There are a whole host of energy switching apps out there, all designed to help consumers find a cheaper tariff.
A little while ago, I explained why uSwitch is one of the very best. However, I recently came across HomeHero – a new comparison service that works via Facebook Messenger.
Now, we all know how partial I am to a chatbot review, so this one seemed like a no-brainer. Here’s a rundown of HomeHero’s features, as well as my verdict on the AI technology behind it.
How does it work?
HomeHero is described as a ‘virtual energy assistant’, which aims to help consumers save money on their energy bill. Like most bots, it lives on Facebook Messenger, which means people can interact with it quickly and easily via a channel they most likely already use.
This struck me as one of the biggest benefits, as it takes away the need to download a new app or even sign up to a service.
To access HomeHero, I simply visited the website and clicked on a link that took me to Messenger. You can also access it by searching for it as a contact directly.
From there, I followed the instructions, which involved taking and sending a screenshot of the QR code on my most recent energy bill.
This is where I had a bit of trouble, as the first image I sent returned no results. The bot didn’t give me any indication of what wasn’t working or even a prompt to try again. This is a problem that could certainly result in users giving up and abandoning the process. However, I persisted, this time trying a more zoomed in version which was clearly what the bot was waiting for.
What does it provide?
By scanning your bill’s QR code, the bot is able to tell you how much you can save by switching to a cheaper tariff. It does this almost instantly, which is pretty impressive in itself.
You can then choose to view the tariffs that HomeHero can help you switch to, or to see those you’d have to manually switch to yourself.
If you choose a specific plan, it will also give you more information about the provider, and the option to switch there and then. If you choose to proceed, it will take you to the main HomeHero website, where you can enter your details and arrange for the switch to occur.
While most users are likely to use the service to actually switch, the additional ‘Balloon Hunt’ game also provides a bit of frivolity.
The game works by asking for a photo of something that uses energy. In return, HomeHero will tell you how many balloons of CO2 it produces, alongside some extra trivia about its usage.
While it’s a bit of a stretch to call this a ‘game’, it’s a nice bonus nonetheless. The idea being that it encourages users to save energy, as well as offers the opportunity to further interact with the bot.
Is there any real AI involved?
Like most bots I’ve used, HomeHero’s ‘chat’ is mainly presented through multiple choice. Users are given a selection of links to choose from, which then prompts the bot to continue. It does not understand natural language – only a few select phrases or words that it has been pre-programmed to recognise.
This is not surprising, but I don’t think it matters all that much in this instance. This is mainly due to the fact HomeHero is designed to offer a functional service, with most users expecting convenience rather than real innovation.
Annoyingly, the bot is not as streamlined as others I’ve tried, seeming occasionally clunky or unresponsive. However, it does deliver on its promise, providing an easy and accessible way to access a switching service.
Ultimately, this is where its real value lies. The fact that anyone can access it via Facebook Messenger, with no sign up or additional download required, means that more people might feel inclined to check it out.