You've probably been hearing a lot lately about artificial intelligence (AI) and conversational bots. You may have even interacted with one and not even known it (Twitter, Facebook) or you may be using AI to do your bidding (Amazon Alexa, Google Home).
This article is going to provide a realistic, business use AI example, using the latest technology while "keeping it real" in terms of what's realistic to expect right now and not the mythical "five years from now". I'll be using the same technology Google suggests developers use for Google Home. (Spoiler alert: At the end of this article there will be a free demo you can try for yourself.)
For my example, I will be building an AI bot that will handle room complaints from guests staying in a hotel. The job of the bot is to field complaints via text message (SMS) and gather enough relevant information to automatically contact the relevant support staff. (I am using a hotel in the example but you'll see this is easily applicable to condos or a group of rental properties.) I built this bot using API.AI. There are other tools out there, but I found API.AI useful because of easy integration with tools like Twilio. (If those last two sentences don't make sense to you, don't worry about it.)
First, our imaginary guest runs into a problem with the room. She sends a text message to our support number, which is monitored by an AI bot. The bot uses natural language to gather the information we need to help and then sends it to the correct person.
Once the bot has gathered the necessary information, it sends it to us so we can figure out what to do. This allows you to route problems to different people depending on the type of problem, time of day, day of week, shift, property, etc. (This probably sounds more complex/expensive than it really is.) The end result can be an automated call or text message to whoever you choose. You may also choose to contact multiple people or log the calls to a database or send an email to a manager if certain conditions are met. All of that takes just seconds to complete.
The entire conversation, including contacting support happens as quickly as your guest can text.
You decide what "natural language" is. That means you get to set the tone of the conversation with your customer. No matter the time of day or night, guests get the same demeanor and fast, consistent responses. Your bot can continue to be professional even when faced with an angry guest. (Speaking of angry guests, you could detect foul language and alert staff that the guest is upset. This bot doesn't do that but could.)
As promised, at this point I invite you to try it, no strings attached. Before I wrote this article I actually created the AI bot and integrated it with a real phone number. The example text messages in the image above are actually from my AI bot.
Text the phone number 704-869-2653 and try it. (Note: I'm not harvesting phone numbers. I won't contact you. You're not inconveniencing anyone: it doesn't actually contact anyone. The line is strictly answered by my AI bot. Go on and try it already.)
Need Ideas? Try these:
- My faucet is leaking.
- The AC isn't working.
- The WIFI isn't working in room 319.
- towel me, room 11
This bot can't handle every situation you can dream up, but it handles the 15 or 20 items I thought of quickly and you can add as many things as you can dream up. (Email me or post a comment if you stump it.)
Keeping it Real
That brings us to the "keeping it real" part: You'll notice that this demo is relatively simple. (All of the demos I have seen to this point are.) It really only handles simple problems. Building a more complex AI bot gets complicated pretty quickly and requires a little more thought (and probably a server). Don't let that deter you though. It doesn't mean it isn't possible, it just means more complex.
If you'd like to talk over an idea for your business and aren't sure whether it makes sense yet, let me know