Interview of Rachid Kherrazi, CTO AKKA Netherlands on how we built an employee onboarding chatbot to support our HR department in the Netherlands.
What is a chatbot and why use one?
“Chatbots are software tools driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI), natural-language processing (NLP), and machine learning (ML). They process data to deliver responses to requests of all kinds.
Nowadays, chatbots are popping up like mushrooms in the digital world. Good reason for us as AKKA to investigate this trend and get more insight about the technology involved!
You can compare a chatbot to voice assistants like Siri and Google Now. One of the differences is that a chatbot has typed messages instead of voice messages. For example, you can type an assignment, such as, booking a plane ticket to Rome.”
How does a chatbot work?
“Many companies today use chatbots to take over some customer service tasks, generate leads, tell a story, or engage in advertising. For example, a customer service chatbot can answer Frequently Asked Questions.
The person chatting with the robot asks a question, to which it returns an automated answer.”
What is a bot with AI?
“Thanks to a bot with artificial intelligence, the chatbot can formulate its own answer. In this case, the chatbot needs to check its database to see if the question fits well with an answer. If it finds a match, the question is linked to the corresponding answer and the chatbot sends the answer. For example, if the question doesn’t match enough with one of the answers in the database, a company employee takes over the conversation.
When the machine learning feature is applied in the chatbot, it can answer more and more questions, allowing the company’s employees to help other customers with more complex questions. A chatbot can therefore be a very good addition for our clients.”
Can you give us some concrete examples of how you used the chatbot to support other functions?
“For us the objective was to build a chatbot that could provide new employees with helpful and practical information in an easy and friendly way. The Chatbot should take all the repetitive work out of the hands of HR. It should be an optimized chatbot that automates a lot of the frequently asked questions! In this way, HR have more time to help people with specific problems. One of the desired benefits is: Availability 24/7 and Increased employee engagement.
Last year during the first phase of the project we investigated all the possible technology alternatives, we analyzed several factors like chatbot performance, development complexity and cost quality aspects. We looked into the following technologies: Dialog Flow (Google), Amazon Lex, Wit.AI (Facebook), IBM Watson and Microsoft bot framework.
Finally, we concluded that the Microsoft bot framework was the best for our application because of the ease of use, integration with Microsoft teams and the flexibility over data and content of conversations.”
What are your next steps?
“We learned a lot on this project. All the experience and knowledge that we acquired working on this project, is available and can be shared and hopefully reused within AKKA.
We believe that this expertise can be used to spot new business opportunities and to help our clients in their digital transformation.”