[Chatbot Series: Part 2] A Cookhouse Conversation: BOTFriends & Chatbots

Cookhouse Lab had the pleasure of hosting the BOTFriends team earlier this month as Cookhouse embarked on its first chatbot project. While they were in town, we had the opportunity to sit down with the team to learn more about their story and their thoughts on chatbots, innovation, and the future. Read more on our Q&A session below:

Tell us a bit about yourselves!

Kevin: All of us are students at the University of Applied Sciences in Würzberg, with plans to graduate next year in March. At BOTFriends, I’m responsible for customer success, sales, and in addition, I also have a small part in product development.

Tobias: My focus at BOTFriends is on product development. Michelle is responsible for marketing and user experience. Lastly, Daniel is responsible for monitoring future trends to make concrete products.

What’s the story behind the creation of BOTFriends?

Daniel: Kevin and I met at while we were working at Porsche. During our spare time throughout our internship, we developed a chatbot prototype for Porsche recruitment. We introduced our prototype to some of the employees and they sent us to the Porsche digital lab in Berlin earlier this year. We conceived our original idea in February, and our prototype was developed in October.

Kevin: After our experiences at Porsche, we recruited Tobias and Michelle, and the four of us founded BOTFriends in March 2017. We officially incorporated the start-up in the middle of June 2017.

What have your lives been like since June 2017?

Michelle: We’ve had the opportunity to attend a variety of events in various capacities. We’ve taken part in discussion panels, launched conference chatbots, and attended various start-up events regionally. For the hashtag.business conference in Germany, we launched a chatbot that gave participants the ability get automatic answers about general conference inquiries (agenda, parking, speaker biographies).

Kevin: We’ve also had many meetings with potential customers, run workshops, and gained our first contracts.

What next steps do you want to take with BOTFriends?

Daniel: We’re currently working with customers (like Porsche who pay per hour), but we eventually want to establish our own messaging platform and other products. In terms of location, we’re currently based in Würzberg, but we want to open another office in Berlin in the future.

Michelle: I hope that our next milestones will include more client contracts and more product development. Right now, our services take up a lot of our personal resources so I want to come up with a plan that makes our services more scalable.

Where do you see chatbots going in the next 5 years?

Daniel: There is a lot of conversation happening in all facets of business, which include services like call centers and online support. I believe that eventually chatbots will overtake a lot of these processes, and this could be very helpful for companies.

Tobias: Chatbots can be applied in every sector, and they can overtake things like event planning. Nobody wants to download an app for an event that lasts two days.

Michelle: Companies can also use chatbots as a new communication avenue. Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep up engagement because less people activate push notifications on their apps, but for apps like Messenger, they are usually on.

Interested in chatbots? Make sure to subscribe and check out our upcoming chatbot project

Become an industry thought leader. Don’t forget to share.

[Chatbot Series: Part 1] The Chatbot Impact in Insurance

Artificial intelligence (AI) dates back to the year 1950, when Alan Turing developed the Turing test to evaluate a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour that could be equivalated to those of humans. Since then, the field has exploded. 

In businesses today, AI can be found in many forms including intelligent conversational chatbots. These bots are becoming increasingly popular, with over 30,000 chatbots (as of 2016) existing on various messaging interfaces. These chatbots cater to an audience of 4.1 billion users, most of whom are on these platforms every day.

So why does this matter for the insurance industry?

Using chatbots gives companies across insurance, financial services, sales and customer service the potential to save over $174 billion. This number not only showcases a huge opportunity, but also the sheer size of this market that firms can capitalize on.

This sentiment is one that is shared throughout the financial services industry. As Accenture reports, 79% of surveyed banks agree that AI will revolutionize the way that consumers gain their information and 76% believe that some sort of AI mechanism will become their primary point of communication within the next three years.

Current Industry Chatbots

Insurance firms across the globe have started to take advantage of this technology.

  • Lemonade, the New York City-based property and casualty insurance company has already introduced two chatbots: Maya and Jim, both of whom tackle different problems. Maya’s job is to sell insurance to both homeowners and renters, while Jim’s job is to settle claims – which he has done in three seconds.
  • The Singaporean PolicyPal has launched Kate, backed with technology from IBM Watson. Watson was given access to a database of more than 9,000 policies, and users are now able to buy and manage their policies through their mobile phones with Kate’s help.

Room for Growth

The emergence of these chatbots have undoubtedly elevated the customer experience, but these first-generation chatbots have also left room for growth. The majority of current chatbots are built for simple questions whose responses are guided by key words or sentences that a human still needs to continuously keep track of and update.

This gap leads to the next big leap in this technology: machine learning. 

<< Read our Machine Learning Innovation Challenge Recap! >>

This is a step that financial institutions are already striving to reach today through extensive R&D. One of these institutions is Wells Fargo, where their innovation department is looking to develop technology that would give artificial intelligence not only the ability to understand emotion, but to also layer it into conversation when dealing with customers.

All in all, it’s clear that chatbots are already making waves in insurance. However, it’s also clear that there is enormous opportunity that is still untapped. If leveraged correctly, these friends that you create can help your business save time, money, and effort.  This is why Cookhouse Lab is running a chatbot project soon! Stay tuned as we release full project details. 

Still hungry? Subscribe now and stay tuned for Part 2 of our Chatbot Series, which will feature a personal interview from BOTFriends, a chatbot start-up from Germany!

Become an industry thought leader. Don’t forget to share.