Canadian Underwriter

How to build your own bot

December 13, 2017   by David Gambrill, Editor-in-Chief

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Looking to build a new chatbot to connect with your consumers?

Chatbots are computer programs that simulate natural conversation with humans. Insurance organizations of all types — insurers, brokerages, and claims operations — have expressed interest in chatbots to provide instantaneous responses to simple inquiries, handing off the conversation to staff to complete a transaction.

Chatbot workflow saves over four minutes per inquiry compared to traditional call centres, and is projected to yield over $8 billion annually in savings by 2022, according to a 2017 study by Juniper Research.

The Centre for Study of Insurance Operations (CSIO) recently developed a chatbot of its own, and is preparing to share its information in a forthcoming webinar in 2018. Canadian Underwriter caught up with Grant Patten, digital media and user experience (UX) specialist, who offered the following five tips for building chatbots.

  1. Define a Minimum Viable Chatbot (MVC)

“Start with an internal discussion around what you actually want your chatbot to be and do,” Patten advises. “What does the success of Version 1.0 look like? Make a list of desired features and capabilities, identify which ones are essential to your MVC, and build to those specifications first.”

Patten said it’s useful to identify a topic of interest to the greatest number of customers, and build to serve that need — providing quotes, for example. Organizations should also define the medium for the chatbot, be it the website, Facebook Messenger (CSIO’s selection for its bot) or other messaging apps.

  1. Select a bot platform

Building a chatbot generally involves a bot builder platform such as Chatfuel, Flow XO, Motion AI, ChatterOn, and Gupshup. A competitive analysis can help narrow the field, with criteria including:

  • Price
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) component
  • Analytics / reporting
  • Live chat integration (so staff can take over at any time)

“You’ll likely want to select a platform that is easy to use and does not require custom programming,” Patten says. “There is also the option hire a programmer or team to build a custom chatbot.”

  1. Establish the conversation flow

Flow dictates how your chatbot will guide customers through a conversation. Flowchart tools such as Visio can help map out considerations including:

  • When users type their responses (open input), versus presenting them with pre-defined options to select
  • Ideal resolution for each interaction
  • Error handling (when the chatbot fails to understand a user’s intent)


  1. Write the chatbot script

Scripting is the time to develop your chatbot’s wordings and personality. “Will your bot be serious and businesslike, or a little fun and playful?” Patten says. “The tone of your chatbot can affect the user experience, so ensure that it meets the needs and expectations of your target customers.”

  1. Build and test the bot

Most bot builder platforms guide you through the process, enabling you to add your scripted text responses and connect them to anticipated user queries or keywords — no coding required. As a final step, conduct usability tests with real customers, identifying issues and incorporating improvements into the chatbot before launch.

CSIO plans to deliver an educational webinar and other materials about chatbots for the P&C industry in 2018 – keep an eye on for details.

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