It’s been said that nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, and in the world of technology there’s a lot to be nostalgic about! Times change so fast. Just over twenty years ago client-server was all the rage, and then the internet arrived and suddenly browser-based systems became the new way to do everything. Then in the mid-2000’s Apple coined the phrase, “there’s an app for that”, which then begat a mad rush to build phone-based apps for everything under the sun.

And now, in 2018, all of those things have been usurped by a new UI that will change the technology landscape yet again: chatbots. And, for generation Z or millennials, this is the way they expect to be able to interact with everything. Text and voice are their UI of choice.

Research has shown that students much prefer a conversational UI over all other channels of communication. They don’t use email, they don’t want to call the help desk, and more so than ever, they don’t want to use your mobile app. Of all the activities on a mobile phone, nothing has had the growth of messaging, which recently saw almost 400% in yearly growth.

The message (no pun intended!) is clear: students just want to chat.

Already, surveys show that only 8% of millennials have not heard of chatbots. They have quickly become pervasive in their messaging apps, and social networks like Facebook. If students aren’t already demanding chatbots to help with their academic careers, they will be very soon. The key is to get ahead of the curve and not put yourself in catch-up mode like many institutions found themselves during the mobile app boom.

Choosing the Right Kind of Chatbot

So, a chatbot seems like an obvious fit for students, but which chatbot is right for your university? Chatbots and voice assistants are everywhere, but let’s focus on the chatbot types that can help a student with their academic life. You will find the two most popular types are:

  • FAQ chatbot
  • Enterprise Assistant chatbot

So, what is the difference between the two? Our best analogy would be to step back in time to the mid 90’s and recall the advent of MapQuest. Anyone who was in the consulting business back then remembers the trials and tribulations of making a car journey in a strange city, armed only with a printed copy of your MapQuest directions.  Holding a piece of paper in one hand, while driving with the other was no fun at all –  especially at night. And all you had to do was miss one turn and you were lost.

Mapquest Directions

MapQuest circa 1998: You’d get lost too!

Then the 2000’s came along and now we had Google maps on our phones and what a huge difference that made. Now we had a device that would guide us every step of the way to where we needed to go, and could adjust on the fly no matter which turn we took. It even had a voice to ensure we kept our eyes on the road. Technology improved the quality, and safety, of our lives.

In this scenario, the FAQ chatbot is the printed copy of MapQuest directions. And the Enterprise Assistant chatbot is Google maps on your phone.

One is very clearly a lot better than the other. So, let us describe in detail why this is.

The FAQ Chatbot

The FAQ chatbot has a single focus: provide a chatbot that can answer the most popular questions your help desk receives. This chatbot is meant to reduce help desk calls. To set it up, you basically load in a series of questions and answers. For example:

How can I order a transcript?

Official transcripts can be ordered on our registrars site which you can visit at

https://registrar.university.com/transcripts

Essentially the FAQ chatbot is just a search engine that understands natural language. This is not a huge leap in innovation for most universities who have had a search page that is already serving this purpose. Some FAQ chatbots can crawl your public website (just as a search engine does – see a trend here?) and if your question matches one of the bot’s search results, it would answer as Siri does:

If your web pages were redundant or confusing, well, listing out search results isn’t really that helpful, even if it is in a chat bubble (as shown above).

While these FAQ chatbots do use artificial intelligence, it is a rather shallow use. As ultimately the student still needs to go to the actual web page to get the answers they are looking for, and then figure out what to do next.

FAQ chatbots are the digital equivalent of pointing someone in a general direction and wishing them good luck.

The Enterprise Assistant Chatbot

While Enterprise Assistant chatbots can do everything an FAQ chatbot can do, they can also do a whole lot more. Such as:

  • Integrating to your enterprise applications (on-premise & Cloud)
  • Performing transactions
  • Guiding the user through complex processes
  • Running reports and analytics
  • Approving/denying workflow
  • Integrate with your knowledge-base
  • And many more things…

The key differentiator being that it can guide the student through to the final outcome of what it is they need to do.  Just like Google maps does. It doesn’t stop helping until you get to your final destination, and ensures no wrong turns.

Let’s go back to our FAQ chatbot example and imagine how it would work with an Enterprise Assistant chatbot:

How can I order a transcript?

I can help you with that. I found the following Guides:

Or here are some things I can help you with now:

Order an official transcript

Great. I can order an official transcript for you.

What date would you like your transcript processed on:

Process Immediately

How many transcripts would you like?

1

What is the name of the person you would like the transcript sent to?

John Doe

Which country do they reside?

United States

What is their street address?

123 Main St

What city?

New York

What state?

NY

What zip?

10111

Thanks. Your transcript has been submitted for processing. After processing, it usually takes up to 5 business days to arrive.

Thanks!

That’s a totally different experience! Let’s take a deeper look at some of the key feature differences between the two options.

Content Repository

FAQ Chatbot: Usually the FAQ chatbot uses a proprietary content system for loading in questions and answers. This means that if you were ever to switch bots, your content may be locked inside a proprietary system. It also means that all your content would have to be manually loaded into the new chatbot. And it now means you have to maintain your content in two places: web site and chatbot.

Enterprise Assistant Chatbot: Enterprise Assistant chatbots can tap into an existing content repository via APIs. You likely already have a knowledge base inside Salesforce, ServiceNow, Drupal, Oracle Content and Experience Cloud, PeopleSoft Interaction Hub, or another platform. An Enterprise Assistant chatbot can read that content dynamically.  So it is always up to date, and there is one source of truth. Which means you will never have conflicting information between your web site and the chatbot.

Transactions

FAQBot: The FAQ chatbot cannot perform transactions. It is a content/search only chatbot.

Enterprise Assistant Chatbot: This is where the Enterprise Assistant chatbot shines. It can help the student actually get something done rather than pointing them to a web page. This doesn’t just save time, it also ensures accuracy in everything that is done, while continuing to work in a way that your students prefer. Text and voice.

Reports

FAQBot: The FAQ chatbot cannot dynamically run reports or query data in other systems.

Enterprise Assistant Chatbot: Enterprise Assistant chatbots can run reports from your PeopleSoft, Oracle Cloud and other cloud applications. They can even email you a full report! Reports for rosters, grades, advising and more.

Comparison

Feature FAQ Chatbot Enterprise Assistant Chatbot
Integrate with your existing content/knowledge base
Search web sites & FAQs
Integrate with your on-premise and Cloud systems
Perform transactions
Approve workflow
Run reports/queries

Conclusion

Chatbots will be a priority for many higher education institutions in 2018. As you begin your journey into chatbots, we hope this blog helps you understand your options better. Even with that clarity, it is always best to know what you are getting into. You have one chance to make a good first impression with students. If you roll out a chatbot poorly, you may never recover from that poor first impression. This is why we recommend our clients start with our Chatbot Pilot Program which will give you first-hand experience using an Enterprise Assistant chatbot. Contact us below to learn more about rolling out your enterprise chatbot pilot in just 12 weeks.

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Please enter your business email address to receive the IntraSee chatbot white paper. It includes the following information:

  • Full architecture diagram
  • Functions & features
  • Integrated SaaS and on-premise systems
  • Multi-lingual capabilities
  • Implementation Options

NOTE: We will never share your information with anyone outside of IntraSee.

On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the lunar module Eagle on the moon, via the space flight Apollo 11.  In epic fashion, they planted an American flag on the arid landscape and “claimed unchartered territory”.

In a similar vein, IntraSee is proud to announce that as of February 2018, we are now able to fully automate the creation of a chatbot for the Enterprise. It will self-assemble and deploy without the need for manual creation, and without the need for large consultant and client resource staffing models.

Practically, what this means is that we can deliver a “chatbot-in-a-box”, that with one push button will build and configure itself, and immediately be able to access your multiple on-premise and Cloud systems. Handling such things as self-service inquiries, transactional processes, workflow approvals, news and notifications, Enterprise search across multiple systems, interaction with content management systems, and Help Desk requests.

This doesn’t just mean that your Enterprise systems will now be easy to use for your employees and managers (and students and faculty). It also means it will be easy for your IT organization to deploy and maintain. Which is the critical component of a chatbot implementation strategy. It has to be simple to maintain. Such that your IT organization is not, yet again, bogged down in “maintenance mode”, when they should be in (as Gartner advises) “innovation mode”.

So, let us explain why this is such a breakthrough.

Currently there are two types of chatbot implementation styles:

  1. Fast implementations using pre-built Q&A’s that provide some superficial benefits, but are, for the most part, just navigational paths to knowledge that the client has to identify as part of the implementation. The chatbot equivalent of “quick links”.
  2. Massively long, expensive, and resource heavy implementations that require many months of analysis, and even more months creating spaghetti AI dialog flows that are pretty much unmaintainable. These implementations rarely work properly on day 1, and require that that client wait to see results while the chatbot learns. These kinds of projects are the favorites of large consulting companies, who see the advent of chatbots as a giant revenue stream, and a means to keeping their consultants off the bench. The best response any client should make when offered this kind of approach is, “no thanks”.
Complicated Dialogue Flow

Figure 1: Imagine having to create & maintain thousands of these? And this is just the front end.

IntraSee has an alternate way, a better way. We provide a “Chatbot Lego kit” that plugs into your enterprise system (both Cloud, on-premise, and even your data warehouse) that is a definitional tool, complete with a pre-built suite of self-service functionality, plus adapters to all the major Cloud systems, and even on-premise systems (like PeopleSoft). Within four weeks it can be plugged into your Enterprise, configured to your additional requirements, and adapted to the systems you use internally and in the Cloud. Then you, literally, press the easy button, and the Chatbot creates itself.

With one push button, the chatbot conversational UI is created and fully trained. Just like AlphaGo Zero – it does not need big data or a huge learning curve.

You immediately have a chatbot solution for your Enterprise that is simple to implement, simple to maintain, but capable of performing even the most complex of tasks.

  • You never need to manually create a chatbot dialog flow, intent definition, or entity definition.
  • You never need to figure out how to integrate the dialog flows with your many Enterprise systems.
  • You never need to figure out how your chatbot should behave when it encounters “errors” when chatting with someone in your organization.
  • You never need to figure out how to escalate to a “real person” or create a service ticket.
  • You never need to figure out how the chatbot can understand your unstructured content and digital assets.

These “low level” functions are managed at a high level that goes way beyond traditional process management tools.

So, what chatbot capability comes “out of the box”?

  • The ability to get data securely (and only data that the human has access to) from all your Enterprise systems (including your data warehouse).
  • The ability to perform complex self-service transactions.
  • The ability to review/approve/deny workflow from your various Enterprise systems.
  • The ability to find anything in your organization using a federated search capability. Plus recommend associated processes that match the search results.
  • The ability to fetch personalized organizational news that is pertinent to the person asking for it.
  • The ability to integrate with your current “Help Desk” solution (Cloud or on-premise).
  • The ability to integrate with your current knowledge base.

And the real beauty of all this, as the people in your organization will see, is that nobody needs to be trained. Nobody has to learn how to interact with this new solution. Nobody has to figure out where stuff is. Nobody has to deal with drop down menus and multiple clicks to perform the most simple tasks.

The chatbot will learn how to interact with your organization using a UI method popular for thousands of years. Language.

If this all sounds too good to be true, then we would advise that seeing is believing, and we would be happy to provide a demonstration.

Please contact us to learn more or even see a live demo.

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Footnote: Chatbot technology is relatively new, but our efforts in building this are not. Like the lunar landing, we have spent over ten years building packaged solutions, tools and adapters, in order to get us to where we are today. The final piece of the puzzle was to build the actual integration and automation with chatbot.ai’s. And for that we had to wait until chatbot.ai technology was ready for use in the real world. Today it is, and it continues to get better and better. This is now a viable technology solution if implemented correctly. And that’s what we do.

 

The history of Enterprise software is rich with hype, but time and time again has failed to deliver the promise that accompanied all the fanfare. We are reminded of the Charlie Brown cartoon, where Lucy would hold the football for Charlie to kick, and then at the last second would pull it away. That’s how a failed promise feels to many organizations. Being told the next version of something is the answer to all their problems, then, yet again, discovering that it isn’t.

But now, in 2018, everything has finally changed. Now there’s a new word on everyone’s lips, “chatbots”. And this time it’s different. Because chatbots really will change the Enterprise software world forever. This is not a fad, it’s a revolution. And so, in IntraSee fashion, let us count the 10 reasons this revolution will happen.

1. Instead of humans having to learn how to communicate with machines, machines will learn how to communicate with humans.

Chatbot Communication

Figure 1: No training required to interact with a chatbot.

From the dawn of computing time, the first thing humanity had to accept was that machines had to be interacted with in very specific ways. Otherwise they would not know what we wanted them to do. And even then, individual software applications had completely different UI’s. PeopleSoft had a different UI to Oracle, which had a different UI to Salesforce, etc. It all became so confusing to people.

Now we are finally getting closer to the top of the computing self-actualization pyramid, because machines now are capable of understanding humans using a natural conversational UI.

In all our years in the software industry we have never seen a UI create so much joy when we demonstrate its capabilities. Conversational UI via chatbot is what the world has been waiting for (even if the world didn’t know it until now).

2. Introducing: Zero navigation.

Chatbot Flow

Figure 2: No navigational menus needed. The chatbot escorts you to where you need to be.

With chatbots, we are now entering a navigation-less world. The tyranny of drop down menus and multi-click access is now behind us. Now you no longer need to grapple with finding what you need; you just tell the chatbot what you want to do and it will escort you through the entire process.

3. One UI to rule them all, and in the chatbot bind them.

One UI: Chatbot

Figure 3: One UI for all your Cloud and on-premise systems.

Every single organization that we know of has a multitude of on-premise and Cloud systems that the people in their organization need to access daily. And, of course, each one of them has its own UI and is often built on different technology stacks.

The beauty of chatbots is that you will now be able to interact with your entire Enterprise via a single unified UI. A conversational UI. Now, everything will look the same and act the same, and will be easy to use because it won’t require any training. Just the ability to type a sentence. Or speak to it.

4. Guided human-like conversations.

Chatbot on Skype Animation

Figure 4: Chatbot wil guide you through a process.

Do you remember the last time you had to do something complicated and important on a web site, and were transferred to a huge form packed with data fields that had to be completed perfectly… or else! Yes, it wasn’t a good feeling. Chances are that one of four things happened:

  • You gritted your teeth, and spent the next hour dutifully filling out every field, resenting every single moment of your wasted time.
  • You flew through the form, filling it out as fast as possible knowing you’d made a ton of mistakes. But, what the heck, that’s someone else’s problem. You shouldn’t have had to do this in the first place.
  • You called up the help desk and eventually got through to someone who helped answer your questions on what to do. But then had to call back an hour later because you got stuck again.
  • Wrote a nasty email to the CIO of your company telling them that they should be ashamed of themselves for letting such awful software be implemented (btw, we know someone who did this, so we aren’t making this up).

If you feel tense just reading this, then that means you’ve been there and we greatly sympathize with you. But, thank goodness, now there is a better way.

The chatbot will guide you through the entire form in a conversational fashion, not letting you make mistakes, and not ending the conversation until the task is successfully completed. If this isn’t Enterprise software heaven, we don’t know what is.

5. Always available.

Chatbot Help

Figure 5: Chatbot is always ready to help.

Chatbots don’t sleep, they don’t take vacation, and they don’t call in sick. And what’s more, one chatbot can handle thousands of requests all at once. They are always available, and always chipper and in a good mood. They are us on our best day. Every day.

6. Faster, more accurate, more consistent, more scalable.

Super Chatbot

Figure 6: Better in so many ways…

Actually, chatbots aren’t us on our best day. They are better than that. They can answer questions, look up data, and complete transactions faster than any human clicking through a myriad of web pages. They also bring a consistency to everything they do. Configured and taught properly, they are the ultimate subject matter experts who always apply best practice solutions on every occasion. And they never get tired or forget things. They are the Superman (or equally fantastic Superwoman) of the software world. Here to save us all from bad data entry, calls to the help desk, wasted time, and low morale.

7. Reduced help desk calls/operational costs.

Better and Cheaper Diagram

Figure 7: Better and cheaper.

Talking of calls to the help desk. The chatbots main reason for being is to let people do what they need to do without making that dreaded call to a live agent. And why is that call such a bad thing?

Two main reasons:

  • Calling the help desk still means the issue takes a long time to be resolved. Chatbots will typically resolve most tier 1 requests in less than a few minutes. Whereas a typical help desk resolution can take many hours.
  • The cost to an organization of that call can be very expensive indeed. The average per-query cost of a human agent is somewhere between $15-$200. For a chatbot it is around $1.

8. Better routing to live agents.

Chatbot Agents

Figure 8: Chatbots can transfer requests to the correct human agent, if they can’t fulfill themselves.

Have you ever spent 20 minutes on hold trying to get in contact with a support agent, then 5 minutes identifying who you are and what your issue is, only to be told that the agent can’t help you and you need to be transferred? It’s a horrible, soul-sucking feeling. Then you have to wait another 20 minutes and start all over again. And even then, there’s no guarantee the next person is the right person.

In the world of the chatbot there will be times that they won’t be able to help you resolve your issue. However, when that happens they will know exactly which department to transfer you to, and will pass on all your information to that person. That in itself is priceless. And if you agree with that statement: please press 1 (that’s supposed to be an IVR joke btw). And yes, people don’t like IVR either.

9. Improve Accessibility.

Chatbot AI

Figure 9: Accessible via voice or text in more languages than your Enterprise systems natively support.

A big problem with most Enterprise systems is that because they are built with different technologies by different vendors, and across different eras of time, they have huge accessibility issues. These could be ADA issues (such as the sight impaired), or just simple device issues (ex: they don’t work well on phones). Also, some vendors support some languages that are spoken in your organization, while others don’t. Rarely do they all support all the languages you’d like them to.

And this is the beauty of a conversational UI. It’s accessible via many channels of communication and in many languages. It won’t matter what your Enterprise system supports, so long as the chatbot.ai supports it. This alone will make a huge difference: from a usability perspective, and from a cost perspective (it’s not easy or cheap to add multi-lingual support to many Enterprise software systems).

10. Improve organizational satisfaction.

Satisfied Mobile Users

Figure 10: Chatbots are more often than not the preferred way to interact.

71% of consumers want the ability to solve most customer service issues on their own

 

65% of consumers feel good about themselves and the company when they can handle an issue without talking to a live person

 

HR departments today spend 60-70% of their time answering basic questions and fielding requests from employees

This is a win-win for everyone: your internal business organizations who will be freed to do more strategic things for you, and your workforce, who will be happier and more productive.

In summary, our advice to organizations (which echoes Gartner’s), is to start the process of implementing chatbots with a short (12 weeks will suffice) and inexpensive pilot. That way you will be able to see exactly what you would get in a full implementation, and come to an understanding of what it would take in terms of effort and cost.

As we are sure you can imagine, the art will be in the implementation. At IntraSee we believe, and can prove it, that implementing a sophisticated solution can be done in a short period of time with a small amount of people. We have spent ten years building the tools that allow us to plug an advanced chatbot into your organization, and in a way that is simple to maintain. We are the only company in the Enterprise software space that can do this.

Please contact us to learn more.

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