Building Intelligent Bots for Business

This post is authored by Herain Oberoi, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Microsoft.

Earlier today, in San Francisco, we provided an update on how Microsoft is helping to democratize Artificial Intelligence (AI) by making it accessible to everyone and every organization. Today’s focus was on conversational computing, which combines the power of natural language with advanced machine intelligence to help people engage with technology in more natural and personal ways.

As we talk to businesses and governments who are looking to take advantage of these new capabilities, we see significant value being created when leading organizations start using intelligent bots to transform business processes such as customer services, helpdesks, and even factory floor operations.

One example is at Rockwell Automation, which provides industrial automation and information solutions to customers in more than 80 countries. Their customers wanted access to information in their production lines in faster and more innovative ways, and so, with that objective in mind, Rockwell Automation used the Bot Framework and Cognitive Services in Cortana Intelligence to build Shelby™, a bot that monitors production more efficiently and lets managers know the status of their operations through more natural forms of interaction.

"Our customers need to move quickly to meet their goals. Shelby™ gives them an entirely new way to interact with their environment. The health and diagnostics of their production is critical to make the decisions that matter."

- Paula Puess, Global Market Development Manager, Rockwell Automation

Australia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) , an arm of the government responsible for delivering social and health related services and payments, is pioneering a proof of concept to deliver intelligent customer experiences powered by deep learning. Using the machine learning and cognitive services capabilities in Cortana Intelligence, DHS is building an ‘expert system’ that helps its employees respond faster and more effectively to citizen queries by infusing bots with deeper human context and conversational understanding, ultimately improving and expanding their customer engagement channels.

Improving Customer Interactions with Intelligent Bots

Intelligent bots deepen customer engagement by augmenting the skills and knowledge of employees interacting with customers, and also via direct conversations that provide for more natural and personalized interactions at massive scale. Specifically:

  1. Bots go beyond simple task completion, using social and historical context to better infer intent and make recommendations that are actionable in the context of the conversation.
  2. Bots drive efficiencies by automating workflows and integrating task completion with existing systems in the context of the business process.
  3. Bots help uncover new insights about customer challenges and preferences by being able to capture and reason over all the customer interaction data.

The illustration below shows how businesses can leverage intelligent bots to augment their contact center operations and improve efficiencies.


The use of an intelligent bot in this example helps the business in the following ways:

  • A majority of common customer requests can be fulfilled by bots. Customer requests that require deeper human intervention are filtered and handed off to contact center agents. This intelligent filtering helps reduce costs while simultaneously improving the customer service experience.
  • The quality of contact center agent interactions is improved as bots help augment the skills and knowledge of agents by providing real-time recommendations in the context of the current conversation.
  • The business also benefits from enhanced insights obtained by analyzing the rich customer interaction data captured by the bots. This can help the business spot emerging patterns, take preemptive actions on issues, and much more.

Getting Started

Developers can get started with the open source based Microsoft Bot Framework which includes the Bot Builder SDK, Bot Connectors, Developer Portal, Bot Directory and an emulator to use and test your bots.

As you build, test and scale your bots in the cloud, the Microsoft Azure Bot Service helps you accelerate your work through an integrated environment that is purpose-built for bot development. The Azure Bot Service allows you to get started quickly with built-in templates, scale and pay on demand as your needs grow over time, and reach users on multiple channels including from your app or website, via text/SMS, Skype, Slack, Facebook Messenger, Kik, Office 365 email, and other popular services.

Building an intelligent bot goes beyond simple task completion – a complete business solution requires cognitive understanding, integration with business processes, and the ability to gain deep insights on customer interaction data. Microsoft Cortana Intelligence provides you with all the capabilities you need, including big data storage, orchestration, advanced analytics and cognitive services, to build your intelligent bots.

I hope customers like Rockwell Automation and Australia’s Department of Human Services give you the needed inspiration to take the leap and start defining the requirements for intelligent bots that can help improve customer engagement at your organization.