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It seems like they are everywhere these days.

Satya Nadella said they were the new apps. Mark Zuckerberg has made them a pillar of Facebook’s future.

So just what are these smart machines?

Smart machines, or bots as they are commonly known, are apps that are designed to run tasks that you would usually do on your own. They can range from the bots that seem to follow you every day on Twitter or Instagram to, more recently, serving as the main point of contact for customer service.

Facebook’s announcement that they were going to integrate bots for companies into their Messenger service seemed to be the big event that ushered bots into the mainstream, but really they’ve been doing what Zuckerberg is describing for quite some time.

Have you ever spoken to a robotic voice while trying to return those sandals you bought online that just don’t fit? What about trying to check your account balance or pay a bill through your credit card company? Well, congratulations! You’ve already worked with the technology of the future!

The problem is, those two experiences are historically very frustrating ordeals. Oftentimes you hear of horror stories from “Bill in accounting” in the break room about how he called some company to return an item and ended up shouting “I WANT TO TALK TO A PERSON,” at the phone for 40 minutes.

This doesn’t have to be the case. What the most proactive of companies are doing is utilizing the best of both worlds: the fluid, empathetic minds of humans with the computational, almost infinite minds of machines to create a customer experience that is painless and effective. Artificial Intelligence has come along immensely over the last few years, and the Facebook and Microsoft announcements that position smart machines as the new apps seem to indicate that, eventually, machines can take care of everything, from buying flowers to getting you the news stories you’d like to see every day.

But right now, and probably in the future, the absence of the human touch makes anything outside of the most basic of requests nearly impossible.

Only when you maximize both sets of resources, truly tapping into the full power of both, can you give your customer exactly what they want. With humans and machines together, you can ensure that wait times are reduced, information is taken correctly the first time and stored securely, and, most importantly, that your customer will not hesitate to contact you again.

What are these smart machines? They are the future and the present.


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