Chat Bots… Marketing Hype or Essential Tool?

Posted by: Mark Rackley on April 23, 2019

If you’ve been paying attention at all to Microsoft conferences or marketing blogs you’ve probably heard a lot of noise around bots and AI. We’ve seen basic demos where a bot can respond to a user’s question in a chat environment and we’ve seen more advanced demos were AI determines if an uploaded picture to a SharePoint list was a picture of cake or a muffin…

That’s all fine and dandy, but what’s the real-world story with bots? Is it all just demos and marketing hype that you probably won’t even think about for years, or is it a realistic technology that you could get started with today and gain real tangible benefits from?

I’ll be honest, at first, I thought bots were either going to be something pretty useless for any real-world application or that creating a bot would require a ton of code with an overly complicated deployment story. I was pretty meh on it honestly, and I didn’t place much of a priority on the technology. Well, as luck would have it, I was given the opportunity to present a session on bots last year at Microsoft Ignite in Orlando.

There’s nothing like the fear of failing in front of hundreds of people to make you very open to learning a new technology.

So, I dove in and started with the using the QnA Maker and created a chat bot that converted a company’s FAQ into a fully interactive chat bot…. in like ten minutes… and it really worked…

I was sold. With almost no effort at all anyone can create a chat bot and deploy it to Microsoft Teams that is smart enough to interpret what a user is asking and provide a relevant response. I presented my session at Ignite and blogged about it at

It’s Time to Modernize Your Company FAQ with a No-Code Bot in Microsoft Teams

Go ahead and read the blog and watch the video before continuing… I’ll wait…

See what I mean?

The only downside to using the QnA Maker is that in a real-world scenario it could cost you a few thousand dollars a year for the service. For some companies, that’s not a big deal, for others, it’s hard to justify the cost for a “non-essential” tool.  So, I dug into some of the Cognitive Services offered by Microsoft and started playing with LUIS LUIS is “A machine learning-based service to build natural language into apps, bots, and IoT devices. Quickly create enterprise-ready, custom models that continuously improve.” LUIS is also much more cost effective on its own, you just need to do more work yourself than just by using QnA Maker.  Yet again, after diving in I found it was really easy to create a more custom QnA bot for a fraction of the cost.  

And a QnA bot is just scratching the surface of what’s possible! Throw in the Bot Framework and adaptive cards and you can create such an amazing experience for your users that your forms and workflow story for your organization can totally change! Imagine having a bot that you users can interact with that walks them through every step of submitting a vacation request, troubleshoot an issue, or searching for content… all with never having to remember which page in SharePoint they need to go to because it’s all conversation based?

 

Sound interesting at all? I know it does to me. Wondering how to get started??? Well my friend! You are in luck. I’m putting together a great introduction to bots workshop for the upcoming SharePoint Conference in Vegas. This workshop will take place on May 24th and we are going to start at the ground up building some great bots. You don’t even need to be a developer to get started and your mind will be reeling with how you can go back and start creating bots for your organization!  It’s going to be a lot of fun and I hope to see you there!  Also, be sure to register for the conference with my last name “RACKLEY” for a $50 discount.

See you in Vegas!!!

Mark Rackley-Rackley Social Banner-258

Topics: Conferences, LUIS, Chat Bots, QnA Maker

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