Bot start-ups are all the rage right now. Over the last six months I've seen chat bots being held up as the perfect solution to a broad range of problems and in lots of different settings, at least a couple of which didn't seem like obvious candidates for bots.

The temptation for many entrepreneurs can be to build an idealised version of a chat bot, with all interaction in free form text and massive effort dedicated to building a customised, natural language processing (NLP) engine for the specific use case.

I think this is missing the point. Chat bots aren't a form of art. They're a practical tool to make it easier for consumers to interact with businesses.

When talking to chat bot start-ups I'm always looking for where they've cut corners in a good way. For example, if a simple multiple choice form gives a better experience than free form text, then use it. If an off-the-shelf NLP like Watson performs well then use that. It all comes down to consumer experience. You create value by making consumers happy, not building a really pretty bot.