WeAreBrain attended the Chatbot Conference in Utrecht, both to learn more about what’s happening globally in AI technology development as well as present our product Tur.ai. We took the opportunity to learn as much as we could from companies like ABN, Reaal, booking.com and Heineken on their AI experience and chatbots so far.
It is more complex than I thought. You need to do it well or not do it at all.A key sentiment at the conference
Start with real use cases and real conversations. It is important to approach AI and chatbot development with your user in mind. You need to consider how conversations are constructed. How would a conversation between two humans flow? How many ways could a user ask a specific question and how would you respond naturally. We have found that building a conversation ‘tree’ is incredibly helpful when planning our bots. This allows you to build a full conversation with any type of deviation taken into consideration. When you do this you are also able to take better control of the conversation with your bot steering the conversation to the best possible outcome.
ABN AMRO UX designer, Anja de Castro shared some great actionable insights from her experience. The most interesting, at least for us was around “who” the user believes they are talking. For example, a user generally prefers a picture of human being as an avatar rather than an illustration of a robot or a speech bubble. You may be wondering why and it comes down to psychology and human socialisation. Our theory goes as follows; as humans we interact with humans (who speak), animals (while we’re not able to speak to animals we can pick up “communication’ cues through body language and the noises they make) and then finally things (we grouped both living things like plants and non-living like, well, everything else). As such humans don’t have the mental models in place to create a substantial difference between bots and people. This means there is evidently more comfort in seeing a human face on the other side of a chat. However, we as designers need to manage a level of expectation upfront by telling the user what the bot is able to help with.
The majority of the Dutch case studies presented at the conference were about customer service bots. Added to that a number of discussions amongst the audience centred around bots replacing the standard FAQ list most companies have on their websites. While various presentations looked at other bot applications for e-commerce and sales or alternatively the more generic personal assistants like Alexa and Google Home. It was a curios contrast. It is clear the industry at large are thirsty to develop bots than can deal with more complex human interactions but it appears companies still feel more comfortable with easier applications of chatbot technology, which brings me to the next point! Starting small…
The conference gave us great insight into how others are managing and adopting AI. At the end of the day we were, as group, asked to vote on the top lessons learnt throughout the day. Universally the audience decided that ‘start small’ was the key outtake. While we agree that “start” is absolutely important, we’re not sold on small, because sometimes small is too small to matter. And if it’s too small to make a difference it will never be taken seriously enough for it to grow. So I would say “start smart”.
Repeatedly presenters were keen to dispel the myth that your bot will learn by itself. This is certainly the long term aim, but for now, realistically only the most advanced machine learning algorithms have this kind of capability and even then it still requires substantial training by their human counterparts. This means you will need to monitor your bots’ behaviour and adapt to new questions continuously, which means a user-friendly bot-trainer interface is crucial.
While there are almost instant solutions that are able to import or crawl your existing FAQ’s, turning the content into a bot (not that content written for a website would ever be appropriate or effective in a conversational dialogue). However, content managers with a bit of experience (like Bol.com with more than 10 years of experience running bots) are very concerned with taking the knowledge acquired through interactions with your bot and putting it in other knowledge databases. So information ‘IN’ seems fine. ‘OUT’ is an issue that remains to be solved.
While it is something we’ve been going on about for a while, I’d like to mention it once more. Stop using your humans on robotic tasks! The key idea behind AI and automation is to create more space and freedom for humanity. Allow your teams to build, innovate, get creative and truly bring compassion and empathy into your consumer interactions.
This one is pretty simple. Convenience. Users generally choose instant help from a chatbot ahead of help from a human later.
Reaal, ABNAMRO and Proximus all spoke about putting together a multi-disciplined team to launch and support your chatbot. This ensures that you cover all your bases and, added to that, as you refine your bot you have multiple perspectives to lend from. Their suggested dream team: Domain expert, content agents, service designer, conversational strategist, conversational architect, bot developer, conversational designer and a copywriter. And of course, the product owner to drive the product vision, the roadmap and organisational change.
At WeAreBrain we believe that user-friendly tools for bot management are crucial. A few presenters also highlighted this factor as a key determiner of success. Sogeti demonstrated their model for a variations in providers, showing three tools live on stage. The difference in user experience was substantial, proving at the same time that conceptual models for bot management tools still leave a lot to be desired. Having said that, improvements are being made consistently. Our key takeout from this particular insight is that your management tool vendor should become your partner, going beyond just delivering technology.
In between presentations, we had a number of really interesting conversations that sparked a number of ideas and thought-starters for us:
And finally here are some…
Until next time, happy bot building!
An executive’s guide to AI and Intelligent Automation. Working Machines takes a look at how the renewed vigour for the development of Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Automation technology has begun to change how businesses operate.