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Are Chatbots all talk?

If you’ve been to any internal comms conferences lately, you may have heard about how Chatbots are going to make your life easier – but you may have been left wondering whether it’s all talk. 44’s Head of Digital, Alan Coates, takes a look at what’s going on in the world of Chatbots.

The goal of creating automation in business is nothing new. From Henry Ford’s assembly line to Amazon’s newest warehouse robots, we’re always looking to make processes quicker and more efficient.

As more and more communication goes digital, a new opportunity to automate online interaction with a user has gained momentum through the use of Chatbots. 

A Chatbot is a pre-programmed application that a user accesses and interacts with. The Chatbot will reply with a set of ready-made responses and questions, based on what the user has inputted.

In the internal communications context, the benefit of Chatbots is to cut down the amount of repeat information being delivered by the organisation to your colleagues. For example, it may be that your HR team is getting 20 emails a day asking about when the next benefits window is available. Perhaps there is constant discussion about how to book holidays, where to go to order their new company car, or take part in a pulse survey. A Chatbot can reduce these repeat draws on colleague time, freeing them up to do their jobs.

How does a Chatbot work?

A Chatbot is a combination of things, underlined by Natural Language Understanding (NLU). NLU is the technology that Chatbots use, so that they understand that ‘Is it raining?’ and ‘Do I need an umbrella?’ are the same question.

Let’s break things down into the core parts:

1. The user: The user accesses a messenger on a laptop or mobile and sends a message or asks a question.

2. A messenger: The messenger then transmits that input to the Chatbot. There are many messenger applications, such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp or even the one on Spotify. The messenger is the link between the user and the Chatbot – sending the text back and forth.

3. A Chatbot: The Chatbot is an application that you connect to the messenger. The application uses NLU to determine which of its pre-set responses to deliver back to the user, based on the text it received.

Five top tips for using Chatbots

1. Don’t pretend it’s a real person. This is really important. If you pretend it’s a real person on the other end of the chat, and they get repeat “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that,” responses, colleagues will smell a rat and lose all trust.

2. But… give it an identity. You don’t use a search engine, you Google things. So instead of using a Chatbot, why not ‘Ask ‘Marvin’ or ‘HAL’. Well, maybe not HAL…

3. Do the research. You’ll already have a good idea from your experience in your own organisation what the key blockers and repeat issues are. But ask around and make sure that the Chatbot is set up with as many key responses as possible.

4. Measure and keep measuring. Find out which responses are getting lots of traction. Could they be refined? Which responses aren’t being called upon? Can they be adjusted?

5. Promote your Chatbot. Not only will your new Chatbot give your colleagues a fast and comprehensive information resource, but it may be a new way to reach your field force or hard-to-reach-audiences. But they can’t use it if they don’t know about it.

A Chatbot can save you time, automate regular conversations and create new ways for your colleagues and organisation to talk to each other and make decisions.

For the internal comms world, it’s an opportunity to rethink how we communicate, what we are communicating, and how best to remove barriers to the information our colleagues need to do their job.

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