Bing has a chatbot answering local search questions
Skype-powered chatbot is showing up as an assistant to help searchers learn about restaurants in the Seattle area.
Bing has added a chatbot to help users with some of its local search results for restaurants in the Seattle area. After getting a tip from a reader, I was able to reproduce the chatbot option in Bing’s desktop search results, but not in its iOS app nor in the mobile browser search results.
The new feature appears at the bottom of the listing for some individual restaurants in the cities of Redmond (where Microsoft is based) and nearby Bellevue, Washington — both are just outside of Seattle. I’ve seen it on about six to eight different searches for specific restaurants, such as Monsoon in Bellevue. Below the regular business information is an invitation — Questions? Ask Monsoon bot for help — with a “Chat” call-to-action button to the right.
Clicking the button pops open a chat window that says it’s powered by Microsoft-owned Skype, and perhaps because I have a Skype account and the software on my desktop computer, the chat window recognizes me by name.
There’s no immediate help or guide telling me what kinds of questions I can ask, so the chat experience is clunky at first. But once you get started, the chatbot offers a number of different questions you can ask, including these:
- Show me the directions to your place?
- What parking options you have?
- What dishes do you recommend?
- Do you accept Amex?
- How do I reserve a table?
- What is your price range?
- Can I wear formals?
- Are there any discounts?
As I said, the chat was semi-helpful — as is often the case when dealing with chatbots — and you have to learn how to phrase things if you’re not going to use the suggested questions. Here are some screen shots of my conversation with Monsoon bot:
I was able to get this chatbot feature to appear for about six to eight different restaurants in both Redmond and Bellevue, Washington, but it didn’t show up for any of the five to 10 Seattle restaurants I searched for Tuesday night. It also didn’t show up for any hotel searches in any of those same cities.
At this point, we don’t know if this is a limited test or something that’s live for anyone to use. We don’t know if it’s purposely active only for restaurants near Bing’s headquarters. And we don’t know if Bing has plans to use this chatbot feature more widely in the future. We’ve sent questions to Bing to learn more, and we’ll update this article if and when we do.
Postscript: A Bing spokesperson declined to answer the questions above about whether this is a test, how widely it’s available, etc. The company did provide this statement: “We’re constantly updating and refining the Bing search experience. We’ll share more information when available.”