Artificial Help Wanted

Robyn Greenspan

Updated · Aug 30, 2001

To meet the round-the-clock demands of the Internet, e-commerce sites have to make extra efforts to provide customer support. Unless you can afford a 24/7 staffed call center, you'll have to make preparations for middle of the night shoppers and Internet users in global time zones.

With all the emerging customer relationship management (CRM) technology available, solutions now come in the form of self-service support, comprehensive knowledge bases and artificially created sales staff, among others. If you want to try employing workers of the non-biological variety, Zabaware's Ultra Hal Representative could be an inexpensive and viable option.

The free version of Ultra Hal Representative (supported by a banner ad) allows you to run an artificial rep from Zabaware's server and the $395 model provides full control of the bot.

Artificial Help Wanted
The Ultra Hal Representative uses artificial and teachable intelligence to provide live customer support on demand, thereby satisfying customers while your human workforce sleeps. Using text-based response, pictures, animations, sounds and java, Hal's responses can be customized and logs are maintained so interactions can be reviewed at any time.

Even when Hal lacks the ability to answer some questions, the bot provides interactive and entertaining conversation with real sticky value. Hal asked me to type my name and then we proceeded to have the following conversation:

Artificial Help Wanted
Hal: “Hello Robyn! My name is Hal and I am an artificial intelligence representative for Zabaware. Please ask me any questions you may have about our products and I'll try my best to answer them.”

Robyn: “How long has Zabaware been in business?”

Hal doesn't exactly answer the question but provides valuable information anyway: “Zabaware is a software company that creates Artificial Intelligence software. Your computer will understand what you say. Our software can help you use your computer, help you be more organized, and it can chat with you for fun. We also offer software for businesses that can talk to people visiting their web page. It can answer questions about your product, service, or business. You can download or see any of our software for free.”

Robyn: “How can you help customers who shop at my site?”

Hal: “I don't think anyone can help customers who shop at your site.”

Who programmed this bot? Groucho Marx?

Robyn: “How much do you cost?”

Hal: “I think I am worth at least a million dollars. How much do you cost?”

(I wish I knew the emoticon for a double take.)

Robyn: “I would like to speak with another artificial representative please.”

Hal: “Please go to and sign up there for a free representative for your Web page. You can have an intelligent bot like me on your Web page for free.”

Robyn: “What other products are available?”

Hal: “We are sorry but our programs only work in Windows 95, 98, or NT. We currently have no plans to make a Macintosh version of our programs. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

Robyn: “What companies are using artificial representatives?”

Hal: “I don't know what. Can you tell me?”

Reprinted from ECommerce Guide.

  • Retail
  • Robyn Greenspan
    Robyn Greenspan

    Robyn Greenspan, an independent researcher and speaker, is interested in innovation, market trends and information technology. She was a participant in the AI Summit and also took part in the IEEE International Conference on Edge Computing, International SOA Symposium series and the International Cloud Symposium series. She graduated from Temple University. She was previously the communications and research manager for the AMS, an internationally recognized professional association that advances knowledge in the IT and business management areas.

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