Preview: Build a Chatbot: The New Consumer Engagement Tool
Tricia Katz is a senior web engineer for Mutual Mobile. She works extensively with coding and the development of new technologies, in this case, chatbots. Outside of her professional work, Katz is a mentor to women involved in the tech industry. She is the founder of emHERge, which is an annual event that provides girls an opportunity to gain experience with technology.
This year, Katz will be presenting her panel, Build a Chatbot: The New Consumer Engagement Tool.
Question: Could you tell me a little about yourself, some of the work you do with Mutual Mobile and how you got started?
Answer: I’m a Senior Web Engineer at Mutual Mobile working on cross-platform web apps, chatbots, and Alexa Skills. I was an early believer in chatbots – the technology just made good business- and user interaction- sense. I began prototyping concepts on my own and along with my colleague Dan Murrell, spearheaded chatbot efforts at Mutual Mobile.
I believe in using technology to solve business problems. Chatbots have become another technology solution for us to provide to our clients.
Question: How or why did you come up with the idea of this panel?
Answer: Conversational UI is a hot topic right now, and brands are working quickly to define business strategies around this new technology. Additionally, as with most emerging technologies, brands want to be first to market. The workshop I’m leading at SXSW will give them the tools to get started, and information to continue building on their concept after they leave.
Question: What are you hoping will be the biggest takeaway for the audience attending your panel?
Answer: I hope the biggest takeaway for my audience is the curiosity to continue building their bot, or bots. I want technologists, brands, and organizational leaders attending my workshop to start having conversations about chatbots with their company and in the community. As more developers and brands begin building in the bots space, we’ll see development boundaries pushed and the technology moving forward.
Question: I remember using AOL messenger to speak with a chatbot called SmarterChild, how far has the technology come since then?
Answer: Chatbots have made a comeback over the past couple of years. While the technology isn’t perfect, we’ve made huge advancements in artificial intelligence, big data, processing power, and even chatbots’ personalities. Gone are the SmarterChild days with a bot attempting to pass as human and wanting to be your friend. Today, many bots are built to perform specific tasks, and set the expectation that they may not always get it right – after all, they’re just a bot.
Large companies like Facebook and Microsoft are also investing heavily in bots and offering tools to make development and analytics monitoring easier. Technology has evolved, so we don’t have the same issues out of the gate. A user can message a bot and begin interacting right away.
Question: You point out on the SXSW panel page that Facebook Messenger is your preferred platform because of its massive user base.
Answer: The reason SmarterChild reached so many people was because it was available on one of the world’s most popular messaging platforms, AOL Instant Messenger. Facebook Messenger has over 1 billion monthly active users and is currently the second most popular messaging app worldwide. Equally important, Facebook is a place where businesses market their products or services and engage with their users. It was practically designed for bots.
Question: What is the biggest challenge today’s chatbots, as well as their developers, face?
Answer: The web development industry changes extremely quickly yet our workflows change slowly. Technology moves at the speed of light, but our patterns and habits, and mindsets are much slower to adopt and catch up. What is great about conferences, whether you are speaking or in the audience, is that they give you the ability to dabble with new ideas in a safe and worry free environment and see where it leads you.
Question: If you were interviewing yourself, what would you have asked and said?
Answer: As with any new technology, brands and developers are still working to figure out business strategy and monetization. However, the biggest challenge I see in the current landscape is a flood of chatbots in the market, though not necessarily good ones. Many bots are falling short on functionality and user experience, and struggling to understand basic language and customer service words. I wrote an article for Chatbots Magazine about some of those issues here: The unanswered call for HELP: It’s a chatbots main purpose, yet many still don’t understand the word.
This is why it’s so important we bring more brands and developers into the bots arena – to help grow the technology and sophistication of bots in the marketplace.
Friday, March 10
3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Westin Austin Downtown Paramount 2 / 310 E. 5th St
Find out more: Build a Chatbot: The New Consumer Engagement Tool