How a chatbot told us what you really need

Follow Me Post was originally envisaged as an app that would track parcels through the post, but when customers didn't behave the way we expected, we realised something that is important for all business founders to understand.

You told us that you need a way to know where your parcels are, and we interpreted that as a need for a tracking service. The original idea would have been an app that updates in real time using information from the major courier companies.

To test the idea, I built a chatbot using Chatfuel, which is free for most purposes. I put hundreds, even thousands of lines of dialogue into the bot I named Annie.

My friend Andrew at Optimisey tried to break my bot by just typing the word "custard".

I wrote a response for custard.

However, I realised that people weren't coming back, and it wasn't because I had failed to provide them with tracking information.

It was because I was asking them to change their behaviour.

The attrition rate for chatbots and apps is about the same. The difference with the ones that you keep returning to is the extent to which they fit into your previously established patterns of behaviour. Facebook, Amazon and Google have successfully and fundamentally changed the way that we behave, but almost nobody else has achieved that feat. More importantly, they are companies that cause frictions in the way we feel about the ways in which they demand that we change our behaviour, when really we'd rather they just fitted in with what we wanted them to do.

So, now the chatbot simply exists as part of the wider website, and now uses an existing tracking service, which doesn't ask you to change anything about how you normally shop online.

We are still working hard to resolve the issue of missed deliveries, but we are taking a different, altogether more human approach.

If you are one of the UK's 5 million business founders, we are rooting for you and want to provide as much help to you as possible. However, we ask of you one thing:

Don't ask people to change their behaviour. Develop a solution that fits into their lives.

Thanks

Jo

We documented our early adventures in the book, Last Mile: How Startups Solve the Challenge of Delivering to Your Door, by Jo Weber and Chris Jordan.

Female robot