Have you ever looked at the slew of food emojis on the iPhone and wondered, “When would I ever use an (insert random food item) emoji?” Unless you make your grocery lists out of emojis, there really hasn’t been much of a reason to make use of Apple’s extensive food library. Until now.
When an Eggplant Is Just an Eggplant
Whole Foods has come to the rescue, offering up a pretty neat way to use each of your food emojis. The high-end grocery chain has launched a Facebook Messenger chatbot that uses emojis to find recipes for customers. And yes, the eggplants and peaches in this application are exactly that — no innuendo or irony — they’re just eggplants and peaches. The chatbot serves as a master chef with an endless knowledge of recipes that can be tapped into with a single emoji.
Conveniently, the bot will also link to the Whole Foods website where customers can buy all the necessary ingredients. If you didn’t think it could get any better, the bot will also recognize a mixture of text and emoji so customers can convey a wider range of requests.
The Chatter About Chatbots
Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of chatbots. They were all the rage earlier this year when Facebook first released bots for Messenger. Brands like CNN and 1-800 Flowers rushed to launch their own Messenger chatbots. Most recently, Taco Bell revealed TacoBot — a chatbot within the Slack messaging system.
Chatbots were also a hot topic at the recent Corporate Social Media Summit, where marketers gathered to discuss the latest in social media and hear how other companies are utilizing developments in social. However, the skinny on bots wasn’t so positive with this audience. One of the major moments of the conference centered on Jeff Lesser, Twitter’s Head of Social Customer Service, who stressed that bots are not the way to go for customer service. Lesser said people want to engage with other people not robots, and for good reason, since bots have proven incapable of understanding a wide range of customer service needs.
I have to agree with Lesser that chatbots are not the ultimate customer service innovation that many thought they would be. However, we shouldn’t be so quick to write them off altogether. Even though bots may not be a killer app for customer service (yet), they could definitely still serve as a directing tool, guiding consumers to the best department that can handle their concerns.
Furthermore, companies like Whole Foods are demonstrating how bots can be used to promote content consumption in a very uncomplicated way. Other brands like Pizza Hut, 1-800 Flowers, and Taco Bell show that chatbots can bring ease and efficiency to transactional engagements, too. This is all to say, let’s not throw the bots out with the bath water. They’re here to stay and will surely attract the attention of consumers and brands alike as we discover new ways they can be used.