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Conversational interfaces in PW


heldercervantes
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Hey people.

Has any of you ever implemented a conversational interface on a website? Any pointers?

I'm evaluating a project for a public service office and was asked to consider a chatbot. Plenty about chatbots leave me somewhat aprehensive, especially relying on an external service that would have to point users to pages in the site. I'm thinking maybe it's not that hard to whip up a tool that asks a user what they want to do and provide answers, using PW's search and creating "stories" as pages.

I want to...?

  • Report a pothole
  • Request document X
  • Update my address
  • ...

Finding keywords and pointing to solutions that link to the correct page or phone number for a given story seems pretty simple. Or am I oversimplifying this and risking building a useless tool?

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I tried and wanted to build something similar a while back with just a click-through-path with some entry questions and possible solutions further down the path. Or a "funnel" if you will but the client decided no to establish such a guided "FAQ" like this because he couldn't provide the data that was needed. Which means the cases and questions or "stories".

They didn't want to use something like Analytics or Matomo to track the most visited pages or sub-sections within their FAQ so guessing would have been the only way to go.

In your case... if your client can tell, measure, analyse, collect and somehow get a bunch of those "stories" I'd say it's totally possible. In addition to that search queries from Google Search Console would be nice to what questions people had.

If it's not something from the financial, health or similar niche it should be doable I guess. Only ever built a small prototype.

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6 hours ago, heldercervantes said:

Finding keywords and pointing to solutions that link to the correct page or phone number for a given story seems pretty simple.

As a hobby writer, I do have my doubts there. Natural language is the second most ambiguous thing in the world, right after Schrödinger's cat.

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17 hours ago, BitPoet said:

As a hobby writer, I do have my doubts there. Natural language is the second most ambiguous thing in the world, right after Schrödinger's cat.

I have to get a good grasp of what people might search for there. It's a quite specific service, so you either want to report, submit, or request stuff. Shouldn't be too hard to come up with a list of synonyms and associate that with actions. Then do the same for the various things you can report, submit or request. When a user doesn't find it, log what they searched and review that log from time to time to help fine-tune the keywords and conversation scripts.

Of course, knowing my fellow coutrypeople, I can expect instead of "I want to {request} the {document_x}, please", someone will write "My son is going to college and in the registration process he needs a document that says I don't owe the state anything". 

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1 hour ago, heldercervantes said:

I have to get a good grasp of what people might search for there. It's a quite specific service, so you either want to report, submit, or request stuff. Shouldn't be too hard to come up with a list of synonyms and associate that with actions. Then do the same for the various things you can report, submit or request. When a user doesn't find it, log what they searched and review that log from time to time to help fine-tune the keywords and conversation scripts.

Of course, knowing my fellow coutrypeople, I can expect instead of "I want to {request} the {document_x}, please", someone will write "My son is going to college and in the registration process he needs a document that says I don't owe the state anything". 

And on that basis you can signpost people too. So before you allow free type they might have to indicate an initial route by clicking a button - e.g. Do you want a) Report a problem b) Pay a bill etc etc....

"Now tell us which service you want to pay a bill for"...(free type and match).

Might help limit the terms they throw at it.

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