Help is on the way, elevator, Chicago Tribune.
Help is on the way, elevator, Chicago Tribune. (source: Cory Doctorow on Flickr)

Customer service is a key application for bots—one of the first that we think of when we imagine a world full of AI-enabled conversational interfaces. In this episode of the O’Reilly Bots podcast, Pete Skomoroch and I talk with the founders of two companies that have developed bots to help consumers and companies talk to each other.

We begin by hearing from Michael Schneider, founder and CEO of Service, which offers a bot that mediates disputes between customers and large companies. The bot interacts with the customer to gather basic data about the issue and the company, and then a human representative tries to solve the issue by contacting the company. Service is positioning itself as a neutral third party to, in Schneider’s words, “negotiate a fair resolution between consumers and business.”

Service also has an intriguing idea for solving the discovery problem that many bot creators are facing: instead of waiting for users to find it on a bot directory somewhere, Service scans Twitter to find people who are complaining about customer service but haven’t been helped yet. Service then reaches out on Twitter with an offer to contact the problem company on the customer’s behalf.

For our Bot of the Week segment, we speak with Rachel Law and Alyx Baldwin, co-founders of Kip, a bot that makes it easier for groups, especially those in the workplace, to make purchases through Slack. Kip assists personnel who have to manage group-wide orders (for office supplies, food, etc.) by automating the process of collecting requests from multiple people.

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