In these politically divided days, few things unite Americans as much as the universally despised experience of dealing with a cable company’s customer support. Online chats with agents or phone calls with representatives are the catalyst for many a migraine. Thankfully, San Francisco startup Trim has developed a bot that will talk online to Comcast customer service, and deal with service changes on your behalf. With all the buzz about bots, it only makes sense that developers start creating bots that’ll take care of life’s most mundane chores.
Bots and artificial intelligence are hot topics. It’s possible that President Barack Obama will be preserved as a bot based off his social media data. And there are already plenty of bots that people can talk to online. Trim’s Comcast chatter might be small in the task it completes, but it demonstrates a future of bots with practical functions.
Trim’s bot works as a Chrome extension that logs into Comcast’s online chat and negotiates with the agent, removing ancillary subscriptions, and parsing through sales rhetoric. It’s a good thing, too, because it turns out that Comcast’s customer support isn’t that interested in being genuinely helpful to begin with. According to Trim’s CEO Thomas Smyth, it’s saving the average user $10.
Trim is, of course, a major boon to Comcast customers, but it also calls for speculation about the future of these kinds of interactions. It’s easy to imagine that Trim might one day be developed into a program that takes a person’s place on the phone as well. But think even bigger than that — there’s a myriad of bothersome processes that people undergo on a daily basis to keep their lives running smoothly. For example, calling IT support for a computer malfunction; physically returning to a retailer to return an item of clothing that was damaged or defective; haggling for hours at a dealership over the price of a new car. All of these might one day be handled by a bot or other means of automation.
It’s almost Thanksgiving. It used to be that navigating those back roads to the in-laws’ house necessitated the retrieval and analysis of printed maps. Now it’s a task that can be relegated to Google Maps without missing a beat. Half of the items that used to be purchased in hardware or department stores can now just be ordered from and delivered by Amazon. It makes sense that difficult, time-consuming customer/provider interactions would follow that same trend, thereby saving time during the day that could be better spent working, relaxing, or doing something other than dealing with Comcast.