All posts by Charul Gupta

Charul is Digital Product Manager for Plan & Travel at TfL Online.

DevelopersProducts

The making of the TfL TravelBot

We recently launched our first ever Chatbot – the “TfL TravelBot” on Facebook, which uses artificial intelligence to help answer customer queries expressed in everyday language. The bot was launched just two weeks ago and we have already received lots of great feedback. We wanted to offer you more insight into the thinking behind the TravelBot, and shed some light on how we developed it.

 

The TfL TravelBot launched earlier this month – let us know what you think of it in the comments section below.

Why the TfL TravelBot?

Millions of people already use our website to help them get around London, and we’re constantly seeking new channels to make the process even easier. Research indicates that more than half of the world’s population is now online, and more than 50% of those online are active social media users*. Facebook is comfortably the biggest social media platform, and hence we wanted to take the opportunity to provide them with information via their channel of choice.

Why now?

Instant messaging has emerged as the primary platform for communication these days**. With the advent of digital solutions making it easier to provide conversational platform, we felt it was the right time for us to enter the world of bots. We pride ourselves on being early adopters of technology, and wanted to leverage the potential of existing solutions to come up with a product which is one of the first of its kind in the world of travel.

How was it made?

We designed the logic behind the chatbot and it is hosted in the cloud. Every customer message passes through our logic, and the bot then seeks to deliver the best response. We use artificial intelligence enabled by the machine-learning framework to process the customer messages (Natural Language Processing). It works by understanding intent rather than phrases. Once the message is processed, the bot replies with either a response from our unified API or a friendly retort. The bot is intelligent and has the potential to learn over time.

How does it help?

Apart from being the channel of choice for receiving information, our bot will help the customers in many ways. It will help our customers get the information in the quickest possible time with a 100% response rate. For instance, queries like ‘When is my next bus due?’ can be easily automated, saving customers time and meaning they don’t need to wait for a customer services agent to get a response. In the case of more complex queries, the chatbot can prompt you to speak with an agent.

As a business, this frees up the time of our customer service agents and helps them focus on more complex customer queries. We are also be able to handle many more queries in the same time, therefore improving our response rate.

What next?

We’re constantly looking for feedback to improve our products. If you haven’t it tried yet, search for ‘TfL TravelBot’ on the Facebook Messenger app or go to http://m.me/tfltravelbot on your desktop/laptop. More details on how to use the bot can be found in our previous blog.

Please keep your feedback coming in the comments section below. We know there are more things you would like us to include, and we’re really keen to hear from you.

References
* https://wearesocial.com/uk/special-reports/digital-in-2017-global-overview
** http://www.businessinsider.com/the-messaging-app-report-2015-11?IR=T
InformationNewsProducts

Buses Improvements: Responding to Your Feedback

Over the last few months we’ve received lots of useful feedback on some of the buses-specific features on our website, and we’ve noticed some recurrent themes. We’ve worked hard to act upon your feedback in as short a time as possible, and in this post I’ll address some of your key questions and concerns, as well as what we’ve done about them.

Bus personalisation

Having listened to your feedback on this blog, we’ve made improvements to the tools available to bus users and hope this will improve your experience

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InformationNewsProducts

Countdown moving to the TfL website

If you still use our old countdown websites to check on live bus arrivals, you’ll notice a change from June 1 as you’ll be redirected to the main TfL website instead.

Many of you may have already seen the message about this change, which confirmed that the following websites will no longer be available from June 1:

http://countdown.tfl.gov.uk

http://m.countdown.tfl.gov.uk

http://accessible.countdown.tfl.gov.uk

Instead, you’ll be able to check for live bus information on the TfL home page, using the new favourites feature to get live arrivals for your stops.

Save your favourite bus stops in the 4 steps shown here: 1) Find a bus stop 2) Add it to your favourites 3) Select bus routes 4) Get live arrivals

Save your favourite bus stops in the 4 steps shown here: 1) Find a bus stop 2) Add it to your favourites 3) Select bus routes 4) Get live arrivals

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