Chatbots. Give your app a face lift with conversational chat

Image: Chat bot graphic
By Ben Briggs on

Chatbots. “Enabling people to interact with existing systems naturally through chat”


The Challenge

How do you re-imagine your existing application interface without spending the earth and causing considerable disruption along the way? The answer is don’t, well not entirely, instead create a second window that keeps the current system intact and requires minimal end user training. You get to show off a new modern interface accessible from any device, anywhere.

Image: Apps and processes flow graphic

Apps & Processes


The benefits

Conversational chatbots give your apps a new lease of life because of the simplicity and mobility they provide. We’ve all seen chatbots on websites offering help and support, some more useful than others, but even in their most basic form they offer the fastest way to get an answer to a simple question.

Image: Chat bot window

The knowledge base format is also a great way to drag your existing business documentation into the modern world. For example, the QNA maker service from Microsoft not only lets you import existing knowledge bases from a URL (perhaps an existing company web page) but it can also import from files such as PDFs or excel spreadsheets. You can have a simple FAQ bot up and working in minutes.
However, Chatbots also bring excellent modernisation benefits when used to interact with business applications and processes. Below is an example where a bot can offer an alternative to forms when raising maintenance requests on an internal system. It leverages the user’s login to determine much of the required info, reducing the input needed from the user.

Image: Request bot example

If you consider some of the complicated user interfaces belonging to internal apps, you soon realise the benefits of removing all those buttons and streamlining the delivery to any device.

The Conversation

The question mark in the past was always the capability of the bot to understand human language, after all we don’t always request things in the same way, indeed this is critical in making the system more accessible.
Although garbage in garbage out still applies, bots now use more advanced language understanding to interpret human language and understand the intent. Meaning users have no need to remember fixed phrases. A definite plus for faster on-boarding. Imagine three different ways (utterances) to book a flight.

Image: Book a flight diagram

Here AI has analysed the response and decided the user’s intent is to book a flight. We can also see that important information such as people and places are extracted to support the intents requirements.

The face Lift

Accessibility is a clear advantage of using chatbots. They can be placed almost anywhere including websites or mobile apps and are particularly well suited for embedding into collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams. What better way to reinvent an application than to piggyback of an existing investment.
Below you can see our very own Silversands service desk chat bot in action in Teams. Here our resident bot expert Jamie Sayer used a mixture of text and interactive cards to allow the user to efficiently perform functions against a legacy service desk system.

Image: Teams Bot gif

As you can imagine, using a ready-made front end such as Microsoft Teams can significantly reduce the cost of delivering your app.
For more info check out this blog where Jamie Sayer explains how he incorporated interactive cards in more detail.

Chatbots. The Conclusion

As business and personal users, we seem to have an app for every little thing, but when we think about where most people spend their time, it’s primarily in messaging services. So why not deliver apps directly to that familiar space and improve adoption by appealing to a wider audience. It’s also far less expensive than developing a new user interface.
In our upcoming webinar on the 20th Jan, I’ll be talking about chatbots in more detail including demos and the publishing options available. You can register for this event here.

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