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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T.

The new time and attendance law will kill innovation in Spain and Europe

Simple solutions or “one fits all” policies are easy to market by populist governments but they are sometimes at the expense of certain sectors and their people. This time the affected party is innovation and value added services, to a point that puts in jeopardy our (already weak) spot in the global competitiveness landscape.

I’ve always told my teams that I do not hire their time, but rather their talent and potential: their brains, their energy and passion and their willing to make a difference and impact our clients and the world through them. Innovative companies try to get in existing markets and solve things in complete different ways, some go as far as creating new markets from scratch. They all have in common that their mission is extremely hard, sometimes impossible (thus most fail along the way). The key for their success is how they manage to convince their teams that everything they do is not a job, but a religion. They are changing the world and that is something worth spending time and making history.

I can tell if somebody is motivated by their job by looking at their eyes while they talk about their challenges and ideas. Best people don’t work, they play. They make their challenges their hobbies. I’ve had many conversations at 1 am in the office, after some beers and sushi, before even realizing what time it is. Only when a job makes this kind of conditions happen, the wheel of significant value creation really stirs and great things come from it.

It is very hard to create a culture in which people feel so empowered that they are capable of anything. In my experience, it helps granting absolute flexibility. I don’t remember the last time I approved vacations to my team, or I paid attention to their schedules, or the days in which they worked from home or the office. This is not the kind of conversations I want to have with them. My relationship with my team is based on trust, and it is based on one single (often repetitive) conversation: how can we do more and better, how can we grow faster, how can we raise the bar. Little it matters to me whether they contribute to this questions from the beach in Canary Islands or spending many hours in the office.

However, the government today decided that it is a great idea in the 21th century that all companies like ours should make everybody clock in and clock out by law. I’m now obliged to add people’s time and attendance into our conversation. We now have to treat all jobs like production lines in factories (amidst the era of hyper automation and robotization). They go as far as having us registering accurate pauses for lunch. Unfortunately they don’t include how should we manage the time spent in the chill-out area, or when having long coffees in the outside terrace, or spending the afternoon in ping pong championships. Should we clock-in and clock-out every time we do that too?

When I travel I always get asked how is the Spanish ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation developing, I always defend our potential to become a leading actor in science and technology,  besides our current reputation for tapas, toros and siesta. We previously analysed the many initiatives taking place in the city of Barcelona. But my question is: is there anybody in the government actually helping us to make this happen?

The new law will come to place the next 12th of May. At Factorial we developed a free feature, so companies can instantly become compliant with the law. Interestingly enough, almost immediately after launching this feature people started developing tools using our API to automate clocking or connecting it with Slack and other interfaces. It looks like after all there will always be people willing to work on relevant things and not waste their energy in bureaucratic traps.

PD: You can find more information about the law in this article.