Digital & Technology
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BOT SERIOUSLY... A DYNAMIC APPROACH TO INTERNAL CHAT

When Bupa moved into a new office, it wanted a smart and modern way to field employees' questions about the move – and more.

26th April 2018

Whenever the chatbot doesn’t understand, you have to make a decision: do we teach the chatbot to support this question? Or do we gently redirect the user back towards supported tasks?

CHRIS McGRATH, TANGOWORK

At Bupa’s office in London, Skype for Business is installed on every employee’s computer – part of the company’s move to embrace digital tools and fresh ways of working. Skype for Business has replaced the traditional desk phone, allowing colleagues to chat to each other, conduct global meetings and, now, to talk to their first chatbot.

Named after Bupa’s brand colour, Cyan is the company’s first internal chatbot.

Cyan is listed alongside other employees in the corporate Skype directory, but it’s not a person. It’s a software program that understands human language and answers questions about working for Bupa at its new Angel Court office.

 

 

A fresh approach to answering employees' questions

“We wanted a communications medium as fresh and modern as our new offices,” explains Fran Chambers, Bupa’s head of internal communication. “We were phasing out our old intranet and, rather than build a brand new, really detailed intranet, we wanted something dynamic that would field questions and provide instant answers.

“And so Cyan was born! It lives on Skype and also on our new slimline intranet news site, Centre News Online.”

Employees can ask Cyan questions, such as, Where can I find Bupa policies? How do I contact payroll? Are there gyms nearby? Do we get a discount?

 

Evolving the chatbot from how it's used

Chris McGrath (pictured), founder of chatbot company Tangowork, helped Bupa plan and build its chatbot.

“We started with workshops to brainstorm potential questions and define the chatbot personality,” explains Chris. “After building out the questions and answers we entered an extended pilot period to learn from the things people actually asked the chatbot.”

Although building a chatbot is often faster than building a website or intranet, the pilot period is typically longer – and needs to be. Chris recommends a gradually expanding pilot that starts with just a few people and doubles in size every week or so.

“People say things to chatbots that are impossible to anticipate. During the pilot, you study the transcripts of conversations. Whenever the chatbot doesn’t understand, you have to make a decision: do we teach the chatbot to support this question? Or do we gently redirect the user back towards supported tasks?"

 

Develop from a small-scale pilot

Another key to a successful chatbot deployment is to keep the scope small.

As Bupa’s senior digital communications manager, Del Green manages Cyan day to day.

“Before our office move to Angel Court, the chatbot focused mainly on the move: things like ‘When are we moving?’ and ‘Do I need to pack my own things?’,” says Del. “After the move, we expanded to questions about day-to-day work in the new environment.”

Chris believes there are many compelling reasons for internal communications teams to adopt chatbots like Bupa’s.

“First, they’re incredibly easy to use. If you know how to type, you know how to use a chatbot.

“Second, you can use them both to broadcast important messages and to answer employee questions on-demand.

“And third, they operate within existing messaging apps like Skype, Slack or SMS, making them extremely accessible for employees.”

Whether chatbots eventually grow to completely replace intranets or email blasts remains to be seen. But they definitely provide exciting new capabilities for internal communications teams like Bupa’s.

 

Whenever the chatbot doesn’t understand, you have to make a decision: do we teach the chatbot to support this question? Or do we gently redirect the user back towards supported tasks?

CHRIS McGRATH, TANGOWORK

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