direction as we see Artificial Intelligence taking over some complex and stressful tasks. So I will outline what a chat-bot is, in simple terms and why I think this is a step in the right direction.

Here is a quick definition of a chat-bot.

It is a “computer program” which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. These programs are designed to convincingly simulate how a human would behave as a conversational partner, thereby passing the Turing test. Chat bots are typically used in dialog systems for various practical purposes including customer service or information acquisition. The Turing test can be defined as a test for intelligence in a computer, requiring that a human being should be unable to distinguish the machine from another human being by using the replies to questions put to both.

 

Bud-e is a clever bot, as it is designed to respond to many customer queries to various subjects. I am not sure though if this bot could pass the Turing test, because you can easily tell that you are chatting with a bot, and the reason for that being its response time. It actually responds instantly to your messages, which I do not think a human being can actually can.

 

Here are the reasons why I think it is a good step in the right direction as mentioned above.

  • Answering of calls – Many a time have I called Econet wireless, only to be held in a queue. But imagine you do not want to be held up in a queue, lets say there is transaction you want to do urgently, but the person on the customer services desk is handling other calls. I think Facebook is easily accessible in Zimbabwe and so with this bot, you could get assisted instantly.

 

  • Customer services personnel attitude – Imagine you call customer services, and the person on the other side the phone is just stressed out or maybe is just having a bad day, or the person has been attending to an angry client prior to answering your call. Surely that person might have a negative attitude or respond in a way which is not business friendly, and it’s not their problem, they are human. I am not saying Econet Customer services personnel are like that, but I have called some customer services personnel on other Service providers (not necessarily Mobile network Operators), and the response is not always great. So since this is just a bot, IT DOES NOT HAVE FEELINGS.

 

  • Multitasking and repetition – As human, I know that no one likes doing the same work again and again over short period of time and so humans who keep repeating the same task, may end up making a lot of errors. Now Chat-bots help automate tasks which are to be done frequently and at the right time. Also chat-bots can be very helpful, since they can attend to millions of people at the same time, without making errors, imagine, in the case where we have a human on the other side, they could barely handle 5 customers at one go.

On the downside though, we think the advent of these technologies could make a lot of people jobless. Though we think the benefits of this technology outstrip its demerits. So even at Tramstech, we “could” soon find ourselves joining the race, introducing our own chat-bot.

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