If you have been following Inland Design work, you might know that in 2017, together with Suse Miessner, we have codesigned the customer service chatbot personality for the Finnish Inmigration Service. Here is an article about that work.
When we started to work in the Ministry of the Interior, our team, Pia Laulainen and me, conducted several presentations of our previous work in the different departments. We explained what is service design and gave ideas on how our colleagues in the ministry could collaborate with us. In these presentations we also showed the development of the customer service chatbot.
In the Ministry of the Interiors, the HR staff is developing a virtual assistant, or chatbot, called Heebo. The aim of this chatbot is to assist with Human resources and TUVE (our security network) related questions. The development team asked us to develop the personality of the chatbot.
Why is it important that a virtual assistant has its own personality?
A virtual assistant should have its own personality because there are many different people who write the content and it is important that there is consistency not only in the substance of the answers but in the way that the chatbot answers. As much as we can, we should make the chatbot “feel” to the person making the inquiry that it is always the same entity responding.
Another reason is because it is important that the ministry employees who consult Heebo, trust it. If people who consult Heebo about something, then ask for verification by the HR team then obviously we have a problem. The style and voice in which Heebo responds reinforce this trust or the lack of it. Heebo is there to answer easy enough questions so our HR staff has more time to respond to the difficult and complex ones.
How have we developed Heebo’s personality?
We had a variety of participatory activities and through them we engaged the SM staff in developing Heebo’s personality with us. We believe that if future users get involved in the development process itself, then we can make sure the chatbot will meet people’s expectations and they will consult it more often. And if people consult it more often, then the chatbot learns (machine learning) how to better answer questions.
Our participatory activities with the staff were:
- A workshop during one Tuesday’s breakfast. In the ministry, whoever wants may organize a breakfast meal. These often have themes and people present their own work or invite external experts to present theirs. Together with the HR team, we organized one thematic breakfast that consisted of a presentation and a workshop. The HR team presented the current development of the chatbot and the future steps. Afterwards, we did the workshop. Participants at the breakfast told us what were their experiences with Heebo when they had last asked it something, and what was the issue. In that workshop, participants decided on how Heebo should respond to them.
- A poster campaign. All staff have been able to vote and participate in the development of Heebo’s personality through posters. Posters were hanging for a week in front of the elevator on the 5th and 4th floors.
In the following visualization it is possible to see the results of the workshop and the poster campaign.
3. Another workshop only with the Heebo development team. We presented to the team the results of the poster campaign and discuss in a variety of creative ways how Heebo’s character should look like.
4. Based on the results of the workshop Pia drew 5 different versions of Heebo’s character. We invited Heebo’s development team and a few members of our department to vote for the best character. In the picture you can see the winning option.
Heebo development continues, but the personality work is concluded.