Ever Smarter Talks

After 22 years in the hospitality industry, Elitsa Stoilova created the first chatbot agency, UMNI, and entered the Accelerator of Change

Ever Smarter Talks
Автор: Tatyana Yavasheva

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We will come across this kind of messages more and more often. At the time of digital connectivity, chatting will continue to be a way of communication among people, as well as a connection to businesses. Voice assistants and chatbots will develop and enter our daily lives. That is why Elitsa Stoilova created the first chatbot agency in Bulgaria – Umni.

Return

In the 1990s, Elitsa Stoilova worked as a journalist. Then, she lived abroad for 22 years, working in the hospitality sector and reaching the CEO position at the largest tour operator and hotel on the island of Saipan, Mariana Islands, in the Pacific Ocean. There, she noticed that tourists asked the same questions and started looking for ways to give them access to the information available to the staff in advance.

Almost 3 years ago, Elitsa returned to Bulgaria. On home ground, she decided that it was time to start something new. But what? Coincidentally, she became part of the accelerator programme of The Founder Institute where she heard... the right questions. Thus, she realized that clients expected ever faster solutions to their problems, and businesses were no longer able to provide them in the traditional way. When she found out that new technological approaches were needed in the communication, she came across a video about chatbots – virtual assistants to lawyers. She started to research this technology, quickly reconsidered the idea with which she entered the accelerator, and the Umni startup switched focus to virtual assistants.

The Team

While Elitsa was at the Accelerator, IT specialists who liked her idea helped her with the project on friendly basis. When the first client appeared, she turned to them to create a chatbot. This brought together a real team of professionals, among whom there is a personal spark and synergy. Now, with a project for City Concierge Chatbots, providing comprehensive information support to the specific place, UMNI is participating in the Next Floor startup accelerator in Salzburg. At the same time, as a representative of the Agency, Elitsa joined the Accelerator of Change 2019, organized by Nova Broadcasting Group and the Reach for Change Foundation. There, together with Kamelia Miteva from Bio games, they are working on a project for children’s educational chatbot – an interactive software solution that digitalises and gamifies the educational process.

City Chatbot

One of Umni’s landmark projects is Plovdiv City Concierge. This is a city chatbot for Plovdiv, a kind of virtual tourist office that can be found on Facebook and called for a conversation in Messenger. The partner in the project is In Your Pocket Bulgaria, a branch of one of the largest European distributors of tourist information. Through the QR code on their printed materials about Plovdiv, visitors to the city can contact the chatbot. Elitsa has no doubt that the city chatbot will continue to be an important part of smart tourism and smart cities strategies.

Custom-Made

Businesses need to have a clear idea of what they want to automate, because the chatbot is not a standalone solution that is part of any platform, but is a piece of the business’s overall digital infrastructure. The bot helps users who come in contact with it by answering frequently asked questions or by assisting them in routine tasks. However, the client has to systematize and define all the functionalities and questions that the bot is to answer. This effort continues after the launch of the chatbot, so that it can “get smarter” and turn into a quality virtual assistant. Elitsa explains that chatbots are as smart as the business wants them to be. A Bulgarian singer has already chosen to keep in touch with her fans via a chatbot developed by UMNI.

Technology continues to add speed to our lives. But is there a future without chatbots? On Sunday, in the mountains, when you decide to have a digital detox, Elitsa Stoilova replies.


The Trusted Assistant

If the volume of communication with your clients is big and abounds with same types of questions and tasks, a chatbot may be your most trusted assistant in optimizing staff performance, saving resources, and enhancing customer experience. It can handle communication on your behalf, make reservations, complete forms, record orders and check their status, advertise new products. Bad or untimely communication leads to losses, and that is why automation can be a profitable solution. The bot is fast and tireless; it works 24/7. It is not a standalone player, but is a face of the business and is part of its overall digital presence, and must match the style of the brand, explains UMNI’s CEO Elitsa Stoilova.

Chatbots appeared in the 1960s. The first chatbot – Eliza, was a psychologist, and the first artificial intelligence chatbot was created in 1988. The technology’s big moment occurred 4 years ago when it found application in messengers in order to automate customer communication. Practically, it is a software solution that imitates a conversation with a person and is able to provide information in the form of text, photo, audio, video and other media, replies quickly, accurately, in a standardized manner. It can speak different languages, be integrated with other applications and become an indispensable assistant. A bot can have a character and even a sense of humour, if the business wants it to.

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