Our biggest lessons so far

Stories from our employees on what they’ve learned

Even though chatbots have existed for many years, the industry itself is relatively new. The big advantage of an up-and-coming industry, is the excitement and potential surrounding something that’s new and innovative. The downside is all the bad products or experiences that users have to go through to get to something that actually works the way it’s supposed to. And this can be a problem.

So, instead of just focusing on teaching our customers how to use our software to make great chatbots, we also have to spend time debunking ridiculous myths (most chatbots won’t turn into raging racists) and explain why an article talking about how horrible ALL chatbots are isn’t to be trusted when the journalist come to this conclusion after testing two chatbots (we promise, there are more than two chatbots worth testing).

But the industry itself is mostly to blame for this. Somewhere along the way “this chatbot works excellent” was replaced by “this chatbot sort of works”, and the end users paid for that by being flooded with thousands of sub-par chatbots that rarely do what they’re supposed to do.

Instead of giving you another article about how great chatbots are (we do really believe they can be great), I decided to give you some insight into what people in the chatbot industry thinks by writing about our biggest lessons so far. As a company that began its chatbot journey in 2016, we’ve already had our share of experiences, and I think it’s important to tell our stories of what we’ve learned. So instead of one person speaking on behalf of the entire company, I asked some of my colleagues about their experiences. Here’s what they had to say.

Me: “Hi, guys! Thanks for doing this. I’m really excited to hear your thoughts on chatbots and the industry in general, so let’s begin. First, what has surprised you the most about working with chatbots?”

Anette: “For me, it’s how different each project is. Most people think that building a chatbot is the same every time, but it really isn’t. Each customer has their own ideas and preferences, so even though the content might seem similar, they always end up being quite different.”

Nikolai: “I’m often surprised by how high expectations are when it comes to what a chatbot built on AI can achieve, and how much customers expect to get without having to pay for it. Which is a lot.”

Øyvind: “I’m surprised by how much I’ve worked with people. One might think that the chatbot field can be a little impersonal with very few interpersonal relationships. Through projects, meetings and customer activities I have met a lot of talented and interesting people. Perhaps I envisioned a day-to-day routine where I exclusively worked with the production and testing of data, but the reality is that interaction between people is the key to making good chatbots!”

Me: “Great! And what has changed the most compared to when you started?”

Hans Joakim: “Everything is developing at a furious pace. Updates and improvements come almost daily, so we always have to adapt to new changes. Personally, I have become more confident in the job I do and learned a lot about technology and areas that I couldn’t relate to much before.”

Me: “Awesome! How about you John Antonio?”

John Antonio: “We are now starting to see more advanced chatbots using natural language processing, and this provides better user experiences. The providers of chatbot solutions have also become better at building better UX experiences with the customers, which is also due to the fact that more customers understand that one has to allocate enough funds for such projects.”

Me: “And that’s definitely helpful! How about some tough lessons? Have there been any along the way?”

Jørgen: “Sometimes you create something that doesn’t work the way you expected it too, so you have to start over after some constructive feedback.”

Anette: “A tough lesson I experienced early on is leaving a project and feeling like the customer hasn’t really understood what we’ve tried teaching them. I took it quite personally and felt like I hadn’t done a sufficient job during the weeks I had been with them.”

Me: “I can definitely relate to that.”

Anette: “Right? It is generally difficult to walk away from a project at times because you get really invested in the chatbots you create with your customers and you want them to do well!”

Helle: “Occasionally, when you’ve worked with a chatbot for a long time and you discover structural errors that affect the chatbot’s performance, it can be quite frustrating. Then you have to go back and start sorting out everything, which is less than fun.”

Maja: “For me, entering a project that’s well underway and trying to make sense of everything that’s been done, can be challenging. You have to familiarise yourself with the chatbot content in a very short time and then come up with suggestions for improvements to make the chatbot better. I have also experienced that some customers are negative from the beginning, and it can be challenging to constantly have to convince them that the project is a good idea.”

Me: “I can see why that would be frustrating. So let’s go to a happier place! What has been your most rewarding experience?”

John Antonio: “Watching our software grow to become even better, at such a fast pace as we have seen. It’s like having a baby that grows, where the differences from day to day are limited, but from year to year is almost incomprehensible. It is also really rewarding to see how our team is becoming increasingly intertwined.”

Helle: “I think first and foremost that the work with chatbots has taught me more about technology and conversational design, and that has been very rewarding. I, who had a slightly ambivalent view of automation and saw ‘robots’ more as beings in the movies, have gotten a whole new view of technology! I have learned a lot about the positive aspects of the industry, and have seen the value of chatbots. In addition, I work with a group of very knowledgeable people that I learn from every day!”

Øyvind: “Doing preliminary work with customers has been a very rewarding lesson for me. By familiarising myself with the everyday lives of employees who work in the companies that buy chatbots from us, I get a much deeper understanding of how they work and think. This means that we create a far better product that to a far greater extent reflects the company and meets the needs and wishes of both employees and the company’s customers. It is rewarding because we end up caring about the customer, and at the same time, they get really invested in the process and their chatbot. Much more than if we just showed up and delivered what we thought they needed.”

Me: “Is there something you would do differently today?”

Anette: “Yes, in the example of where I felt that the customer did not learn everything, I should probably have been a bit ‘stricter’. We want the customer to have a positive experience, but it is easy to let things slip a little. It’s often difficult to say no to customers who have lots of ideas, but it is, after all, we who know best how our product works, so I would probably have guided them a bit differently today than I did then.”

Jørgen: “I’ve learned to not start on a big project before I know what I have to do, and what I need to accomplish at the end of it.”

Øyvind: “Focus groups are awesome, but the very first we hosted was not particularly successful. The testers were not in the right target group, they didn’t get enough instructions and we set aside too much time so that the testers became tired and unsure, and this naturally influenced the quality of incoming test data. Fortunately, we learned a lot from this, so all focus groups are now shorter, with a more relevant selection of testers and with clearer instructions based on use cases.”

Me: “That’s great Øyvind! Seems like you learned a lot. So, for the last question, what is most challenging about your job?”

John Antonio: “Being available enough to people in the company while balancing strategy work, recruitment, board work, customer work, and networking. One must prioritise quite brutally.”

Maja: “I really like that the job is varied, but it can sometimes be challenging not to know exactly what to expect when you start a project with a new customer. One must be well prepared, but also aware that unexpected things can happen. There are often demanding questions, and one must be ‘on’ at all times.”

Nikolai: “To be patient during the processes. Implementing chatbots is a decision that requires much more from a company than we would have imagined. Marketing, customer service, management and IT are often involved in the process — which prolongs the process a lot. There are many factors that are out of our control.”

Helle: “A work of constant change! Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it requires constantly evaluating working methods, discussing new paths to go, and having to adjust. The way you did something 3 months ago is not necessarily the best way to do something now. But I see this as a good type of challenge!”

Me: “It’s definitely a fast-paced challenge! Thanks to you all for participating and giving everyone a glimpse into your experiences and lessons.”

Thank you to:

Anette Marie Berge, UX Writer

Øyvind Steinkopf Sund, Operations Manager

Hans Joakim Lien, UX Writer

Helle Lindheim Stavsholt, UX Writer

Jørgen Fulsebakk, Developer

Nikolai André Toverud, Business Developer

Maja Olsen, UX Writer

John Antonio Nilsen, CEO