The Making of the Most Comprehensive COVID-19 Bot Flow: CANbot

By Niharika Ayyagari / In Announcement, COVID-19 / August 31, 2020 / 4 min read

Here’s our story on how we built CANbot – The COVID-19 bot equipped to answer all the questions around the Coronavirus Pandemic or travel, built for the High Commission of India in Canada.

With the advent of the pandemic, two things are spreading rapidly.

Virus and false information.

While the entire world is racing to find a cure for the virus, there seems to be no cure for the number of incorrect theories, hoaxes, or myths that are going up the COVID-19 misinformation scale.

An influential study by the Vaccine Confidence Project(VCP) found more than 240 million digital and social media messages globally on COVID-19 by mid-March, at an average of 3.08 million daily messages. A vast majority of these messages are found to be false or very misleading in their intent.

Rightly so, since the lockdown and the start of the virus, the screen time, number of google searches, and the average time spent on messaging applications are spiking up.

 Hence, being a conversational AI company, we decided to put one of our strongest quality to use – chat automation, to help the public.

Our aim was two-fold. One, to reduce misinformation. And two, to spread the correct news to the masses.

This is how we began our quest and successfully developed chatbots for the Goa government and the High Commission of India(Canada).

And so, the talented team @verloop.io, Portea Medical, and HCI(Canada) joined forces to build the COVID-19 bot: CANbot.

 

covid-19 bot : CANbot, website version

The Power of a Cold Email Reach-out

Before we began our bot journey with HCI, Canada, we had our assignment with the Goa government, where we launched a WhatsApp Chatbot, busting myths and answering all the questions around COVID-19.

This made us understand how chatbots became the need of the hour. And how we had to maximize our reach and help as much as we could.

With that in mind, our CEO Gaurav Singh started sending out emailers to various companies and government officials. One such emailer was to Mr. Ajay Bisaria – The high Commissioner of India to Canada.

The emailer was straight to the point and crisp. Mentioning the value-ad of deploying a COVID-19 bot on the website and how we could provide assurance to the millions of families.

The HCI was already facing tremendous pressure in reassuring the citizens. Plus, as they were receiving many calls or emailers filled with worry or panic, they decided it was time for technology to take over.

So, as soon as we got the green light from Mr. Bisaria, we began talks with the HCI(Canada) to quickly roll out the one-stop informational chatbot for COVID-19.

The Making of the Longest Flow for a COVID-19 Bot

This is by far the longest bot flow in Verloop.io’s history. With about 430 messages/dialogues, it took us 2 weeks to build the flow from scratch to finish.

And to deliver a perfect bot, we went through the following steps:

A Handful of Queries

For any bot flow, it is necessary to gather a list of all the frequently asked questions to make a bot more relatable and helpful.

The idea is for the bot to replicate an individual answering all the questions around various topics. The type and frequency of the questions asked are continuously monitored.

The HCI(Canada) promptly let us in on the variety of queries that they were receiving since the lockdown.

What will happen when I arrive in India?”, 
What medical protocols apply to me while I am in India?”,  
I am not getting any flights to travel to India. Can someone help me get airline bookings for travel to India?”, 
I have taken ill / I am showing symptoms for COVID-19. What should I do now?”, 
Due to Covid-19, walk-in services are suspended at the High Commission. How does one apply for a Passport, PCC, attestation, etc.” 

These are a few of the questions that the embassy received repeatedly from the Persons of Indian origin(PIOs).

The aim was to club these questions into broader topics and sub-topics.

So, the individual can easily maneuver while going through the bot flow, and not get confused or overwhelmed.

Match-the-Following

The mission was to provide the correctly sourced information to the public. Information that was relevant and trustworthy.

Thus, all the answers displayed on the COVID-19 bot is sourced from WHO, Portea Medical, CDC, and John Hopkins.

Hence, scoring high on relevancy and trust, which was an added reassurance to the public.

To ensure that the relevancy meter was always high, each of the questions was matched with the corresponding answer.

Being a Language-agnostic Covid-19 Bot

The best advantage of deploying a chatbot is its ability to converse in multiple languages.

Depending on the target market, the bot holds conversations in the regional language or the most-spoken language.

Similarly, speaking of Canada, and mainly the POIs, there are three commonly spoken languages.

English, which takes the first place.

Followed by Punjabi which is amongst the top three immigrant languages in Canada.

Lastly, Hindi, which has been the fastest-growing immigrant language.

And so the bot is collectively launched in English, Punjabi, and Hindi.

The Biggest Rewards Come from the Biggest Challenges

There lies no task without any challenges or hurdles.

And of course, while building the bot, there were a few hiccups along the way.

But since the response time for these hurdles was very quick, we were able to take the bot live in no time.

One of the main challenges was to categorize the thousands of questions and ensure that they fell under the correct category.

Moreover, to maintain the accuracy of the COVID-19 bot and regularly keep an eye out for any new updates from sources like WHO, CDC, etc. and reflect the same in the bot flow.

Here, recency is of utmost importance.

The Aftermath of the COVID-19 Bot: CANbot

After seeing great success and appreciation for the website version of CANbot, a WhatsApp version of the same is launched.

covid-19 bot : CANbot, whatsapp version

As WhatsApp has around 1.5 billion active monthly users, it makes complete sense to provide the same access to information around COVID-19 x POIs in Canada. That too on the world’s leading messaging platform.

In terms of marketing our COVID-19 bot for HCI(Canada), we were able to reach masses through:

  1. A simple word of mouth by the biggest influencers and our well-wishers
  2. Releasing several news publications and press releases. 
  3.  Social sharing on various channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
  4. Mr. Ajay Bisaria helped us reach the big players and governments by referring us to HCI, US, and the UK governments stating how implementing a Verloop.io chatbot during COVID-19 is the best practice. 

The process of building the longest bot flow does not end here. As it’s important to constantly feed the bot with all the required and appropriate information as frequently as possible.

We’re unsure of what lies ahead of us. Hence, the best is to use the resources that we currently have to their complete potential. But the success of CANbot does tell us one thing, that technology, and AI can result in the best possible outcomes and help with the barrage of problems that we usually face.

Niharika Ayyagari

Content and Marketing, Verloop.io

Prefers texts over calls, unless the call is about AI, food, dogs, or travel.