Building and training your virtual employee (VE) chatbot is a vital step in adopting AI within your business. Just as important, is ensuring the adoption of it by your staff (for internal VEs), and awareness of it among your customers (for external VEs).
Here are a handful of easy ways you can ensure the ‘onboarding’ of your VE goes as smoothly and successfully as possible.
Assign a champion (a real person) for your virtual team member.
This is the person who owns the VE project – their ‘hiring manager’ if you will. Ideally, identify your champion at the very outset of the project. Their tasks include:
- Working with the company building the VE,
- Coordinating the other team members, such as subject matter experts or decision-makers
- Getting everyone excited!
Design your Virtual Employee's character
We recommend doing this as the very first step in building your new team member. Think of it like describing your ideal employee for the role. Have some fun. Imagine its personality, design the look of the avatar, choose a name that will resonate with your intended users, and choose the language style the VE will use.
While you can just use a company logo, it’s not very engaging for customers. The more character you give it, the more likely it is to be used. The champion leads this overall design process, and it’s a good idea to involve a number of people in the team.
Refer to your Virtual Employee by name
It’s much more engaging for people to say a name like “Have you talked with Sally yet?”, instead of “Have you used the new IT system?” Once it has an identity, it’s real.
Test, a lot!
We can’t stress this enough. Get lots of people involved in testing and training your VE. Ask 10 people for 10 minutes each week during the training phase. Conversational AI learns best from more people for less time, rather than from a few people for a lot of time.
Just before launch has a focused ‘Testing Sally’ week, (or whatever the name of your new virtual employee is).
Announce your new Virtual Employee to your wider team or company
Treat it like the announcement of a new employee so it gets real attention. We provide templates for this. Post on the intranet, Yammer, Slack, or wherever your team members discuss their work. Post welcome notices featuring your VE avatar in the common areas.
If your VE is public facing, there are a number of things you can do to create awareness:
Soft launch first
VEs learn by talking with people. First, go live quietly and trial and improve over the first few weeks. Perhaps launch on a separate page at first, or in the FAQ section of your website.
When you are ready for the big time…
Do a press release
The media is hungry for stories about innovative businesses like yours. Use your external or internal communications channels: let your users know it’s live and what it can do for them.
This is a great method, especially if your VE lives in Facebook messenger. Most of our clients will spend a good portion of their Facebook ad spend in the first 6 weeks after launch promoting their VE.
Your VE will get used when it’s seen. Put it on the home page and learn what users ask it. This is the true Voice of the Customer – they will tell you what they want. Ensure that the avatar is visible on the page – some companies make the icon HUGE! We also suggest listing the VE as an ‘employee’ on your staff pages (Squirrel does this well) and give it its own page to explain more about it. Make sure the VE’s contact details are listed on the Contact section of your website. Anywhere there is a Contact Us page or email address, the VE details should be there as well.
Your (human) employees are great advocates for your business and brand. Promote your VE to your staff and they will help lift awareness. We built a Virtual Employee for a retail store and they ensured that every store manager talked to every staff member, and then to customers, about the chatbot: “If you have any queries – just ask Sally!” This starts a discussion and positive engagement with the customer.
Social media is a core channel in your marketing strategy
- Instagram: While Instagram does not yet support chatbots, it’s a great place to get seen. Give your VE its own Instagram profile or use ads to attract people to it on your website or Messenger.
- Twitter: As with Instagram, Twitter is a place to get seen. Announce on your main account, and consider giving the bot its own page. Craft your posts to reflect the personality you designed at the beginning of the process. Have some fun!
- LinkedIn: People and team related posts are some of the best performings in LinkedIn and are certain to get a high level of visibility for the company.
Remember, your virtual employee is like a staff member. Like human employees, they need training and guidance. It’s a good idea to spend at least 10 minutes a day reviewing conversations and questions asked via the chatbot. You will quickly spot areas for training and development. Just like the real staff, they benefit from a well-planned and thorough onboarding programme and regular development.
We encourage you to think of your VE as a key new hire in the team that you’re excited to have on board. Follow these guidelines and you’re well on your way to putting them to work fast and making the most out of your investment in them!