Bing Bots for Local Businesses

24th May 2017

Bing – The search engine from Microsoft has announced that it will be extending it bot framework in an attempt to make search more interactive. The company has begun the experimental rollout of artificial intelligence bots with a chat function as part of its local results.

The experiment was first noted in April in restaurants in Microsoft’s hometown of Seattle, Washington. The programme has begun to roll out officially to other restaurants in the USA through Bing places, the search engines in-house equivalent to Google My Business.

 

How Is Bing Rolling Out Local Business Search Bots? 

Businesses who have already set up their Bing Places account will receive an email from Microsoft asking them to join the programme. The business answers a few structured questions and accepts the bot agreement terms. The newly launched Business Bot programme will then automatically create a bot from the answers to the questions and the data in Bing Places.

The system will email the owners of the business with additional questions, depending on what information Bing users are seeking. The bot can also analyse the questions been put forward by users and generate the queries for owners dynamically. As additional information is provided it will then be incorporated into the data set the bot uses to respond.

Once the site is set up, users will see a screen that gives the normal Bing places data with an extra button offering a chat session with the bot to answer more questions

Users can then get basic questions about the business answered through the bot (e.g., “do you have outdoor seating?”). The chatbot will reply with a prompt to call the business if it cannot answer a question.

How is the Data Being Collected?

The data that is being collected is similar to the structured questions currently being asked by Google of its army of volunteer guides who are asked questions on locations they have visited. This may suggest that Google is looking to use similar technology in future.
Microsoft has announced that the bot will be available across channels and platforms in a create once, use many times format. Channels currently available are Bing, Skype and SMS. Facebook Messenger and Windows 10 desktop search AI Cortana have been announced as coming soon.

Microsoft envisions rolling bots out broadly to local businesses, presumably customising the functions and question in each vertical. It is expected that transactional capabilities will be added over time.