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  • barrylitherland

God Preserve us from Chatbots

Is anyone else finding it increasingly difficult to find a human being to speak to when requiring advice or information from larger companies? I’ve recently re-launched two of my novels to coincide with the publication of a third. They've been newly edited, have fresh covers and one of them has a change of title. It was ‘Waves Break;’ now it’s ‘Breaking Waves.’ (The others in the series are 'Shifting Sands' and 'Rising Tides.') It is the first in the series and had eighteen reviews; now, due to the change, it has none. Apparently, even if the content is 95+% the same, the book is considered new.

I decided to ask if I could have my hard-earned reviews back.

The first two responses from the Chatbot were a clear ‘no.’ New title = new book = no transferred reviews. Very politely and clearly explained.

However, other people have, to my certain knowledge, managed to come to an arrangement. Not however, with a Chatbot.

I tried again, this time in the US rather than the UK. I hoped for a sympathetic, human ear, someone capable of making a sensible, balanced decision based on mutual interest and common sense. I wrote a lengthy query, pointed out that I was about to embark on a major advertising campaign using Amazon ads, explained that having book 1 in the series with no reviews was a major obstacle, noting that the change of title was minor, suggesting that sales would be increased if we could come to an arrangement – obviously in both our interests – and requesting that the reviews be transferred to the new book.

The reply explained to me that if I wanted to complain about a review, they would happily look into it if I sent the asin, details of the complaint and the name of the author offending review.

Not really a great deal of help and not even vaguely related to what I had asked. I won't offend you by repeating the language with which I greeted this response.

Is it too much to ask to speak to someone who can actually answer the question you ask? A real human being?

I had a similar experience with my phone company. All I wanted was to change the data on my sim only account to unlimited. The answer from our friendly Chatbot was that it didn’t understand the question. Was there anything else it could help me with today? I tried again in even simpler language. Still it didn’t understand me. Eventually, it wished me a pleasant day and I recorded the worst feedback I’ve ever written.

It'll make not a shred of difference, of course. Chatbots, alas, are here to stay.

I find myself looking back with fond memories to when my queries about phones were answered by someone in the Indian subcontinent. I might have had difficulty making out everything said – a combination of an unfamiliar accents and deafness – but the conversations were uniformly helpful, supportive and friendly. Have they all lost their jobs, I wonder?

Anyone else have experiences with Chatbots to share?

Here’s a nice, soothing picture to take our minds off the damned things.

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