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Virtual Agent Designer

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Virtual Agent Designer

The Virtual Agent Designer is a graphical tool for creating and managing topics, which are blueprints for conversations between a virtual agent and user. You can design topics that help your users resolve common work issues or guide them through self-service tasks.

Supported browsers for Virtual Agent Designer

Use Virtual Agent Designer on modern browsers such as Chrome or Edge. Virtual Agent Designer is not supported on Safari and older versions of Internet Explorer (such as IE11) browsers.

Developing topics

Topic development by an admin or virtual_agent_admin involves these basic steps:

1. Identify the use case for an automated conversation.
Determine the users of your topic and the use case or goal, for example solving a user problem or assisting with a self-service task. As you gather key requirements for your topic, identify the information that you need from the user to complete the goal.
2. Determine the general structure of the conversation.

Identify the conversation "happy" path, and the alternate paths where the conversation might branch depending on the information supplied by the user. Consider how to handle each branch and whether users loop back to an earlier point in the conversation.

Other design considerations:
  • Review the prebuilt setup topics (standard conversation components) provided with Virtual Agent. Determine whether you want to use the default setup topics or customize any of them for your conversations.
  • Consider scenarios where a user might want to switch topics during a conversation session. For example, a user might change topics entirely. Or a user can get sidetracked and ask something out of context, maybe to engage in "small talk" with the virtual agent. Determine whether you want to let the user resume the original conversation after switching topics during the conversation.
3. Build the topic using Virtual Agent Designer.
  • Define the topic properties: Name the topic and set the properties for the conversation. For example,
    • If using NLU, select the NLU model to be applied to the topic, the intent associated with the topic, and the NLU service provider.
    • If using keywords, enter the words or phrases used to trigger the conversation.
    • If users change topics within the conversation session, determine if you want to let them resume the original conversation (conversation switching occurs in both NLU and keyword conversations).
    • If needed, specify a condition for running the topic and the roles of users who can run that topic.
  • Build the conversation flow using the palette of user inputs, bot responses, and utilities.
  • Preview the topic as you build it: Use the Preview feature to run the topic in its current state. If the topic runs as you expect, be sure to Save the topic as you are building it.
  • Publish the topic to automatically activate and deploy it to your Virtual Agent clients

Managing your conversation topics in the Topics page

When you open Virtual Agent Designer, the Topics landing page lists All Topics in your instance: the active (published) and inactive topics (in development). Use the Topics page to access, create, and edit your topics. Each topic card identifies the topic and provides basic topic information: status, description, Category (type of topic), number of days since the last update, and creator.

In the Topics page, you can also run active topics to verify that they work as intended, as well as sort and search for topics. When you have many topics, use the various filters to quickly organize and find your topics.

Figure 1. Topics page
Virtual Agent Designer Topics page that lists the current topics available and options for creating and managing topics.
Table 1. Filters and options in the Topics page
Field Description
Created by Me Displays only the topics that you created.
All Topics Displays all active (published) and inactive topics (in development).
Sort by Filters the list of topics to display by Topic Name or Updated Time (recently updated).

Filters the display of topics by state:

  • All: Displays all topics, including base system topics
  • true: Displays all active topics (published)
  • false: Displays all inactive topics (in development)

Displays topics in a selected category. Categories identify specific types of topics, such as Setup Topics and Small talk topics, and topics in custom categories.

For details on defining custom topic categories, see Create or modify custom topic categories.

Search Displays topics that match a search string that you enter.
Run Active Topics Opens a window for running topics in the Virtual Agent web client. Use this feature to test and verify that your published topics work as intended.
Add a Topic Opens the Topic Properties page (see the next section) for starting the topic creation or update process and defining the topic properties. For details on building a topic, see Create a Virtual Agent topic.

Defining topic properties

The properties in the Topic Properties page identify a topic and how it is used. You can control who uses the topic and any conditions that affect the topic when it is run. The page presents the appropriate properties for your design mode (NLU or keyword). For example, if you enable Natural Language Understanding, the page includes properties for identifying the NLU model and intent for the topic.
Figure 2. Topic Properties page — NLU mode
Topic Properties page example with Natural Language Understanding (NLU) fields
Figure 3. Topic Properties page — keyword mode
Topic Properties page example with keywords
Table 2. Topic properties
Field Description
Name A unique name for the topic that reflects its business purpose. This name appears in the list of topics that users can choose from.
Description A brief explanation of the topic purpose and functionality.

[Keyword mode only]

Words or phrases that users enter to trigger the conversation with the virtual agent. Press Enter after each phrase.

If Natural Language Understanding is enabled, this field is not displayed.

NLU Model

[NLU only]

The Natural Language Understanding model to be applied to the topic. The model contains the user utterances associated to the trained intents and entities that enable your virtual agent to understand what a user says.
Associated Intent

[NLU only]

The intent, when recognized by the virtual agent, that launches this topic.
Category Type of topic, used to identify and group related topics. For example, setup or small talk topics.
Resume topic flow Switch for enabling or disabling the option for a user to return to the original conversation after changing topics during a conversation. Applicable to keyword or NLU mode.
Condition Expression logic that controls when the topic is available to users. Can include one or more conditions to control who sees a topic in the Virtual Agent client. If left blank, the expression is true.
Roles Roles that an end user must have to view and run the topic. If a topic is public (available to users, including guest users, who are not authenticated in ServiceNow), select only the Public role.
Live Agent Variables The Live Agent variables defined in Chat Setup. Select the variables that provide dynamic context (information from the Virtual Agent chat) transferred from the conversation to a live agent.

Building topic flows with Virtual Agent Designer

Use the Virtual Agent Designer page to build a topic flow using the controls for user inputs, bot responses, and utilities.

Virtual Agent Designer page that shows the palette of inputs, bot responses, and utilities and the initial conversation flow (start and end nodes).
Table 3. Virtual Agent Designer page
Feature Description
(1) Palette region List of controls that you can drag onto the canvas to build a conversation:
  • User Input: Controls used to prompt and capture information from the user in a conversation.
  • Bot Response: Controls for displaying virtual agent responses in a conversation.
  • Utilities: Controls for performing actions within a topic, such as running a script or adding different conversation paths (branches) in a topic.
(2) Canvas Area that graphically displays the conversation flow. As you drag a control onto the canvas, that control becomes a node in the conversation flow. Includes an associated property sheet that opens in the right pane. Each flow has a Start and End node. When you add or remove controls, the layout of controls on the canvas is adjusted automatically.
(3) Property sheet Properties specific to the selected node on the canvas. Each node has its own set of properties that you can define, which can include scripts that control the behavior or processing performed in the node. If NLU is enabled, the property sheets for Input controls (except for the Image picker control) contain additional NLU fields.
(4) Data pill picker A tool for selecting data pills from input variables or script variables to use in the property field. Click the data pill picker to select from the existing variables accessible in the topic. You can also drag data pills directly into property fields.
(5) Script editor A tool for adding or editing JavaScript scripts used in a property. Provides scripting assistance, including a list of valid elements at the insertion point, such as function name, object names, and variable names available for the topic. For more information, see the JavaScript syntax editor.
(6) Script variables Section for declaring variables used within the topic (conversation session) to store values outside the control variables, to help with more complex scripting scenarios. Includes a switch that enables the use of Live Agent variables to provide information from the virtual agent session to the live agent.