A short time ago a colleague was visiting a client where the client asked if ‘Brad’ (that's me) was in fact a real boy or simply a bot. I’m sure given a chance, my fun loving colleagues might say the latter. But in this case, I was well represented and I can assure all of you that I am in fact a real person.
The lines are blurring between bot, human and my pizza
In a recent Fifth Quadrant article on the future of customer experience (CX) titled, Australia’s Thought Leaders Weigh In On Future of AI, Bots, VR & AR - CX in 2017, and as the title suggests we spoke with a number of Australian experts and thought leaders and we discussed the future of the chat bot and Artificial Intelligence (AI) on CX. Outside of the aforementioned blog, the idea of bots taking over and AI causing upset in the jobs market has been hotly debated in our office and it's a debate I’m sure will continue in the months and years ahead - but let’s get back to my pizza. About a week ago I received, what I’m sure is a sign of things to come from more businesses, a flyer in my mailbox from Dominos Pizza introducing me to DRU Assist, Domino’s new personal pizza assistant, and I had to try it out.
On the surface
Clearly the work of a marketing design team, DRU is physically characterised by its large Wall-E’esque robotic styled face with perhaps a hint of Spielberg’s E.T. with its gentle smile resting between its over-sized vacant eyes. The company hasn’t tried to overly humanise their bot, rather they’ve taken an approach that shows off DRU as a piece of cartoon tech.
I recruited the help of a colleague and fellow marketer, Andrew Kerrigan to help test DRU. Our first impression of DRU was that it's a great attempt to enhance a channel that is continuing to develop and evolve. With leaps in AI and Virtual Assistant applications over the last few years, we’ll certainly continue to see this channel evolve at a very rapid pace since with every interaction, most of today’s bots learn and adjust to our preferences and behaviours in order to compensate and deliver a better and expected customer experience (I’ll get to the outcome of our short test in just a moment).
According to the bottom of my mailbox advert, the bot is described as follows, “Think of me as your personal pizza assistant. I’m new to Domino’s, so I’m still learning, but I’m getting better every day.”
In a recent media release by Domino’s Group the company says, “DRU Assist will help customers place their favourite order faster, find out what’s new and get a great deal, while also adding personality to the online ordering process.”
It seems Domino’s is leading the charge into the world of virtual assistant use in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry in Australia, claiming that DRU is the first assistant of its kind among QSRs designed to help customers place online orders.
“Domino’s customers will be able to ask DRU Assist either via text on the web or voice recognition in the app to order their favourite pizzas and make customizations,” according to Don Meij, Domino’s Group CEO.
However, as mentioned above, DRU is still learning.
First impressions - the (short) test
We took DRU for a bit of a spin to get a better feel for the application. Although we weren’t actually placing a final order (a bit unfair - I know), we wanted to see exactly how DRU handled a couple of difficult CX Marketers. In fairness, we will perform a proper order in the near future and report our experience, but for a test, it wasn’t terrible and allowed us to form a first impression - as one would with a human.
Our short experiment was conducted using the app (available for iPhone and Android). DRU is available for use without the app through the company’s mobile website, but for me the app was easier since I could allow quicker access to my microphone and location. We were only about 30 seconds into our test when DRU did become a bit hung up on where we were. After giving permission to use GPS to access our location, DRU placed us somewhere in Victoria, whereas we were actually standing by our desks at our office in North Sydney, NSW. At a mere 9 hours and 51 minutes of delivery time, we have environmental concerns about the amount of fuel our delivery guy is burning.
Moving past the location confusion we honed in on the user interface. The screen layout and UI is simple and intuitive and what one notices quickly is that DRU’s voice is a male voice, which I find interesting since according to research, people generally feel more comfortable interacting with virtual assistants that have female voices. Recently an Amazon spokesperson told the DailyMail.com that they, “…asked a lot of customers and tested Alexa's voice with large internal beta groups before we launched, and this is the voice they chose.”
Amazon aren’t the only ones who’ve found female voices to be more preferable over male voices, Microsoft multimedia and interaction researcher Doctor Mar Gonzalez Franco said experimental studies found participants perceived female voices to be more trustworthy. But voices aside, DRU seemed friendly and easy going with ‘his’ floating, seemingly detached head.
We would expect that as DRU continues to learn and apply our past preferences and data, he’ll become faster and even more helpful. For the moment however, consumers should expect that as DRU and other bots come online, there’s going to be a bit of an adjustment period as we come to trust bots with vital details about ourselves.
Even with bot technologies and virtual assistants being added to contact centres around the globe, its still important for businesses to recognise that customers do still want human contact. According to a global survey by Opinium Research conducted in 2016 for Verint, (see webinar: The Tipping Point In Delivering Digital Customer Experiences) key findings outlined that customers still want a human element to remain part of customer service. In fact, according to the survey, in Australia and New Zealand, 24% of customers still prefer interacting with organisations by picking up the phone and 19% by going into a store.
Its clear that Domino’s is shaking up the industry as the company explores and develops its multi-channel offerings, tests new technologies and aims to create a unique customer experience around everyone’s favourite food - pizza. In the meantime, I have wished upon that star and it turns out that I am real and not a bot...
...there ain't no strings on me.