We speak to Citizens Advice on some of the insights they've had around planning, building, and maintaining bots on Workplace

Pandora Longstreth, Workplace Engagement Officer at Citizens Advice (a.k.a. Expert Workplace bot builder), has had her eyes on bots for a few years now.

As a large organization of 30,000 office and frontline workers, Pandora needed to give more time back to her staff so they could focus on supporting their communities.

Before implementing a Workplace communication bot, team connectivity and accessibility to information was fractured. Old-school communications tactics and disconnected staff across locations were creating roadblocks in day-to-day operations.

Since implementing bots on Workplace, Pandora and the Citizen Advice team have seen changes in their company culture through a more connected staff and an open communication pipeline between teams.

We spoke to Pandora and got her top ten tips to consider before you start building bots on Workplace by Facebook.

01. Keep it simple and solve one problem at a time.

Anyone can fall into the black hole of bots being able to do everything and anything. Think about bots in terms of “quality over quantity.” It’s better to have a bot that performs one task really well than a bot that performs 10 tasks poorly.

Pick one problem that can be solved through automated content delivery, and focus on building the best bot possible for that specific use case.

02. It’s important to have a designated “team.”

One thing Pandora has identified as an essential step in the bot building process is knowing who you need in the room and when.

There are many different ways to plan and build a bot, and it’s important to find which way works best for your organization. Some companies have one designated “bot builder” while others have strategically built their design team.

For Citizens Advice, throughout their planning process, they had a range of skills on board like a content designer, a UX designer, a team leader, and a Workplace admin.

When building your first bot, consider the team of people you need who will work together to create a solution that brings value back into the entire business. For some, it may be that your Workplace Engagement Officer, HR Generalist, or Digital Communications Supervisor can handle the task alone. For larger organizations, you may need a designated team of experts.

Identify the issue you plan to solve, who it will be helpful for, and the group of people you need to make it happen.

03. Always test. Test some more. Then test again.

Always test your bots before showing them to major stakeholders.

People often make the mistake of wanting a bot to answer every question when they simply do not work that way. As we’ve mentioned before, bots should be viewed as a form of Workplace automation software instead of a one-size-fits-all solution.

Bots for Citizens Advice were made for process and content delivery automation instead of trying to have a bot that knows the answer to every single possible staff inquiry. This creates a more user-friendly experience and provides the bot with a designated purpose.

By testing the initial bot design with a small group of staff, Pandora and her team were able to gather feedback and optimize the experience before launching fully to the entire organization.

04. For first time bot-builders, it’s easy for your bot to be pushed onto the back-burner. Give yourself a deadline to stick to.

Things get done when you give them a deadline.

When you’re first starting out with bots, they aren’t always the main priority in your day to day work. Moreso, it’s only once the bot is live and being used that you see the huge benefits they can have. Giving yourself a tight deadline is important to encourage yourself and your team to complete the task of building and launching the bot.

The end result is a more productive team, happy managers, and even happier staff.

05. Avoid having “too many cooks” in the bot kitchen. Let stakeholders be heard and remain productive.

Something like a New Starter bot for onboarding new hires can be a large undertaking. If you’re a healthy business hiring new talent, it’s technically never-ending and chances are multiple managers will want to have a say in the bot purpose and content.

One thing Citizens Advice focused on right away was stakeholder engagement. Getting people involved early with gathering ideas enables executives and managers to feel like their voices are being heard.

Managers feel involved and a part of this company initiative, but the bot team won’t have to rely on large amounts of different people to get these tasks done. Everyone is happy knowing what the team is doing and that something is being created with their input being taken into consideration.

06. Using the right features for the right occasion.

Take the original Citizens Advice New Starter bot – on the first draft, the bot asked a couple of questions to new hires like, “what is your job title,” and “where are you based.” Once the answers were submitted, the bot would post these details into the group for the new hire.

Pandora’s team realized that if you’re a new starter, there is a benefit in having to post into the group themselves so they get used to posting on Workplace.

Instead of the bot automating this process using the post to the group function, Pandora had the bot write a sentence for new starters so they can copy and paste it right into the group themselves. This meant the bot was acting as an instructional assistant that encouraged new hires to start using Workplace and posting into Groups.

Bots have a lot of features and functionality. Understanding what those functionalities are and when to introduce them is key to creating the best user-end experience with bots.

07. Bots can be as simple or complex as you need them to be. Just like us, they should be constantly learning, growing and adapting.

As people are getting more used to using a bot, your team can start adding more complex functions and features.

Continue to tweak your bot a little bit each week and test out new features when necessary. For something like a Stand Up bot, you may just start off using the bot as a personal task tracker for employees and later add in the post to group function as your team grows.

Start off with something simple then work on making it better with new features as time goes on.

08. Give your users a guided experience.

In terms of building the bot, it’s important to have instructions for users – especially new hires who may be new to bots or Workplace.

For Pandora’s team, when their bot says “Hello, welcome to Citizens Advice. Click the button below to get started,” there are prompts with an arrow below to click the button so users know to use the buttons.

Without this prompt, you can guarantee some staff would try to type in the answers even if the buttons are there. Use instructions to help those who are just getting used to the bot and introduced into your company.

09. Build conversations with a purpose.

Bots are meant to automate content in a way that feels like a conversation. People are already busy at work, so getting to the point of a bot is important. You want to save people’s time, but if you try to do too much it doesn’t help anyone.

One of the most useful examples of this is a survey bot. We’ve all spent hours creating a feedback survey in Google form, Typeform, or Survey Monkey only to have a handful of people complete it.

While feedback is essential, these old methods of collecting responses take up a lot of time and feel outdated.

As an alternative, you can build a Workplace bot to deliver the survey with a unique tone of voice or a funny gif that can make a dull process more interesting and engaging.

10. Find ways to make bots fun.

Bot tasks can feel mundane, but they don’t have to. When Citizens Advice needed to get staff to update their details within the HR system, they took the botified route. Managers were sending out company-wide comms all week attempting to prompt members to complete the task and they needed a final nudge to push people into action.

Pandora’s solution was the Diversity Data bot which prompted users to engage with it by creating a fun “Friday Quiz” for those who completed the task.

Staff were completing the required task so they could engage with something fun instead of feeling like they were being reminded to do the same thing over and over again.

A vehicle to better communication

For Pandora, bots started out as an experiment into the ease and benefits of automating content delivery and processes on Workplace, but have now evolved into helping staff navigate through and complete a broad range of work related tasks in a fun, engaging and conversational manner.

There are so many different use cases for bots, and every organization is different in terms of which makes the most sense to them, but by following these ten tips provided by Pandora and her team will ensure that, no matter the purpose of the bot, it will be a breeze to build and deliver business value as quickly as possible.

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