Bloggers and other site owners are always looking for new and innovative ways to interact with their visitors. That’s a big reason why we have blog comments, social media, and contact forms. But what if you wanted to have a live chat with your readers and customers without actually being there to chat with them?
That’s almost the idea behind Acobot, the web-based service that is the subject of today’s review. The developers promises that Aco can “help you get more customers without spending a penny more on advertising.”
As Smart As Siri?
In effect, Aco is a real-time chat bot. A small chat window appears in the lower-right corner of the browser window and visitors to your site are able to enter their questions in this chat box. After sending, Aco responds almost immediately with a reply.
While the chat here isn’t voice-based, you can see how the “live bot” nature of Aco looks like it’s almost trying to mirror Siri on the iPhone. You ask a bot a question in natural language and it comes back with a reply.
Unfortunately, the live chat software isn’t completely useful out of the box. I tried the live demo with Aco on Beyond the Rhetoric, asking it, “Who is Michael Kwan?” If it were as “smart” as Siri, Aco may have done a web search or crawled to the “about” page on my blog. It did neither. Instead, the reply was, “Will you tell me?” And then I asked, “What is Beyond the Rhetoric?” The response I got was, “I don’t know.”
This is largely because Aco needs to be “trained” manually. When you sign up for an account and install Aco on your site, you can log into your Aco account and view the questions that site visitors have asked through the chat log. You then provide Aco with “better” answers so that it can be more helpful to future site visitors.
An Aco Sense of Humor Too
I gave Aco another shot by attempting a live demo on Hadouken Online. The most recent post on that blog was about the 20th anniversary of Mortal Kombat, so I asked, “What is Mortal Kombat?” The reply: “Sorry, I don’t have a definition for that. What else can I do for you?” In subsequent trials, sometimes I got replies that asked for my e-mail address so that Aco could “follow up” with a suitable answer.
Funnily enough, Aco seems to have a slight sense of humor. When I submitted “Tell me the answer” as my question, Aco came back with, “Booze is the answer, but I’ve forgotten the question.” That’s not exactly helpful, per se, but at least I got a chuckle out of it.
Integration with WordPress
Installing and configuring Acobot is a really easy process. All you have to do is download the free WordPress plugin and activate it. After signing up for an Acobot account, you can then get an installation key that can be entered in your WordPress dashboard. The chat window will show up immediately after that.
How Much Does It Cost?
While there are three pricing plans posted on the site, Acobot is currently free to use.
You can sign up for free now and upgrade later. There is no limit to the number of chats per month during this beta period, but that’ll change when Acobot launches officially out of beta. The Pro 200 (200 chats a month) and Pro 400 (400 chats a month) will cost $29 and $49 a month, respectively. The free account will have Acobot branding and is limited to 30 chats a month.
While I think that Acobot is a neat idea, you will need to factor in the time needed to “train” the bot to best answer the questions posed by your website visitors. Aco gets better with more training, I’m sure, but that adjustment period could prove a little frustrating.