The Tamagotchi and the chatbot

What is the common factor between the Tamagotchi, the chatbot and silicone breast implants? Read all about it in this column, that was published on February 23, 2024 on Ziptone.

In the mid-nineties, the Tamagotchi was the talk of the town. The egg-shaped electronical pet was made in Japan, fitted in the palm of your hand, your pocket or your pencil case. It was a great alternative for everybody who wanted a pet, but who’s parents knew better than to fall for that trap.

The concept was simple: as soon as your digital friend hatched, it was your job to feed, clean, cuddle, and walk your pet, by following its commanding instructions for proper care. A pretty straight-forward task. However, it was nearly inevitable that your focus on the pet would be interrupted by the real life, and your virtual friend would not live to see another day. Game over, reset, and we will try agai tomorrow.

As typical with fads in the teenage years, you didn’t really feel like you belonged if you didn’t join in with the frenzy. The Tamagotchi fad was a short one. Many children paid more attention to their digital pets than to the surrounding life, which was the reason for schools to ban Tamagotchis. Including the Mak household. After a parental lecture about how ridiculous it was that a virtual computer pet took priority over the two guinea pigs, the pitiful “game over” beeps sounded from the bottom of the gray trash can. Shortly after, the Tamagotchi fad suffered a collective demise.

A fad or a craze is a relatively short-lived change, something that quickly becomes popular but is also fleeting – it doesn’t last longer than a year. If there is also excessive media attention involved, then it’s called a hype. In contrast, there’s the trend: something that slowly but steadily gains strength during its development and lasts for years.

Cosmetic procedures, for example, are a trend. It may seem like a contemporary phenomenon, but the history of breast augmentations began as early as 1890, with the injection of paraffin into the bust, which turned out to be not very good for health. Driven by the market or societal need to always appear young, vital, and tight, technology around cosmetic procedures is constantly being improved.

Just because something is a societal need doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for you. Even after more than 120 years of development, we’re still not there. Although nowadays, attempts are made to pack implants as leak-proof as possible, the number of complaints among women who have undergone such procedures is increasing. Unexplained fatigue, depression, and melancholy caused by leaking silicones or breast implant illness are becoming more and more apparent. And that’s a pity, because in many cases, it’s very well possible to lead a beautiful and meaningful life without the need for implants or Tamagotchi’s.

While during the ’90s, a virtual pet seemed to strengthen social status, nowadays, you don’t really fit in if you haven’t adopted a virtual assistant in your contact center. There’s no excuse not to have adopted one already: any random event within the customer contact industry has at least three keynotes on the successful integration of chatbots within the customer contact team. It’s all sunshine and rainbows since today’s chatbots not only handle impressive amounts of conversations, but they also achieve satisfaction scores that are off the charts. A great alternative for companies that wants to hire chatting staff, but where the management knows better than to pull out the check book.

Chatbots are primarily intended to be used by consumers, but they seem to only put a smile on the faces of managers and meet the societal need for employment (in this case, conversational designers). After all, these groups are the ultimate source of success stories, while consumers have been predominantly negative about service bots for years. Recognizable, because who doesn’t know the examples of not being understood, getting stuck in an endless loop, receiving answers to questions you didn’t ask, and the outright refusal to connect you to an employee? Only 9% of consumers feel understood by a chatbot, 78% don’t get a complete answer to their question. Out of the 8% of customers who used the chatbot, only 25% would do it again next time.

Despite the fact that the chatbot seems to fulfill a one-sided need, the trend is far from over. New technologies continue to be developed, and trend watchers have been faithfully proclaiming for years that the chatbot will play an even bigger role in the field of customer contact. More and more companies are focusing on a chat-first strategy, mercilessly driving consumers into the virtual arms of the chatbot. This only underscores that a market need doesn’t necessarily have to be good for everyone because based on consumer experience, the chatbot trend could just as easily have followed the path of the Tamagotchi. In fact, in the Mak household of the ’90s, the chatbot would have been in the trash can a long time ago. 

Game over.

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