Have you ever had a pleasant conversation with a bot? Chances are high that you have, as chatbots are getting smarter and better at helping us deal with the products we’re dealing with everyday.

Barcelona startup Caravelo is at the moment developing six chatbots for some of the biggest airlines in the world. The chatbots they build help millions of travelers to book and reschedule flights, provide customer service, act as personal concierges and much more.

Even though all their bots use NLU (natural language understanding), they’re not building their own solution, but are using existing NLU solutions to cope with all the different languages airlines need to speak with their customer, according to co-founder JoseLuis Vilar:

“If we would try to build an NLU solution for all the languages our client’s needs, we would be dead.”

Not replacing apps

Caravelo says beyond the hype, that the bots they’re building are not replacing apps, they just doing the same things very differently in terms of UX and UI, but also in terms of use cases.

“We won’t build bots for everything, only where it’s natural to have one.”

After being live with several chatbots for nearly 3 months, collecting thousands of interactions, they’ve already learned a lot of valuable lessons, the biggest being not ask the same questions over and over again.

According to the startup the distance between success and failure is quite short, so you need to get things right the first time around. And according to Vilar, even though the risk for failure is high, the reward for the customer when things go right is much higher.

Repeating answers is the worst a bot can do to a customer according to Caravelo.

Work on building a solid knowledge base

After tracking their bots conversations the latest months, Caravelo has found that 20 percent of the inventory of intents (Q&A’s) makes up around 80 percent of the total value. So you need to focus on that part first, building a really strong inventory to start all conversations, the right username and contact, pictures, etc.

The next 15 percent of value is based on the inventory of questions and answer (intents) where you need to build a solid knowledge base for your specific industry. In Caravelo’s case, they’ve built a database of 1000 FAQ’s related to the airline and travel industry, and this is based on interactions the airlines have had with their customers over the years.

The last five percent of value are from the questions a bot cannot answer, and the idea is this is the place where we get the human take-over, and a customer service agent will serve any remaining problem.

The three different categories of value provided to the customer, either by a bot or a human.

Key learnings

The most important learning Caravelo has done the last months is to avoid user loops, like shown in the pictures above. There are few things as annoying for a user to go through the same questions over and over again.

So far Caravelo’s solution to bugs like this one has been to build a small fix where the bot only can ask the same question a certain amount of times.

Caravelo co-founder and CIO JoseLuis Vilar.

Another key learning is to use, but not abuse the NLU (natural language understanding). So for example, today they have some answers that go through the back-end from their database, and some answers that go through the NLU, but they classify the easy answers, like affirmations, to not go through the NLU.

Just as with any product, the on-boarding of the user is crucial to keep people talking to the bots. In the case of chatbots, you need to tell them what you’ll be doing for them, and give the user clear options.

The last take-away the Caravelo team has learned over the course of using bots in real life, is to not take too much advantage of bot trainers (external services), as they’re not building a natural language understanding themselves, and it’s easy to get too dependent on them.

To get the full value of Caravelo’s learnings, take a look at the video at the top.


If you want to learn more, take a look at our latest podcast about the European VC industry:

https://blog.itnig.net/first-rule-of-talking-to-vcs-show-metrics-that-support-the-story-you-re-telling-3d31160db889

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O.

On sales leadership

These are some values that I learned that define a leader:

– A leader is somebody who reaches their goals and achieves beyond their individual abilities aligned with their own values and the organization’s values. A leader without a team is not a leader. A leader works for the team, not the other way around.

– Humbleness. Leaders must get to know themselves first, acknowledge their limitations. Acknowledge they have no recipe for success (no one does). They will succeed only by being curious and trying things faster, testing, changing things again, failing again, learning as fast as possible. In sales, everybody notices when things work well, success is measured in € vs budget. A leader must embrace results with no buts and take action to reach the goals.

– A leader works harder, a leader cares about the goals more than anybody else, they took full ownership of the goals. A leader does about anything to remove bottlenecks away on his team, they assist, train, support everybody, anything it takes. They are always the best resource for their team.

– A leader will always be available for everybody in their team, for personal and professional issues. They go the extra mile. They make sure everybody knows that. They earn the team’s trust.

– A leader makes everyone aware that teamwork is not negotiable. Without a cooperative team, there’s no leader. Lone wolves kill the growing/changing organization. Growth happens only WITH the team, not at their expense.

– Leaders communicate all the time, they don’t keep things to themselves, they are honest with their team. They share good and bad. They share the why’s. They trust their team. Trust precedes process and it is the only path to grow at a scale.

– Leaders learn fast and learn mostly from their team. The team has the most valuable knowledge a leader can get, it doesn’t come from books, blog posts, degrees or mentors. The team gets the real shit from the front line. A leader listens to their teams’ impressions and ideas, they explore them all and give feedback. Leaders generate a culture of idea generation and idea sharing. Leaders stay away from guru preaching.

– It’s important to understand people’s personal and professional ultimate goals and motivations. Leaders spend time asking them on their one on ones and they think about them. They write them down. Everybody is playing the movie of their lives, a leader must find out which one is it, they make sure each team member keeps being the hero of their movie.

– Leaders always lead by example, not by title. They show real bravery. Leaders go first to battle. They call leads and close customers. They apologize to customers when the company screws up. They take the shit first. They don’t leave anyone behind. They don’t show their rank, their status, their difference, their pedigree. Startups are flat meritocratic organizations. Leaders must understand well the company goals and they put them first, they are prepared to step down, or step aside, or leave the company at any moment if needed. Company goals are what matters most. Leaders show this to everyone. Company/collective oriented leaders always thrive.

– Leaders celebrate every victory. They visibly show the pain of every defeat. They take every opportunity to show they care. They analyze why/what/how and find out always changes to be made. Then they go and make the changes. They change anything or everything, but never keep on doing what doesn’t work. They shake the whole company inside out before/when goals are not met.

– Leaders set goals that are both ambitious and achievable. They work along the team to make sure they meet the goals. They are flexible when the goals are set wrong. They are implacable when goals are not met.

Most people will never be a leader. It takes time and patience, it takes survival skills, it takes real personal strength. But after committing to all these things, things start to work. Leaders are such when and only when they brought teams to make things work, nobody becomes a leader just by trying it. True leaders make sure they don’t leave the boat until things work (as they will work, ultimately!). They don’t leave the job undone.

– Bernat Farrero CEO at Itnig