In today's fast-paced business environment, where time is money and customers are king, organisations need to stay ahead of the game to keep up. One way to do this is by embracing the power of conversational AI assistants, or chatbots. Chatbots can handle a wide range of tedious tasks, like answering FAQs and scheduling appointments, leaving your human customer service reps free to tackle the heavy-hitters. They are also available 24/7 and in multiple languages, so they can service more customers faster.
However, before launching a chatbot project, it’s important to have a clear plan in place. That's why a project checklist is essential for ensuring a smooth implementation and a successful deployment of your conversational AI assistant. In this blog post, our CTO, Ming Cheuk, provides a comprehensive checklist that will help you to plan and implement your chatbot project with confidence.
This step is like the foundation of a house: without it the whole project could come crumbling down. It's crucial to make sure that the assistant is designed to meet the specific needs of the business or users. To define the problem or opportunity, it's important to dive into business data and conduct customer research to gain a thorough understanding of the current situation and identify areas for improvement. This can include analysing customer feedback, sales data, and other relevant information to determine the specific pain points or opportunities that the AI assistant can address.
Ming considers this the most crucial step in the process. For example, when it comes to implementing a chatbot for customer service, it’s important to first understand the needs of your customers and your current customer service setup. Are customers waiting too long to get answers? Is it due to a lack of staff or a lack of information? This will determine what kind of chatbot is needed and how it should be built.
The key to utilising technology to its fullest potential is to figure out the problem and why you're implementing a chatbot in the first place. By clearly defining the problem or opportunity, the AI assistant can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the business or users and deliver real value.
Additionally, maintaining a chatbot can be a significant undertaking, and it may be more work to keep it up-to-date than to have a human handle certain tasks.
Once the problem or opportunity has been defined, the next step is to identify the desired capabilities and features of the AI assistant. It’s important to ensure that the assistant will be able to deliver the desired functionality and meet the users’ needs.
Some examples of desired capabilities and features include natural language processing, personalised responses, and the ability to integrate with other systems. It’s important to consider the business needs and customer expectations when identifying the desired capabilities and features of the AI assistant. Business needs include things like how much you can afford to spend on the project, what kind of functionality you want your chatbot to have, or what kind of customer support you want it to provide. Ming adds that you should also consider whether or not you want your chatbot to be able to answer a lot of different types of questions or just one type, if it's going to be used for marketing purposes or customer support, and how much time you expect it will take for people who aren't familiar with computers or technology in general to learn how to use it.
In terms of a customer service setup, it's also important to understand which parts of your customer service process a chatbot can help with and which parts still require human interaction. For example, a chatbot can assist with tasks like changing a password, but more complex issues may still need to be handled by a human.
As you implement a chatbot, it's important to make sure that if a customer needs to speak to a human, they can do so as soon as possible. Otherwise, they may become frustrated and feel invalidated. Additionally, make sure your staff is just as informed and in the loop as your chatbot, so they can effectively assist customers and troubleshoot any issues that may arise. Overall, by understanding your customer's needs and utilising technology and human support in the right way, you can create a chatbot that improves the customer experience and streamlines your customer service process.
This step is tricky because it's hard to predict how people will react to new technology. You'll want to talk to real people about what they want from a digital assistant — and that's not easy. It involves talking to customers, conducting surveys, and getting feedback from users.
Additionally, it is important to consider any technical constraints or limitations that may impact the design and development of the assistant. By identifying the desired capabilities and features, the AI assistant can be designed to meet the specific needs of the business or users and deliver real value.
The next step is to research AI solutions and vendors to find the best fit for the business. Ming recommends comparing different solutions and vendors based on their capabilities, pricing, and customer reviews. What may work well for one business may not be the best fit for another.
First, look at their capabilities. What kind of features does the solution offer? Is it capable of handling all your data or just some of it? Does it offer any other useful features that could make it more valuable to your organization? If you're looking for an AI solution that can help with customer service, you'll want to look for solutions that specialize in natural language processing and understanding
Next, compare pricing. How much does each solution cost per month? Are there any other fees or costs associated with using that particular product or service? If so, how much are they? Can you afford them?
Finally, check out reviews from previous customers. Not every company will have reviews online—some may even insist on confidentiality agreements—but if you can find some reviews from people who have used the technology before, they'll give you an idea about what kind of experience other people have had with this type of product or service before deciding whether or not it's right for your needs as well!
Ming suggests that when choosing a vendor for your chatbot, it's important to first consider your current situation and what you want a chatbot for. It's also important to think about how you envision your team maintaining and keeping the content fresh. Will you set up an internal team or hand it off to a vendor? This will determine if you need a self-managed platform or a managed solution. Some companies may prefer to build a chatbot internally while others may want to buy a pre-built solution.
Different platforms offer different levels of complexity, some are more business-friendly while others are more developer-friendly but offer more powerful features. It's important to evaluate the different platforms based on your company's needs and expertise. It's also important to consider your budget and resources when making your decision. Some platforms may be cheaper to buy/license but require more time, effort and resources to implement and maintain. Finding the right balance between the bells and whistles you crave and the budget you have on hand is critical.
Now it's time to get down to business and plan out how to make your virtual assistant a reality. Just like any other big project, you'll need to have a solid plan and budget in place. It's essential to identify the resources and support required, such as data, hardware, and personnel. Without a plan and budget in place, it can be difficult to effectively implement and maintain the AI assistant, leading to wasted resources and potential delays.
Creating a plan and budget for implementing the AI assistant involves setting clear goals, timelines, and budget constraints. Think of it like a game plan for a football team: you’ll need to know what you're aiming for and how to score before you hit the field. Determine how the AI assistant will be used, how it will impact your business operations, and what resources will be required to achieve those goals. And just like a football game, you’ll need to keep track of the time, set a timeline for implementation and budget constraints - this will help ensure that the implementation stays on track and within budget. And lastly, always have a backup plan: include contingencies in your plan and budget for unexpected challenges or changes that may arise during the implementation process.
Now it’s time to create and test your AI assistant! This is where all the training wheels come off and the fun begins. You'll spend some time fine-tuning your AI assistant to make sure it understands and responds to user inputs like a pro. Ming says to think of it like teaching a new employee: you train them and test them before putting them in front of your customers. To train the AI, a dataset of sample utterances (phrases you expect the customer may say to the bot) is used to teach the model how to respond to different inputs. Once the AI has been trained, it can be fine-tuned by adjusting the utterances and responses and testing it with a smaller dataset to ensure that it is working correctly.
But the fun doesn't stop there! It's important to keep an eye on your AI assistant's performance, just like a boss checks in on their employee's progress. This includes tracking metrics such as time to resolution, accuracy, and user satisfaction. By monitoring these metrics, you can identify areas where the AI needs to step up their game and make adjustments accordingly.
Additionally, regular testing and updating the AI with new data can help to keep it up to date and improve its performance over time. Many companies have implemented chatbots, but not all of them do it well. As artificial intelligence rapidly evolves, this is likely to change. In a year or two, chatbots may be able to handle more complex questions with more specific responses, ultimately providing a better customer experience. It's important to stay informed and adapt as needed to ensure that your chatbot is meeting the needs of your customers and providing value to your business.
Just like maintaining a website, a chatbot also needs to be updated with new information, and either your internal or external team should be responsible for this. This includes incorporating new data and adjusting its capabilities to ensure that it is meeting the changing needs of the business and users. As technology and customer needs continue to evolve, it's important to update the AI assistant to ensure that it stays relevant and effective. Not only that, it's important to monitor the performance of the AI assistant and make adjustments as needed to improve its accuracy and functionality.
A great example of this is the bespoke chatbot we built for the University of Auckland. They have a dedicated team that looks after the chatbot, ensuring that it is meeting the needs of their customers and providing value to the university. This is important to note as one of the misconceptions around chatbot is that once it is set up, it will automatically learn about the company and be able to handle all customer interactions on its own. This is not the case (at least not yet) - it needs to be trained and managed by staff.
By having a dedicated team that looks after the chatbot, the University of Auckland has been able to effectively implement and maintain a chatbot that improves the customer experience and streamlines their customer service process.
The potential for the AI assistant to help the business grow and evolve in the future is huge. Not only can it help to improve customer satisfaction and reduce costs, but it can also open up new opportunities for growth and expansion. With the ability to analyse large amounts of data and make decisions quickly and accurately, the AI assistant can help businesses to identify new trends and opportunities, and make better-informed decisions. Additionally, the AI assistant can help to automate repetitive tasks, freeing up employees to focus on more strategic and high-value activities.
Having a checklist in place before you get started provides a clear and actionable plan that outlines the steps required to build a successful chatbot. It helps to ensure that the AI assistant is tailored to meet the specific needs of the business and users, and that it is implemented in a way that maximises its potential to deliver real value.
With all that said, the AI assistant is not just a tool, but an enabler that can help the business to stay competitive and adapt to the ever-changing business environment. However, it is important to remember that the planning process is just as vital as the implementation in order to ensure a successful outcome. If you're interested in learning more about how an AI assistant can benefit your business, don't hesitate to connect with Ming or any of our other AI experts for more information and help getting started on your AI journey.