How can Chatbots help during global pandemic (COVID-19)?

Conversational AI

Source[1][2]

As COVID-19 has spread globally and as we are practicing social distancing to “flatten the curve”, it is technologies like Chatbots that are coming to rescue! Because now more than ever we need to stay closer and connected to our families, to our nearest grocery shop, takeout joint and to the information from the local governments.

Chatbots can help during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Demo of Verily Pathfinder Virtual Agent

Here are some fields where chatbots are making a difference!

1. Governments and Healthcare organization

Why? Chatbots are perfect for when users are appearing on government website for location based information or generic COVID-19 related information. Specially since they cannot wait to talk to real person, this information is crucial to be received right away 24/7. They are asking questions like:

  • What is the number cases in a specific area
  • What is the lockdown situation
  • How long in the shelter-in-place order
  • Where can I get a test done?
  • What are the symptoms
  • How does the virus spread?
  • When do I need to call 9–1–1?

How? World Health Organization (WHO) is one of the most authoritative and trusted source of information on the pandemic, and there are country specific authoritative sources such as Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in United States. These sources have tons of answers to the frequently asked questions about the virus. Healthcare businesses can utilize the information from these trusted sources to create chatbots, voicebots and even messenger bots for their custom needs.

2. Mental and Financial wellbeing

Why? We are all in a state where we need support systems around us. These support systems can range from financial consulting to mental health counseling. Now more than ever is the need to stay healthy, keep our immune systems strong and ready to fight! People are turning to fitness, meditation, healthy eating habits etc to stay positive.

How? If you are a provider of such applications, the customers would like a personal touch and access to this information on their tips. They are turning to these apps to get more information about the best meal plan or the best workout routine that they can practice at home etc. You can offer answers to these question via chatbots throughout the day so they can have access to the information they need to deal with changing emotions due to the pandemic.

3. Restaurants

Why? Most of the restaurants are converted to takeouts. Their menus have also changed. Hours of operations might be affected. Letting people know about these changes is important so they are informed. Some restaurants are also small business with only a few members on staff, it is challenging to keep up with the incoming calls while getting the orders ready.

How? Restaurants could create a simple chatbot with all the basic information about any change in hours, menu etc. Direct the callers or website users to the automated voice or chatbot to answer the questions and connect them to a real person when needed!

4. Retail

Why? Most retailers are changing hours of operations or offering limited or no shipping due to closures. They are changing return policies due to the pandemic and many other things! All this is information that is important to the users.

How? Chatbots can be created to answer all these FAQs from the customers so they have the information when they need it. And as things change, the chatbot can be quickly updated to reflect the new information.

5. Volunteering

Why? More and more people want to get involved and help! To gain more support it is critical to making “How to get involved” information accessible quickly and easily.

How? Create a simple chatbot that can answer the main question — how do I get engaged? If there are multiple ways to get engaged, ask them for preferred way and provide personalized information accordingly.

Resources to build a chatbot quickly!

Dialogflow — An end-to-end, build-once deploy-everywhere development suite for creating conversational interfaces for websites, mobile applications, popular messaging platforms, and IoT devices. You can use it to build interfaces (such as chatbots and conversational IVR) that enable natural and rich interactions between your users and your business.

Key Features that help with launching you chatbot quickly?

  • Build ones and enable it for web, mobile, messengers and phone channels.
  • Supports 23 different languages out of the box.
  • Connecting to backends is easy using REST APIs.
  • It allows for serverless launch, so you don’t have to worry about servers and traffic. All you need to do is to decide the functionality of you conversational experience!

Rapidly build and deploy a chatbot using Dialogflow templates

How to build a Rapid Response Virtual Agent using Dialogflow Template

Dialogflow agent is similar to a human call center agent, it is virtual and available 24/7. You train both of them to handle expected scenarios, in this case the COIVD-19 related scenarios. The Rapid Response Virtual Agent template is open source and it comes with pertained model. It enables you to create chat or voicebots that answers questions about COVID-19 symptoms and provide the latest guidance from public health authorities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization (WHO).

The video above walks you through how to set up your own Rapid Response Virtual Agent using the template in minutes. Open source code can be found in this Github repository!

Enjoy! and share what you are cooking up with the template.

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A collection of technical articles and blogs published or curated by Google Cloud Developer Advocates. The views expressed are those of the authors and don't necessarily reflect those of Google.

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Priyanka Vergadia

Priyanka Vergadia

Developer Advocate @Google, Artist & Traveler! Twitter @pvergadia

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