Chatbots: 3 modules of service improvement

Nowadays, many businesses tend to incorporate Chatbot components into their websites to improve customer service and leverage sales. You've obviously encountered the  icon inviting you to ask any question you might have regarding the website, an invitation actually referring the business's Chatbot service.

What is a Chatbot? A Chatbot is a computer application which simulates a human conversation via audio or textual commands.

How does the Chatbot operate? When audio commands are received, the bot converts the audio data into text using automatic speech recognition technology. The software then analyzes the textual input by retrieving central words and classifying and inspecting the phrases. Based on modules it is familiar with, it then considers the best response to this query. Finally, the Chatbot responds to the user via text, audio output or by performing the desired task.

There are three main categories of such tools:

  1. Business principles-based tools: this type of Chatbot's operate according to a predefined group of principles for each specific type of situation/dilemma. These tools try to foresee what the user might and accordingly define the tool's answers relying on these scripts. They make use of if-then logic and review the words that appear in the question, their order, the use of synonyms or mapping different ways to ask questions that can be answered by a similar response.

This main disadvantage of this type is that it is confined to a set of predefined rules and scenarios and cannot answer any question asked beyond this narrow scope. Furthermore, it cannot learn and draw conclusions based on previous conversations. This tool is practically a more interactive display of the familiar FAQs.

  1. AI-based tools: AI-based chatbots rely on two central elements: Machine Learning and Nature Language Processing (NLP). Machine Learning is comprised of different layers of data learning and analysis. Inspired by the human brain, each layer is comprised of a network artificial neurons of its own which interact with one another. Each connection is calculated according to previous learning patterns or previous events, and each input of data initiates another "learning" experience. The tool discovers new patterns in the data without using any previous knowledge, then retrieves the information and stores it in a template.

NLP is a branch of AI that assists computers in thinking, interpreting and analyzing human language. This branch allows computers to communicate with people in their language and evaluate misunderstood data related to language. For example, NLP enables computers to read a text, hear speech, interpret it, assess emotion and determine which parts of said text are most important. For more on the matter, click here.

AI-based Chatbots are usually more sophisticated, interactive and personally adapted than principle-based Chatbots. As their databases grow over time, they become more 'aware' of the content's context, leverage their understanding of natural language and implement their response patterns better to provide a personally adapted User Experience. Furthermore, they are able to answer questions beyond their area through context. These bots are an innovative solution that can handle multiple, simultaneous calls and thus improve the UX and in turn increase sales. For examples of AI-based chatbots, click here .

However, in order to attain a AI-based chatbot of even the most basic level requires large amounts of basic data and designated professionals in the field to perform the required adjustments. These all require many resources not every organization can afford.

  1. Hybrid tools: the hybrid tools attempts to bring out the best of both worlds and merge AI technology's abilities with the intellect and linguistics of a human representative. The representative can interfere occasionally, especially when a more human response is needed. Thus, by collecting questions that couldn't have been previously been answered by bots and exposing the bots to the appropriate human answers, can the organization expand the bots' base of knowledge.

This type has other advantages: the bot can channel the messages to a human representative only when the questions are of high importance or when they seem too complex for the bot to handle. They can also turn the call to the most relevant human representative according to the nature of their call. The bot can also notify the representative when the caller is about to give up on the call and allow the representative to get involved.

Chatbots' other advantages include their 24/7 availability, consistency of response, and their ability to withstand any overload. That said, one must remember that handling complex responses is still a task performed better by human representatives. Businesses should consider how their representatives can complete their customer service array.

According to a study by IBM, 80% of customers' regular questions and tasks can be handled by bots. The key to success is comprehending the customers' request and responding in a relevant and personally adapted manner. Therefore, when incorporating this tool into a business, it is vital to define the needs and objectives the tool is meant to support and adapt the tool to these purposes. once a tool is chosen, the most critical stage is the handling of the "knowledge" and information which are central components of the tool. Without a reliable base of knowledge and mapping the required templates, the machines won't be able to optimally expand, create or use the knowledge.

We are far from solving all of our problems, and you might still be wondering which type of bot is most preferable in your organization's current state. However, any organization managing calls, even if not yet ready to purchase any bot, should start learning, following and becoming familiar with this technology. It is a matter of time till it becomes a widespread phenomenon.

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Client Portal

Quick and consistent communication with clients is the key to successful management of any organization. In our day and age, in which clients are accustomed to internet information and service consumption via their computer or mobile device, a client portal is a critical tool. It grants simple, comfortable and quick access to organizational information and services.

So, what is a client portal? And what does it have to do with Knowledge Management?


The term 'portal' usually relates to a mechanism through which an organization shares information with its clients. The organization provides secure access, via an internet website, that allows its clients to access an area where they can display, download and upload information that is exchanged encrypted. The clients usually do not pay for using the client portal, and they are also exempt of complex installations. All that a client needs are an email address and access to the internet. Clients receive a password and can access the portal at any time. Furthermore, any time a document or piece of data is altered, clients are notified.


Client portals are highly useful for secure exchange of data (financial, legal, engineering, etc.) This type of portals secures the information exchange according to data privacy laws. These portals enable the users to manage the information virtually in order to enhance the efficiency of client-organization community.


Further advantages of a client portal include:

  • The ability to handle large files only rare with size-limits
  • Independent access to private file databases
  • Time-saving file retrieval methods

These advantages lead to a more efficient work environment for client-organization relations.


A screenshot displaying document management in the PortalsXpress portal (source: Wikipedia).



Examples of Client portals:

Client portals allow organizations to share knowledge with clients on several levels. The basic level involves updating clients by providing them with personal information or information which is not available to the general public. For example, a self-service troubleshooting database, which clients can use at any time and place. On a more advanced level, sharing can be attained via a forum of clients that consult each other and regarding proper use and application of products. The client portal can serve as the basis for organizations to share and discuss with clients. This is organizations' opportunity to the exchange of ideas and mutual learning.

We all hold certain knowledge. And we probably can all benefit greatly from learning from our clients. Worth trying.


For further reading:

The organizational portal: The next generation



Wikipedia: Client Portals




Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is a dynamic supply for IT abilities (hardware, software and services) by a third party, using a communication network. Cloud computing is a computing module in which all servers, networks, applications and other components related to data centers become available to the user via the internet in a manner that allows purchasing only the required type and amount of computing services. The cloud module differs from traditional resourcing methods by the fact that clients don't hand their IT resources over to someone else to manage and instead connect to a "cloud" of infrastructure services, platform services (operation system) or software services (such as SAAS applications) and regard the cloud in a manner similar to an internal data center or computer which provides the same functions.


In a previous article regarding cognitive conserving it was explained that using it our brain is "lazy" and tends to search for familiar patterns in new stimulations in order for the brain to be able to apply them to the stimulation and not need to learn them from scratch. It was emphasized that by using Knowledge Management methods we are able to utilize this tendency for our advantage and improve orientation in portals, knowledge systems and contents.

In this term, we would like to present the other side of this matter, which is the term "need for cognition". The need for cognition is a tendency some us have (not all of us) to search and think intensely. What is the difference between most of us and people who show this tendency?

  • While some of us tend to avoid activities that require much thinking, those who have a high need for cognition show a high inner motivation for thinking.
  • While most of us prefer visual hints and references, those with a high need for cognition prefer media rich with information and prefer to process information verbally rather than visually.
  • A research in New Zealand shows that people with a high need for cognition rated products/websites highly attractive when the products featured high verbal complexity and low visual complexity. This in contrast to those with a medium/low need for cognition that preferred websites with high visual complexity and low verbal complexity.
  • Who are the people with a high need for cognition? Contrary to what we might initially think, a high need for cognition is not shared exclusively by geniuses or gifted people. This is a trait that can be found in any one of us in different levels and can change regarding different interests in one person (a high in a field one is interested in and a low need in a field one finds boring). Nevertheless, if we make the mistake of generalizing we might say that this trait is dominant mainly around engineers and people dealing with research and development as well as people with high technical abilities (such as mechanics).
  • How is this information useful? A known phrase from the world of theatre states: "know your audience".
  • A portal/community/website's design can have a substantial affect on its users' opinion. When designing the site for potential users, we must take into consideration an additional factor: the users' need for cognition. For a user population characterized by a high need for cognition (for example, analysts), verbal presentation is more preferable than complex visual presentation. A use of characteristics which are supposed to be attractive, such as banners, Pop Ups or animation can disturb our users' natural processing and we therefore need to channel the website-building resources towards a verbal text.
  • On the other hand, if most of our users have a low need for cognition (for example, people who work under pressure and a tight schedule), it is recommended that the portal include visual references and less text).
  • In any case, it is important to remember that design is not just for decoration.
  • When characterizing and constructing a Knowledge Management solution, we must always think "through the users' eyes" and remember that although some designs and applications can be perceived by website builders and computer personnel as attractive, innovative and groundbreaking they are not always the best response to the users' needs.
Communities of practice

Communities are a Knowledge Management solution which is established between the knowledge holders, people with a shared field of interest/business. The community can support an organic group in the organization which operates as a unit in the formal organizational structure, or support a relationship based on a matrix structure or any structure of the shadow organization (organizations which represent the virtual relationships between people's activities). An optimal KM solution for a community of practice includes a frontal component (i.e. personal meetings) and virtual component (computerized community). Combining them creates a synergy in which the whole is greater than the simple sum of its parts.

Concept Maps

Concept maps are a visual manner to present different knowledge structures. The precise definitions change according to the discipline in which the conceptual map is actualized.

In mathematics, Berg (in 1958) has defined these maps as a collection of junctions connected by arches which represent graphs. Each junction has a classification, identifier and content. In the world of communication and discourse, the conceptual map represents a method for presenting and transmitting knowledge (Chang, Ichikawa & Ligomondis, 1986).

Either way, there are multiple applications: Knowledge Maps (when mapping knowledge centers), Semantic networks (when dealing with Artificial intelligence), Ontology Maps (when analyzing a defined taxonomy and relations among the terms), Bond graphs (when engineering machines and electronics), CPM graphs, PERT networks, and many more.


A concept is the literal form of our perception of reality. A concept is a definition of a number of elements collectively, through the scope of a contextualized, describable common denominator.

Conceptualization is the process in which we name or express in words a concept. By naming an idea, phenomenon and definition transform the idea into something tangible; into a reality. Conceptualization can be both the process and the product. The conceptualization process allows us to merge the theoretical knowledge and the practical knowledge into a new form of knowledge.

In music, conceptualization is performed directly. Composers transform their internal, tacit understanding of an assortment of sounds and notes into something explicit and overt: a tune. Similarly, a dance is a conceptualization through its steps and moves.


A conceptualization can change our perspective. For example, the concept of "gravity" may not change the way we are drawn to the earth, yet it definitely affects our perspective, understanding, and possibly our focus, on certain aspects of gravity.


In the field of Knowledge Management, two main areas involve conceptualization:

  1. Knowledge Extraction: transforming tacit knowledge into explicit, expressible knowledge.
  2. Clarification: of a known term, giving it a certain meaning.

When we wish to describe a certain notion, we use conceptualization.

We can use other means to conceptualize an idea. An idea can be conceptualized graphically, using pictures, infographics, videos, flowcharts, etc. These can be attractive means for effectively illustrating the concept.


Hereby is an example, excerpted from 'Presentation Zen Design' by Garr Reynolds (2009). This picture bluntly illustrates the meaning and emphasizes the message of a drop in sales. It is far more effective than any graph.



In conclusion, conceptualization allows us to describe and illustrate a certain meaning clearly and precisely.





Communities of Practice http://www.kmrom.com/Site/Articles/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleID=1005



Conversational UI

We usually associate Conversational UI to a system's visual and graphic aspects. While this is true, there are other properties which can improve user experience. Conversational UI is a user interface which simulates a conversation with an actual person. Instead of clicking on menus and icons or typing a keyword in a search engine, users can express themselves freely in order to find the required data. This can be done either by "chatting" with the virtual representative (or "chatbot"), engaging in an oral conversation with virtual help such as Siri, or even sending an IM to the business via designated app.

This way, the system studies the user instead of the other way around. By using complex algorithms and AI systems, conversational UI translates the information (whether transmitted orally or textually) into data items or commands stated by the system.

An increasing number of organizations, from Google and Facebook to your local vender, understand the potential of Conversational UI, whether in its simpler Chatbot form which includes only some basic scenarios or in its AI-based form which is more complex and elaborate. The more advanced versions identify audio/text commands and relates to additional properties such as user location in order to present an answer adapted to his/her needs (e.g. Google voice-search).

Conversational UI provides businesses an innovative way to communicate with their customers. If I can text my spouse "please turn on the boiler", why shouldn't I be able to text the café "2 espressos, please"? This was indeed done by Starbucks: the Starbucks application enables customers to order via text or voice message. The customers receive a message when their orders are ready so that waiting lines are spared.

Nevertheless, in regards to business aspects the western world is years behind. In China, an application titled WeChat which began as an IM app enables users to perform numerous activities via text or voice messages including hailing a cab, purchasing clothing, making appointments and paying bills. 10 million businesses offer their services via this app to 870 million Chinese users.

Conversational UI offers a substantial improvement to UX and data accessibility and in turn can contribute to customer service and sales. It is not unreasonable to assume that this tool will be developed (in conjunction with the development of the field of AI) and utilized in other fields. We may possibly be able to use it in organizations in order to provide our workers a friendly User Experience.
Let's talk about it.


Corporate Amnesia

A loss of collective experience derived from tacit knowledge and accumulated skills, usually due to mass discharges and substantial reorganization.

Corporate Instinct

The company's collective "sixth sense" enables the organization to immediately respond to the opportunities offered by the market, the client's needs and competitive maneuvers. This collective instinct is usually based on tacit knowledge and the organization's intelligence personnel that accumulated it.

Customer Intelligence

The term Customer Intelligence refers to the process of collecting and analyzing information regarding customers, both personal details and the actions they perform so that not only will the client be heard but also understood. This process is performed in order to improve the strategic decisions decided in different departments of the company (sales, marketing, logistics, product development etc) and in order to create optimal relationships with customers and in turn create further business opportunities.

Customer Intelligence is an important component in managing client relationships, and when it is implemented effectively it can serve as a rich source of insights on the behavior and activities of the company's clients. For example, clients that leave the store without purchasing an item do not appear in the company's traditional CRM systems, yet the company is still interested in knowing why did these clients leave the store without buying anything. This information can be retrieved by sending a questionnaire to the shops' salespeople and if possible by checking with these clients. This way, the company can get more insights regarding the clients' behavior when interacting with the company.

The Client Intelligence collection process

Client Intelligence is based on basic factual information about the client. For example, the geographical area he/she lives in. this information is added to the existing information on the activities performed by the client stored in the CRM systems (for example, which purchases were made, which requests were made to customer service and through which communication channels did the client make this request). Furthermore, the company can also use the competitive information about their competitors as well as the information collected through mystery shoppers in order to get a perspective on how the service/products they provide are viewed in the market.

Customer Intelligence analyzes customer segmentation, cross-selling data, cost of customer treatment, information on customer satisfaction, clients' credit point analysis, market analysis and more. When performing these analyses on the received information in the right context regarding the competitors, the status of the market and general trends-it is possible to identify trends regarding clients' future and current needs, receive information about their decision making process and make assumptions regarding their future behavior.

Examples of information sources for collecting information on clients

Conversation analysis- monitoring telephone conversations between the company and the customer through phonetic or textual analysis in order to find words or expressions that enable classifying types of conversations and identifying trends.

Analyzing clicks in company websites- monitoring activities in company websites, this information can provide clues regarding products that interest clients and their purchasing aspirations.

CRM systems use software tools that assist in managing client relationships and store information on type of clients and reason of request.

Textual analysis of satisfaction surveys uses a textual analysis tool that will assist in understanding the client's needs and the gaps between them and the current situation.

Analyzing the effect mailing to clients on the company's sales performance uses an analysis tool for checking the affect of sales activities on the company's sales.

The advantage of using Customer Intelligence

Using costumer intelligence assists in processes related to many departments in the organization, such as: sales, marketing logistics and product development and enables better matching of sales to customers' needs, if needed, changing treatment processes and interfaces with the clients and enables to:

  1. To efficiently adjust the right messages to the right target audience and thus improve the exposure to the target audiences.
  2. Expose business opportunities suitable for the clients' needs while developing an answer to these needs in order to improve the company's profitability.
  3. Evaluating competition that might affect the buyers' decisions.
  4. Identify the centers of influence and the buyers' decision makers.
  5. Improve collecting processes- through identifying problematic customers.
  6. Improve the service provided to customers- by treating customers' reason of request and improving the cost of service-improving processes.

 In conclusion, Customer Intelligence is one of the central business analysis implementations which provides the company with a competitive edge by combining information related to customer relationships and BI analyses. It enables a better understanding of experiences with customers when interacting with the company and allows the company to review the reasons for customers' behavior. This knowledge can assist in enhancing effectiveness of strategic decisions made in the company and ultimately retain customers in the best possible way as well as recruit more faithful customers.

Customization and Personalization

When referring to a portal, we use the professional terms 'customization' and 'personalization'. What does this pair of terms refer to and why is it so vital in the portal context? Unfortunately, there are a number of contradictory interpretations to this couple. What we will hereby define here as customization is defined by some (yet few) software suppliers as personalization. Nevertheless, there is no reason to remain confused. Understanding the essence of these terms well ease utilizing them wisely as well as easily realize you've simply encountered who has decided to use the opposite interpretation prior to the age of standardization.

Customization- adapting the portal by the organization according to the needs of its subgroups. This adaption is created through authorization and investing resources in unique sub-portals and/or by constructs pages adapted for the group's use in the manner the content is edited. The main point is that the adaption/adjustment is performed by the big brother organization.

Personalization- adapting the portal by the individual to his/her needs. This level is built on top of the customization level according to the authorizations provided and pages constructed for the group during the previous phase and which now allow the individual to:

  • Provide a personal touch.
  • Refine the portal to suit his/her needs.

If the customization is done properly, the required level of personalization will be low. Why are these abilities so important?

Because they serve as the basis for the portal adjusted in aspects of both structure and content to the needs of each functionary and individual in the organization.

In other words, personal adjustment and collective adjustment are the basis for an effective portal.