Creating a Chatbot Running Buddy

Three Business Customer
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On: 28 Sep 2017
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Vee by Vhi Health

Earlier this year, Vhi Healthcare launched a chatbot called Vee by Vhi to “actively support people in their pursuit of a healthier lifestyle”.

We invited Roseanna Ellis, Vhi’s Social and Digital Content Specialist, to tell us about how this innovative use of technology is getting their customers to dig out their runners and have some fun.

When I joined Vhi Healthcare in the summer of 2016, the company had no always-on social media profile. But my appointment was completely consistent with Vhi’s drive to help customers change their attitudes about their own well-being through whatever means possible. This is part of the company’s long-standing ambition to promote longer, stronger and healthier lives. And there was a realisation within the business that social media, if used properly, could play an important role in provoking that change.

Today we are no. 1 in our industry in terms of following and engagement. We held the first Snapchat Q&A in our sector and we’ve won global media awards for content partnerships.

In May we launched Vee by Vhi, a Facebook Messenger chatbot designed to encourage people to take up and enjoy the benefits of running. It was a simple concept; if we could give people the motivation to start and encourage them along their ‘running journey’, everyone would benefit. Of course from my perspective, I wanted to prove that social media isn’t just about frivolous things, but could actually make a meaningful contribution to customers’ lives by promoting and supporting healthier lifestyle choices.

“I wanted to prove that social media isn’t just about frivolous things, but could actually make a meaningful contribution to customers’ lives by promoting and supporting healthier lifestyle choices.”

Why Running?

With our ongoing sponsorship of the iconic Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon in Dublin, and the support we now give the community based Parkrun Ireland, running has become something of a central theme here at Vhi. We believe running offers more than physical benefits; there are also genuine social aspects and the fact it can actually contribute to positive mental health too. So it felt entirely logical for us to create something that not only promoted running, but also a tool that would be useful to people.

Designing Vee

The concept of Vee was for it to serve as a ‘running buddy’. We wanted it to incorporate text, photos, video and gifs, and offer practical advice and nutritional tips. We even included a feature to help you find your local Parkrun.

Furthermore we made sure Vee could be flexible, so that the user is in control. You can set yourself a ‘running reminder’ for mornings, afternoons or evenings – and decide whether you want to get those daily, weekly or every few days.

We considered our options as to how best to deliver Vee, and decided to use Facebook Messenger as the platform as it gave us the reach and accessibility we were looking for.

Our creative agency Publicis were an immense support throughout the project and were responsible for the technical build of Vee on the Messenger platform. We worked extremely closely with them from a content creation perspective too, as really the content and the technical implementation go hand in hand when it comes to a chatbot.

Giving Vee Personality

Vee isn’t designed to be a cold or clinical taskmaster, in fact we’ve gone to great lengths to ensure it is as fun as possible – Vee will even tell you a joke if you ask nicely! We wanted it to have its own unique tone of voice that would help people to decide themselves that running might be a great option and that there are no downsides to being healthy. It’s not about peer pressure, it’s about motivation and coaxing people into creating their own new exercise routines, as well as to give a pat on the back to celebrate their achievements.

“Vee isn’t designed to be a cold or clinical taskmaster, in fact we’ve gone to great lengths to ensure it is as fun as possible – Vee will even tell you a joke if you ask nicely!”

The Reaction to Vee

The reaction we’ve had to Vee has been extremely encouraging. I think to begin with people were unsure what a chatbot was and were focused on the technology behind it, but once they engaged with it, they recognised that it is of great value. The customer feedback we’ve had certainly supports that.

Clearly I’m an advocate of using intelligent technology to support greater goals, and Vee is an excellent case in point. Culturally we, along with many businesses like us, are in the process of changing how we interact with our customers in an increasingly digital world. I think Vee demonstrates what can be achieved if you focus on the outcomes you want and work out how best technology might support that. Vee is a real win-win as far as I’m concerned.

 

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