The ability of machines to understand and speak the language of men has been fascinating for decades at all levels, from scientists, researchers, authors of science fiction books and movies to finally become a fantasy in the collective spirit.

In the 50s, Alan Turing proposes his famous test of “artificial intelligence”, based on the ability of a machine to imitate the human conversation, would a human be able to recognize blindly if he is talking to a computer or to another human being?

Nowadays, the big tech companies in our world have an interest in this subject, which is still fascinating, and the changes have been major. In its Keynote of 2018, Google made an impression with its Virtual Assistant Duplex, able to make a reservation at the restaurant or at the hairdresser with an impressive imitation of the human voice, so impressive that it was difficult to guess that it was a computer program.

All these years of research and work have obviously brought this technology of “natural language understanding” to reach a more global public through various applications, within smartphones but also through chatbots, these new communication channels usually taking the form of a chat window.

How to explain the rise and multiplication of bot offers?

Four main factors explain the appearance of a market of chatbots and the multiplication of different offers:

  • The technological era in which we live, a large majority of the population is connected and holds and spends a considerable amount of time on their phone, tablet, computers
  • The 24/7 availability of a conversational program is in perfect harmony with one of the main expectations of an individual today: immediacy. The world we live in offers us immediate access to information, problems are resolved within the hour, and the chatbot will be an assistant available at any time.
  • The rise of messaging platforms, their spread within companies and their democratization in the habit of communication of individuals. Messaging platforms now play a central role in communication between people.
  • The democratization of NLP technology, the arrival of language comprehension technology on the market at a sufficient level of efficiency and affordable prices.

The SNCFR Innovation story with Botfoundry: From one chatbot… to the chatbot Factory

GFI and the SNCFR (National French train company) had the chance to work together on the chatbot subject, Botfoundry convinced the SNCFR that it was the best solution to fill their challenges and needs.

SNCFR Challenges 

Challenges for the company :

  • Help the support service of an application to handle all the requests, the employees were often working outside of regular office hours and the delays between the request and its resolution were too long. On top of that first problem, the ticketing system in place was not efficient enough to go from the first level of support to the last.

Objective: Improve a non-efficient service

  • Freetime to a team dedicated to attributing habilitations on the different accessible applications internally. The numbers are quite big, 250 applications are concerned for 55 000 employees. Each year, a regular employee needs an average of 4/5 habilitations.

Objective: Optimize employee’s time on more valuable time

 

Our technology

Botfoundry is a solution that was built to address the run of a bot project. The team truly believes that the content of a chatbot is made to evolve and be modified. On the same aspect, all the conversations that the bot is having are the same amount of exploitable data on the users, on what they have to say and what are their real expectations. Dedicated features in the administration portal allow for example to quickly check what are the not understood messages the bot had during its last week of activity, review them and chose if they should be part of the bot’s content and where.

A lot of failure in chatbots project was due to the lack of time spent on the functional stream of the project and too much on what was possible and what should be done with the technology of language understanding. Botfoundry is a solution that believes the content is the central piece of the success. The first step of the solution was to create a generic bot model, ready on the shelf to receive any possible content. This way, Botfoundry is a solution that addresses the client’s business teams and was made for them, erasing the technical aspects of the bot creation and administration during the run.

The way Botfoundry evolve is intrinsically linked to the client’s wishes and needs. The roadmap product is constantly made with the different clients that had a chatbot build with the solution and with the new clients. This way, Botfoundry is assured to be the closest to its market needs and expectations. The team likes to favour if possible, the co-innovation projects. These projects are usually a good innovation win/win way to proceed, sharing the IP on some specific features and allowing the project to have a mort “research approach”.

 

Where we are now :

The success of the two previous bots generated the interest around that type of solution, a lot of other business teams managed to project themselves in the bot technology. With the increase of bot projects ideas inside the company, the SNCFR decided to switch to the chatbot Factory proposed by Gfi that would help them handle a large-scale implementation, considering that the use cases are not missing.

Gfi and SNCFR are currently working on the installation of the Factory, creating a chatbot service line, accessible to all the business units by contacting the DIS. In less than 20 minutes the business unit can have a chatbot running waiting for its content to be completed.

Impact on the client

Through the project, SNCFR managed to instore and democratize the chatbot subject besides its employees and get to an interesting rate of technology use and acceptation.

In the first bot use case, employees could create their ticket for an incident directly through the bot without the need to contact the support service. This increased their satisfaction, helps the support service to focus on the resolution of the incident and fluidified the entire process.

Thanks to the second project, every employee of the SNCFR is now able to ask and get through the chatbot their habilitation to an application, this replaces a team that was dedicated to handling these demands. SNCFR was able with this chatbot to save human resources and money and propose a new innovative channel.

With the Factory, SNCFR normalized and rationalized the chatbot subject inside the company and will now keep easily create a chatbot for the different use cases the business units will encounter. Gfi will still be a part of the process even though the SNCFR is now autonomous in the bot creation. Gfi will keep proposing its help on projects for specific development and bring new features to the solutions that will be shared with the client.

 

Alexandre Conrath

Author Alexandre Conrath

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