This Argumentative New Chat Bot Haggles With Comcast So You Don’t Have To
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I know we’re all supposed to be worried about robots taking our jobs, right?
Before you know it, machines will replace truck drivers and fast food workers and accountants, and maybe they’ve got their beady little robot eyes on your job, too.
But in the meantime, you may as well let the robot revolution work for you.
In that spirit, programmers at the San Francisco startup Trim have launched a useful new creation. It’s a bot that negotiates with cable TV giant Comcast for you.
The bot, a computer program designed to chat and interact with humans, will negotiate with Comcast customer service reps via online chat in an effort to lower your cable bill.
So you have this bot to do your haggling for you, while you sit back and don’t lift a finger. Truly this is a great time to be alive.
For me, this free tool is especially useful because, personally, dealing with customer service reps is one of my least favorite things. It’s right up there with dental work, engine trouble and overdraft statements.
Comcast: Like a Movie Supervillain, Only More Evil
And what better company than Comcast to sic your attack robot on? (Writer adopts Arnold Schwarzenegger accent: “Comcast, you are terminated.”)
C’mon, Comcast is probably America’s least favorite company.
With cable TV and internet customers in 40 states, Comcast is the largest media company in the world. Notorious for lousy service, it ranks near the bottom of the American Consumer Satisfaction Index. It’s the only company to win Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America” title twice.
So don’t feel bad when you unleash your cool new haggle-bot on Comcast.
Here’s How Trim Works
Trim noticed that when Comcast customer service employees chatting online with dissatisfied customers, they always stick to a simple, pre-written script of questions and answers, said Trim CEO Thomas Smyth. Trim figured it could build a chat robot capable of conversing with that limited script.
To use the bot, download Trim's Chrome web browser extension, then follow the instructions.
Powered by machine learning algorithms, the bot will negotiate with Comcast customer service reps using a series of canned arguments and responses.
The goal is to lower your monthly bill — or at least get you a one-time statement credit.
“My grandmother was overpaying by $35 a month for Comcast, because they had raised her rate a little bit each year for the past decade,” Smyth told Fortune magazine. “I negotiated my grandmother's bill (saving her $420 per year) and wondered if there was a way to do that automatically.”
After making the bot available to the public in November 2016, Trim reported a 70% success rate at lowering customers' bills, with an average savings of $10 per month. Trim doesn’t take a cut from the savings, either.
Here’s Why Trim Does a Few Different Things
Here at The Penny Hoarder, we have long considered Trim to be a smart way to save money.
The app has previously been best known for helping its users get rid of unwanted subscriptions — you know, subscriptions that you signed up for, put on a recurring payment and then forgot about. Right now, you might be paying Netflix, Spotify, Audible or Planet Fitness every month without even realizing it.
Once you sign up and connect your bank account and phone number, Trim analyzes your transaction history for recurring payments. When it finds one, the app sends you a text and cancels any subscriptions you don’t want to keep.
Trim says it’s building an online, artificial-intelligence assistant to help its customers with their finances. It says the subscription-cancellation service was just the beginning, and that the Comcast chat bot is a next step.
“We started with the easy stuff,” Trim says. “Need to cancel an old subscription? Trim started doing that way back in 2015. We built more nifty features that save you money, like automatic Comcast bill negotiation and price protection for your Amazon purchases.”
“Now we’re starting to work on the hard stuff.”
And so the robot revolution begins.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He doesn’t trust most robots, but chat bots are okay.