What is a chatbot? How are they used?
A chatbot is, based on the reading from this week and additional information, a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, that you interact with via a chat interface. At a basic level it is a computer program that simulates and processes human conversation. It allows us to interact with digital devices as if we were communicating with a real person.
Chatbot I Created
The chatbot I decided to create was for an existing brand. The brand I chose was Wheel Fun Rentals. This company rents out bikes and boats at multiple locations across the United States. The reason I chose this brand was because I have worked part time at one of their locations for about four summers now. This gave me a good understanding of who the brand is and the types of questions customers would ask a chatbot. I also thought that a chatbot would be very beneficial to their brand that way users would not have to call to get an answer to a question. Also since they also offer an annual pass option, a chatbot would help them find a location, see what is available to rent, and find out when they close. The bot would be able to answer any question the user would have. Since phone calls at Wheel Fun Rentals are sometimes not answered due to being closed or super busy, a chatbot would save time and improve guest experience.
Wheel Fun Rentals Mission Statement
Provide innovative quality products and services that empower customers/families to explore the outdoors while supporting active, healthy, and fun lifestyles for all ages, from toddlers to grandparents!
How I Created the Chatbot
When creating my chatbot, I first did research into other chatbots to see if any other rental companies use chatbots. I did not find any bike rental chatbots but I did find chatbots for car and home rentals which had a similar idea to what I wanted to do as they all rent some form of product. These bots gave me an idea on how users interact with them. They allowed the user to ask questions, view options, and book rentals. This gave me a good framework to start from for my design.
After researching other chatbots, I then created a Flowchart. I wanted to make sure my bot could answer any question that might come up and my flow chart helped me develop that. However, I also created the flowchart with the most common possible questions and did not create a flowchart for every possible question but it did create a good starting point to creating my chatbot.
I then created my chatbot with Botsociety. This allowed me to input the dialogue that could happen between bot and user to really get a feel for how my chatbot would be. Once created, I showed it to one potential user to user test my chatbot. They overall liked it and thought it would be very useful especially if they were an annual pass holder. They also gave me feedback on how I could refine it to make it even better by adding some personality into the bot making it feel more like talking to another human rather than a bot.
What did you find most challenging about creating this chatbot and what are you most proud of?
I overall enjoyed designing the conversation of the chatbot. It reminded me of screenwriting but it was also a challenge as there are so many things a user could ask. It was also challenging to make it sound more like a human conversation rather than a robotic bot. If I was to continue to improve this bot I would make it even more like a natural conversation by figuring out how to program it to respond with different answers so that it does not repeat itself that often.
Since I was using the free version of Botsociety to create this chatbot, I found out half way through creating it that it only allows you to input a max of 30 inputs. This was a challenge that I had to work around, as it made it hard to create a well refined chatbot. One way I found around this was to create one part of the bot, test it out, and then record a demo of it. After which I would start again.
Overall, even though I was not able to create everything I wanted, I was still proud of what I was able to create with the resources I had. I am also proud that I was able to create a human-like conversation.