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Chatbots Hackathon: Generating Solutions for a New Breed of Customer Experience

Customer Story
  • Retail & Distribution

EPAM and Edmunds have partnered since 2008 to develop and support Edmunds.com, which brings together auto producers, dealers and potential buyers. This was the third-overall hackathon between EPAM and Edmunds.

The chatbots hackathon took place from June 13-14, 2017, and brought together 13 teams from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. Developers traveled to Minsk, Belarus, from Samara, Saratov, Lviv, Kharkiv and Vitebsk, and there were around sixty total participants, including the organizers. For the first time in the history of these hackathons, designers were also invited to take part, and awards were slated for not only the best engineering solution, but also the best chatbot UI/UX.

The Theme

Focused on chatbots, the most recent hackathon was the third total for Edmunds and EPAM. The first hackathon, in 2014, was dedicated to mobile app development, and the second, in 2015, was focused on big data innovation. Edmunds has implemented a number of creative solutions thanks to previous hackathons, and was eager to see what great ideas would spring from the third event in four years.

Edmunds chose chatbots as the theme of the hackathon in order to spur ideas that could lead to more mature solutions for Edmunds.com. After working on implementing them for about a year before the event, Edmunds’ goal was to automate interaction with clients, keep the site user’s attention as they navigate the user interface, and help users find the information they need about the car they want.

The Winners

After two full days of designing and engineering chatbots, each team was ready to present its solution to the panel of judges from Edmunds consisting of Phillip Potloff, Chief Digital Officer; Paddy Hannon, Chief Technology Officer; Greg Shaffer, Senior Director of Product Development; and Daniel Kang, Director of Software Architecture. The panel listened intently to each presentation, and then, after much deliberation, awarded the following teams:

BEST CHATBOT UI/UX

First Place: DotDotDot

DotDotDot’s bot integrates with Edmunds’ CarCode system, which offers dealers a special chat widget for communication with buyers. The bot developed by the DotDotDot team analyzes the user’s face for emotions and sends this information to the dealer in the form of animated emoticons.

The dealer can use the information collected from the chatbot to offer better service to the customer by, for example, answering more carefully or offering the buyer another option. The project was chosen for first place because the UI/UX concept was very exciting, and it presented a unique approach to engaging with Edmunds clients via the chatbot format.

BEST CHATBOT ENGINEERING

First Place: Team J.A.R.V.I.S.

The winning team’s bot helps online buyers better understand terms and prices when leasing a car. This process is complex and depends on a number of factors, including down payment, taxes, discounts and more. Since most buyers don’t know the leasing process well and are not confident in choosing an offer when buying a car, they don’t understand how the monthly payment is calculated or whether it’s correct, and they end up spending a lot of time researching options.

Now buyers can ask questions directly on the leasing offers page and get an instant response that shows what is included in the price using diagrams and graphs, or it offers the user articles with detailed information so they can learn more. Based on its potential to give Edmunds.com a real competitive advantage and offer customers the information they need without delay, Team J.A.R.V.I.S.’s solution was awarded first place.

The Outcome

With over a dozen new concepts – many with working prototypes – generated for the client, it’s clear that this hackathon will also lead to at least one real-world solution for Edmunds. It’s only a matter of time before chatbots become the new normal for digital experiences, and both EPAM and Edmunds are proud to be on the forefront of moving chatbots forward for the next generation.

Hear from the Customer

“The quality of every presentation and project was by far the highest so far, and the difference in the scores was not as great as what we typically see in our own hackathons. So congratulations to everybody are well-deserved. This is actually a very important hackathon for us. It’s not just a reason to come over to Minsk and visit you guys. This is a very interesting time for Edmunds because we are starting to take things like machine learning, and neural nets, and bots and AI and apply them in different ways to improve the experience on our websites."
PHILLIP POTLOFF

Chief Digital Officer, Edmunds

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