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PIP: The Watermelon Chatbot for Slack

Internal communications can be a chaotic mess without the right systems in place, in this innovative project frontend developer Kevin develops a chatbot that's brought our team's favourite watermelon mascot to life.

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What Inspired My Innovation Time Project?

PIP is our company mascot and everyone’s favourite watermelon! She’s a representation of our brand, encompassing everything it means to be CUBE. She’ll often greet us in the mornings with different messages or can often be seen posing across our Twitter or Instagram. I wanted to spend my week of Innovation Time making PIP sentient and giving her a real-world entity that the team could interact with.

For the technical minded and chatbot savvy amongst you, there is a more in-depth guide on how to build a chatbot in our blog. Here I delve into the details of the features of the chatbot process and show you how to develop a chatbot of your own.

By front-end developer Kevin Borrill.

How could I make PIP sentient?

During my week of Innovation Time, I developed a chatbot that could be integrated with Slack to bring together a few of the processes we use here at 3 SIDED CUBE, such as understanding developer jargon, checking on room availability and submitting internal feedback.

The chatbot needed to encompass what it means to be CUBE, as a representation of our brand, she was given a real personality that recognises intent and responds to conversations in different tones, depending on how rude you are.

The Problem?

There were a few problems I felt making a chatbot had the potential solve, most of these came down to convenience and efficiency, which once thrown together creates larger operational issues; like the time and resource it can take to carry out day-to-day tasks.

A few of the issues the team came up with included; having to access so many different tools, not being able to quickly grab insights on our projects and clients, submitting forms for internal activities and having to manually check meeting room availability in calendars.

Slack Chatbot Innovation Time Project

The Solution.

A chatbot which could use various API's and be integrated to Slack; a communications platform our team uses every day to communicate with each other.

From general messages about company updates to private conversations and channels for specific projects. The chatbot could be developed to solve all the mentioned problems as well as provide a more effective process of doing things, all on a platform that we already use at CUBE.

What Does the PIP Chatbot Do?

Checking Meeting Rooms

Ask PIP ‘which meeting room is free at the moment’, ‘is the sofa-room free?’ or ‘when is the next available meeting room’ and the chatbot will access our Google Calendars to respond to your query and feedback the answers.

Submitting Feedback

Submitting internal activities and feedback used to be done on a couple of different platforms, with PIP accessing these documents, now the chatbot can be used to quickly take food and coffee orders, submit weekly feedback and rate the team’s week with an emoji.

Collecting Requests

This feature was one I feel had the most importance, I can only use the PIP chatbot to solve the problems our team is facing if I know what they are! If our team experience any issues, have any ideas or know how to improve the system, they can actually use PIP to submit these requests to me and anyone else working on the project.

New Features

To keep the team and everyone involved up-to-date with the latest features that the chatbot includes, I decided to include an action for the ‘what’s new’ command, which results in PIP giving you an update on everything she can do since the last time our team checked in with her.

The Future of the Project?

I’ll start by tackling a few of the feature requests that PIP has been collecting to make the chatbot as useful as possible to the team. A couple of other team members also have Innovation Time coming up and would be able to help me out in a few of the more difficult areas of the project.

With the plan for continuous improvements in place, I also want to look into integrating the chatbot with communication platforms other than Slack. We’re currently discussing if PIP could add value to users on our website or be a first point of call on Facebook Messenger.

Are chatbots taking over the world?

The value and potential applications for chatbots goes far beyond internal communication tools, with the rising success of chatbots being accredited to a few different behavioural-trends and advancements in AI technology.

Such as the social media trend that’s seeing more and more people adopt messaging platforms, rather than their traditional social-counterparts, to connect and communicate with brands. Just look at how Facebook Messenger has the ability to become your default SMS app on Android devices.

As brands have recognised and jumped on the chatbot trend, organisations like IBM, Microsoft and Google have all introduced development tools and frameworks that lead to significantly smaller costs than full app development projects.

If you are wondering where to start you can read more in my guide on how to build a Slack chatbot in which I show how I brought PIP to life and delve into the more technical aspects of the project.

Whether it’s an internal communications tool, a customer-service offering or a new way of automating processes, chatbots can solve a number of problems for your brand and customers, to find out how, send us your challenge!

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