Concerns over AI, job losses and privacy are all issues surrounding the rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning and any service that uses them like chatbots. Some basic best practices should keep your staff onside when it comes to chatbot development and deployment, possibly even excited about the possibilities.
Recent research has to come to light highlighting the concerns of developers when it comes Ai developments that they consider may do harm in the workplace, or more widely in the battlefield or when used for spying or criminal investigations.
The research is from doteveryone, Martha Lane Fox’s new tech and social responsibility think tank. The report, People, Power and Technology cites the need for guidance and skills to help navigate new dilemmas surrounding IT, and a need for clear government regulation so they can innovate with awareness.
Yet, companies are starting their chatbot projects every day, and can’t wait around for the hamstrung governments of the world to get up to pace with AI and other developments. While your plans for a business chatbot may not threaten the new world order, it might upset quite a few people in the workplace. Therefore, a few best practices need to be applied before, during and after deployment.
Explain the Business Rationale and Encourage Questions
Whatever the technology, any business should prepare the ground for all workers, whether it affects them directly or not. Clear messaging about what the chatbot will do, why you are building and deploying it, who it will affect and what the impacts will be should all be plainly expressed. Expect workers to ask questions and provide real answers, not platitudes.
Get Everyone Involved in the Design Process
Whether you are building the bot in-house, or passing on the definition and design brief to outside providers, you will need a clear concept of what the chatbot does. Chatbots can be quite complicated and it is unlikely that any one team or person will understand everything it needs to do, what questions it should answer and so on. Encourage input from across the business and those affected.
This process will help staff across the business understand the purpose and benefits of the chatbot, and provide insights that others closer to the project might have missed. Vital to this process is engaging anyone who will be affected by the chatbot. Perhaps it will take over part of their role, or they will manage data provided by the bot. Their needs and insight should be critical to the function of the bot.
Expand the Jobs of Impacted Roles and Manage Change With Sensitivity
For any worker impacted by a chatbot, there needs to be a replacement activity for what the chatbot removes from their role. This can be provided in the form of more advanced tasks to boost their sense of value and contribution to the business.
While it might be easy to replace an outsourced function such as customer support with a chatbot, if the work was done in house and redundancies are necessary, take extra care to make severance as painless as possible to reduce the risk of “my job was taken by a robot” stories that could damage the business.
Highlight the Chatbot’s Benefits to Workers in Press
Many business press releases and news pieces focus on the technology and the benefits to the business of a chatbot. Ensure your messaging highlights the benefits to workers, both now and in the longer term, to balance this message. Highlight job or value creation and the use of the chatbot for positive results.
Use the Early Goodwill to Plan for the Future
Your business might start out with one chatbot, but looking at deployment patterns, it is more likely that more will follow. They might be used as a sales tool, or for internal purposes to make work easier for your human resources or collaboration between teams, especially as chatbots get smarter with AI features.
You need to start planning for this from your first chatbot, ensuring that bots can share data with the relevant systems, pass one customer around to another bot if needed. Or, if your single bot expands with new features and capabilities, it needs an infrastructure that can cope with such changes.
Get as much of this planning done in advance with the teams and workers while they are still enthused about that first bot, such energy might easily vanish if they are called on for a third or fourth effort, especially if that first bot fails to live up to expectations.
Share Progress From the Bot
Most first efforts find modest success with their bot in terms of engagement and successful conclusions. They key is for each business to highlight the progress a chatbot helps the company make in terms of time saved, revenue earned or other metrics.
Even if the chatbot struggles to gain traction, work on improving it should be highlighted and progress toward the originally stated goals should be tracked. This will help the business breed confidence in the bot and future efforts. And, if the bot is a breakout success for the company, be prepared to use that information to promote the business and generate extra interest and customers.
Chris Knight writes about where technology will take us next, from the power of neural networks, artificial intelligence and chatbots, to the endless worlds promised by augmented and virtual reality. From the latest in gadgets and hardware to how digital businesses can use technology to grow, Chris makes the future clear and understandable to all.