Microsoft's new service turns FAQs into bots

The service is aimed at making it easier for companies to create intelligent assistants from existing resources

Finding customer service help online can be a pain. Filtering through a knowledge base to find the right answer to your question can be an exercise in fighting with nested frequently asked questions documents.

Microsoft is aiming to help by making it easier for companies to create intelligent bots that can answer common questions.

The QnA Maker, launched in beta on Tuesday, will let users train an automated conversation partner on existing frequently-asked-questions content. After that information is fed in, the service will create a bot that will respond to customer questions with the content from the knowledge base.

Once the information is loaded into the service, users can then view how the bot has paired up questions and answers and add their own custom questions and responses.

After that, they can test it in Microsoft's web interface to see how the bot will respond.

Microsoft has been pushing hard to get companies to build intelligent, automated conversation partners, but getting intelligent bots off the ground can take time. This service lowers the barrier to entry by making it possible for people without hardcore developer skills to build a useful bot that addresses a key concern.

When the system thinks multiple answers in a knowledge base might work for one query, it will allow users training the bot to pick from different possible responses and saves the choice to the knowledge base.

The system creates an API endpoint that can be used as a bot on its own or integrated into another, larger conversational system.

Right now, the service is available for free, but limits users to 10,000 transactions per month, and 10 transactions per minute. In the future, Microsoft will offer it as a paid service.

The QnA Maker isn't the only low-code bot system out there. NoHold, a company working on customer service bots, recently released Sicura QuickStart, which lets users upload documentation and get it translated into a bot.

One of the key advantages of the NoHold service is it allows users to upload a manual that isn't laid out in question-and-answer pairs, Diego Ventura, the CEO of NoHold, said in a statement.

"I think this is a pretty big issue with their product because most manuals and documents are not organized as Q&As," he said.

Salesforce and Oracle have also each launched their own bot-building systems, which are designed to easily harness data stored inside software that those companies operate.

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Blair Hanley Frank

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