Tuesday Bot Teardown: Growbot

The core intention behind Growbot is to allow the people on your team to share appreciations with each other, supporting each other to do their best work. It’s a light-weight, easy to use bot that’s been funded by some of the best investors in the space.

“We all work harder when we know our work is meaningful.” — Growbot Co-Founder Joseph Estrada

To understand Growbot’s success to-date, we looked at the main interactions of the product, where it sits competitively, how the product acquires new users, and the technical stack that Growbot is built on.

About Growbot

A team admin can invite Growbot to any channel(s). Growbot listens for and encourages praise (looking for keywords ‘props’, ‘kudos’, etc), and keeps a running tally while also giving shoutouts (complete with fun reactions and emojis) when a user in the channel receives props from another user. The bot also delivers a weekly props summary, highlighting the person with the most props as well as the one prop that was most popular.

Our goal is to build a product that strengthens the habit of appreciation. The more you do it, the better you get at it. The happier you are, the harder you work. —Growbot Co-Founder Joseph Estrada

Onboarding

Discovery

Currently, you can find Growbot in the Slack App Directory. You can also get the bot directly via the ‘Add to Slack’ button on the company’s website, at growbot.io. The Growbot team has been putting together some great content marketing pieces too in their Medium publication, including this one that was featured on the Slack Platform Blog.

First experience

Once growbot has been added to a Slack team, the admin that added the bot receives a DM to add Growbot to a channel. The instructions are clear and to-the-point:

To make sure Growbot puts their best foot forward as they’re meeting teammates for the first time, Growbot first pings the admin directly to ask if an introduction is needed, or if the admin themselves will update the team on how and why to use the new bot:

After inviting Growbot to a particular channel and indicating ‘Yes, please introduce yourself!’, Growbot says hello and politely asks anyone in the channel if they’d like more information on how to learn more about using the bot. The use of emoji to express interest is pretty great 👌

Instead of filling the screen of that channel with added information that’s not needed, this one-to-one approach shuttles the ‘how-to’ information — if it’s requested at all — directly to a DM only to the person who requested more info:

Again, the instructions are clear and only list what’s needed to start interacting with Growbot. There are links to other content, but the goal here seems to be focused on ensuring that a person can achieve one successful interaction with the product, not understand the complete feature set immediately.

There was very little friction in adding the bot to Slack, and the onboarding process was super smooth.

😂

Bot UI: Language / Tone / Style

Core interactions

Growbot is very friendly and encouraging. To invoke the bot, a user types the words ‘props’, ‘cheers’, or ‘kudos’, followed by an @ mention of the user they’re crediting, followed by an explanation of what they’re giving praise for.

Growbot automatically adds encouraging reactions (in the 2 examples above, applause and an earth emoji) when it’s invoked, and responds with an equally encouraging phrase. The person receiving the props is listed, along with a tally of how many props they’ve received to-date.

The reactions from Growbot were great — they were encouraging! Seeing positive messages acknowledging your hard work directly from a teammate is great, but the added fun from Growbot gave an extra dopamine shot to the person receiving the encouragement.

Growbot is very quick to respond — which, in this case, makes sense. There’s no real thinking that the bot needs to do, and so there’s no need to introduce a false sense of timing around ‘the bot is thinking right now’, as some bots working on more complex problems often insert to imbue their bot with a sense of ‘it’s actually doing work’ to users.

It seems like, over time and with more data, there’s a potential opportunity for Growbot’s responses to become more contextual based on the input. For example, this piece of encouragement was 100% unrelated to ice cream:

…but pulling the word ‘diagram’ from the win that was shared could suggest an ‘ 📈 Up and to the right!’ type of response, making it feel a bit more in-tune with the people and the work they’re doing.

Language

The phrases and language used by Growbot are fairly constrained, focusing just on simple replies to the encouraging phrases it’s listening for. There are lots of emoji used in-line in responses, in the weekly updates, and the reaction emoji are always cute and tie to the messaging in the response itself.

Another thing that we noticed was that Growbot is very concise, which was greatly appreciated. There were never any points where we were confronted with a confusing wall of text, or felt that the cognitive friction around how to use Growbot was overwhelming.

Web experience

All of the encouraging reactions that Growbot responds with are also hyperlinks, leading to a web dashboard showing a summary of encouragements received across the team:

Errors and unanswered messages

Some commands that we expected to work didn’t yield any response from Growbot, such as @ mentioning Growbot directly:

Similarly, a forgotten @ mention and Growbot doesn’t offer any advice or suggestions on what might be wrong with your attempt at encouraging your teammate:

Getting help

A simple ‘help’ message in a DM to Growbot pulls up exactly the type of information you’d be looking for if you had questions about how to use the bot:

One interesting feature of Growbot is the ‘operator’ command. While in a DM with Growbot, if you’re still confused and need extra help, the typing operator will ping a real person from Growbot to join the chat and help understand your problem. It’s very consistent with the mode of interaction, keeping all of the communication between the user and the bot/company in one place.

Sharing a summary of activity

Every Friday at 10am, the channels where Growbot lives receive a summary of all of the encouraging wins shared by teammates that week. There’s a text summary of the total number of props received, and the most popular win is highlighted and displayed. The most popular reactions to the various props are also highlighted:

There was one other push that I received so far in using Growbot, which was a summary of the past 24h and props I’d given over that span of time:

Growth

Growbot is very polite when it comes to interacting with other members on your team. It asks for permission before introducing itself, and then further does a quick intro and suggests getting more information about how to use the bot — but only if you really want to! There are no obnoxious asks to ping everyone on your team, nor are there any mentions of spreading Growbot across as many channels as possible. The weekly and 24h summary and messages are the only push messages that Growbot creates and delivers independently, unprompted by any user action.

The Growbot team is focused on building a delightful experience for end users, not targeting and selling to HR departments — which is the strategy many of their competitors are using. It seems to be working!

Technical

Growbot is a fairly simple bot atm. It’s very firm in what it will respond to, and doesn’t try to step in where it’s unneeded or where it doesn’t have the context to complete actions that are outside of the stated domain. It appears that the language tools are fairly simple, or at least the design of the bot means that complex NLP/NLU or AI are not needed.

The paid tier of the product allows teams to customize appreciation words beyond the standard kudos/props/cheers options. Paid accounts also get API access. According a recent job posting (they are hiring!), the team runs node.js, Redis, and PostgreSQL on AWS.

Final thoughts

We really like using Growbot, it’s one of the best bots that we’ve tried. Using it on our team of two is fun, and it almost gives us an excuse to be more congratulatory than usual. We can recognize small wins with an easy light-weigh action that might otherwise seem out of place, and therefore not happen at all. If something is fun, more people are willing to do it. And if that fun thing makes for happier employees… then it’s a win-win situation for both employees and their company. Other companies really like it too — Breather wrote an entire post about how Growbot helps solidify their open, friendly company culture.

The difference between the Free and Paid product makes a lot of sense from a user perspective and feels fair. You get access to additional features if you pay (i.e. custom ‘props’ terms, a dashboard for managers), but can still use a full-fledged, high-quality product without paying.

We did notice that our use of the ‘props’ terms dropped over time, and there’s some potential for Growbot to have some loops to remind us that the feature exists — perhaps drawing on data around previous frequency of props given, the relationships that are more actively giving props than others, etc. As previously mentioned, the ability to have contextual messages could also make the product a bit more fun… but that’s not an area where it’s currently lacking. It seems like the Growbot team will do a stellar job getting that balance right, as they’re so polite with their existing ways of integrating Growbot into various channels and teams in an unobtrusive way.

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