If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you already understand how implementing a chatbot can benefit your charitable organisation (if not, we recommend starting here). Before you take the plunge, however, it’s important to know exactly how you want to approach a chatbot project, and understand which type of digital assistant is best placed to help your charity reach its goals.
Here’s what you should know before kickstarting your charity’s digital assistant journey.
Understand that not all chatbots are created equal
Before implementing a digital assistant, it’s crucial to understand the different solutions on the market. Options such as FAQ-based chatbots tend to be cheaper to implement, but have a much more limited use case than sophisticated digital assistants that use conversational AI and can perform actions as part of integrated processes.
FAQ-based chatbots are the most basic option available to most charities. These are essentially decision tree hierarchies presented as a series of questions with pre-set responses. Users typically have to make multiple selections to reach their desired answer.
Slightly more advanced are rules-based chatbots, which allow you to manually create conversational flows using if/then logic. The limitation of this option is that the chatbot only operates within a rigid structure. Plus, manually updating every possible conversational flow is time and resource intensive – a tough commitment for already overstretched charities.
By contrast, digital assistants that are powered by conversational AI are not limited to a predefined framework of answers. Instead, they combine machine learning with natural language processing to understand what a user is writing or saying. They then generate appropriate responses using natural, human-like language.
These chatbots automatically refine their responses and adapt to changing circumstances. AVA, the chatbot developed by charity Versus Arthritis, provides 24/7 personalised self-care information for patients. Since AVA learns from each interaction, its performance and utility increases over time. This is evidenced in growing user figures, which jumped from 8,371 to 33,403 over 12 months from 2019 to 2020.
Ensure your digital assistant aligns with your long-term strategy
A common mistake made by charities when implementing a digital assistant is viewing it as an “add-on”, rather than a core part of their digital strategy. To get the most value from your chatbot, a good place to start is by identifying low-hanging fruit. For instance, many charities choose to start with a donation generation chatbot. Since the dialogue around donation interactions is very consistent, these chatbots are usually inexpensive and relatively uncomplicated to deploy.
Once you’ve implemented a digital assistant for one purpose, there’s plenty of scope to add more features in a phased rollout. In other words, don’t feel pressured to run before you can walk. For instance, EBM initially partnered with Canadian youth mental health charity Kids Help Phone to improve website navigation and user experience using conversational AI. After successfully deploying a chatbot for this purpose, EBM is now working closely with the charity to build new integrations, navigation processes and features.
It’s also worth seriously considering where to deploy your chatbot to best reach your target audience. Many charities think a website-based chatbot is their only option, which is certainly not the case. For example, donation generation chatbots, like the one mentioned above, are often deployed via Facebook Messenger. The Facebook Messenger typically attracts a high number of users and by deploying a chatbot you can enable these users to make donation transactions directly within this channel and without the need to direct them to lengthy web forms. If you were trying to reach a younger audience, however, you might prefer to integrate with Instagram or WhatsApp instead, or at least make sure your website-based digital assistant is fully mobile optimised.
Make the most of analytics
Digital assistants powered by AI and machine-learning typically come with in-depth analytics and reporting tools. These enable you to understand user interactions, common conversation flows and key drop-off points.
Through analytics, you gain a deeper understanding of users’ interests and needs, which in turn can inform your future strategy. For example, when working with Versus Arthritis to develop its chatbot AVA, EBM was able to identify unmet demand from users who wanted to book an appointment with a medical practitioner. In response, a helpline integration feature has now been deployed.
Overall, the journey towards developing and deploying a digital assistant can feel complex and technical. But with proper planning and the right partners in place, it needn’t be! Keen to learn more about how EBM’s digital assistants can support your charity? Schedule a demo.