Before starting my job as the UC Product Manager I used to work in SMSP (the partner side of the business) in the Partner Technical Specialist team. One of the things we discussed was the idea of having a Windows Live Messenger bot you could ask simple questions, as an alternative to the TelePTS service. Just before I left SMSP, things started to get moving with this idea and I am glad to say that its now eventually gone live.
By adding firstname.lastname@example.org to your buddy list, you can now get answer to those questions that would either require phoning the TelePTS number or emailing an account manager and waiting for a response. There are a few interesting answers to questions in there, let me know if you manage to find them 🙂
The PartnerBot is a great example of how you can use instant messaging technology to better serve customers, the partner channel in this case. Its certainly not going to be able to answer everything, and people will still use the email address and phone number to get some answers, but it is another way in which Microsoft can more efficiently answer partners frequently asked questions and use actual people to answer the more detailed and specific questions.
I would like to see this sort of service offered by other organisations, for example reserving items from a store, ordering cinema ticks or perhaps something like NHS direct (I mentioned this in a blog post back in November 2003 when the Encarta and BBC Backstage bots went live). Lets hope this latest bot will spur other organisations to do the same and think about how they can better supply their customers with information.
UPDATE – Ross Dargans has found a number of easter eggs in the Partner Bot and listed them here on his blog. Can you find any more?