Can customers have a meaningful conversation with a robot? By Katja Forbes

Leading global powerhouses are currently directing energy and resources toward experimenting with specific Chat Bot experiences for different user groups. However, because they are effectively just an intelligent technical interaction, customers are not actually engaging with a real person. Whether customers prefer to talk with a robot or a human (and if they actually even notice) and how this affects the customer experience has been a debatable issue.

Chat Bots (short for Chat Robots, and sometimes referred to as virtual assistants, avatars and just plain old bots) are essentially computer programs that simulate human conversations with people using artificial intelligence and machine learning. Starting out as basic FAQ systems on websites, nowadays they can transform the way a user interacts from a series of self-initiated tasks to a quasi-conversation, and look set to replace many App functions entirely. Essentially a Chat Bot is created to assist a user solve a problem or attend to their query. They can provide very simple information, like a weather report, or help you troubleshoot a computer problem. Whilst one user is usually human, applications are currently being developed to allow two chat bots to communicate with one another.

Chat Bots are the perfect customer experience tool for small to medium size wineries to adapt right now, whilst technology and trends are still developing and new advances in artificial intelligence are being made. It’s a stepping stone to speech self-service. Imagine the conversation with your Amazon Alexa or Google Home: “Alexa, order me a dozen 2017 shiraz from my favourite winery”. If you’ve got a working chatbot, you’re already half way there to being able to fulfil that request.

I can see the immediate benefits of Chat Bots over live chat, with an actual customer services agent. Chat Bots can have unlimited concurrent conversations (humans can only realistically focus properly on a few at the same time), provide coverage 24/7, and the cost per conversation is significantly less. In addition, with a live agent, it would be impossible for them to provide a conversation experience and professional manner that is consistent across multiple different customers and even throughout the one conversation with the same customer. With a Chat Bot, businesses can be confident the conversation will always take the same format and tone.

Creating a Chat Bot doesn’t have to be a large complicated project in which to invest a lot of time and energy. With CellarChat, it’s easy to get set up with your own product range, take bookings for tastings and answer a hundred other repetitive queries effortlessly by leveraging artificial intelligence.
Automation is not necessarily something to be afraid of, as long as human thought processes are at its heart.

Katja is the CEO of syfte, a customer experience consultancy, Guest Lecturer in Interaction Design at USyd, Director on the Global Board of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) and Founder of, a chat based customer service based on IBM Watson’s Artificial Intelligence. We partner with Katja to let our wine clients hear about this service. For more information please email:

Boards bolster Business Success. How future ready is your Board?

Proactively sponsoring a clear future people agenda is mission-critical for our Boards today. Without it, our organisations fail to adapt or prosper – particularly against the backdrop of quick technological advances, strengthening competitive forces and huge shifts in workforce and customer expectations. Under their corporate governance role, Boards now need proactive and clear ways to help their C-suite, leaders and people become future-fit.

In the quest for people future-fitness, Boards typically come up against 5 problems that prevent them from asking the right questions and getting traction:
1. Challenges – They haven’t yet specifically identified the external and internal challenges they will face in the next 3-5+years and assessed the likely people impacts
2. Readiness – They haven’t yet invested in preparing themselves to act with the right agenda, structures, toolkits or mindsets
3. Acuity – They haven’t yet taken the time or have the expertise to quantify the exact nature of the anticipated people risks or shifts
4. Fitness to Act – They may not yet have cleared the path to getting future-fit, nor have the right skills, resources, alignment and/or attention of key players in place
5. Traction – They may not yet have considered how to engage the hearts and minds of key players, nor established how to track progress in a highly visible, meaningful and objective ways

While seemingly complex and difficult to pin down, the key is for the Board to tackle these problems in priority order, based on an objective assessment of the current state of play. Through this lens, they can build a clear and structured approach and a framework against which to positively shape the future with near-term traction.

Elisa Hukins is Founder of FutureCrafters. We partner with her company. FutureCrafters have a track record of building forward-thinking Boards and executive teams of progressive organisations. To explore how these ideas can be brought to life more strongly in your organisation, contact us to arrange a time to meet her.