The story of AFAS Software

Chatbot Nicol@ offers ultimate support to AFAS' Commercial Team

The digital colleague of AFAS, Chatbot Nicol@ supports the Commercial Team and will soon support a team of 100 support employees! In this success story, Jortijn Bijl (Senior Marketing Manager at AFAS) explains how they use Watermelon to build and implement Chatbot Nicol@.

chatbot afas software
chatbot afas software

AFAS’ mission? To improve companies’ entrepreneurship. AFAS believes that work can be so much more enjoyable if you simply let software take care of the boring stuff. AFAS makes software like that in the Netherlands. With their own staff, the AFAS family. AFAS is truly a Dutch family-run company that has helped other companies become more successful since 1996- and it’s going very well. More than 11,000 companies work with AFAS and more than 2.3 million Dutch people get their pay check each month through AFAS software. It may seem un-Dutch, but they’re very proud of this. Many customers means many customer inquiries; a Chatbot is very useful in AFAS’ situation. Senior Marketing Manager Jortijn Bijl speaks to us about their experiences with their digital colleague Chatbot Nicol@ and Watermelon.

A solution for many chats

A Chatbot fits in well with AFAS’ mission to inspire companies to improve their entrepreneurship. Jortijn: ‘Years ago we decided to offer a chat feature to our customers, but we noticed that it wasn’t being used much and that we were perhaps a little bit ahead of the users. We tried again in 2018 and the chat was used much more intensively. It became clear to us that the same questions were being posed quite often. We went looking for a solution to answer these questions more efficiently,to help our prospects and potential employees even better.’

After a long search and some pilots, AFAS decided to visit Watermelon. ‘We spent a while thinking about how an AFAS Chatbot should look and what kind of tech was needed to make it a reality. We ran tests that never went into production. When we got in touch with Watermelon, they realised our desire for a Google Tag manager before we had even signed anything! It was clear straight away that they were the people who could make our ambitions reality. We weren’t mistaken: we were live within two days!’

chatbot afas software

Chatbot Nicol@ live within two days!

Within two days, Jortijn filled the Chatbot with content together with his colleague Jop. After going live, the process of optimising Chatbot Nicol@ began. Jop spends a little time each day getting rid of Mismatches. ‘We went live incredibly quickly, which was important to us. It allowed us to get quick insight into what kind of questions our clients were asking. Now, a little while later, we are really noticing the benefits of the Chatbot. It takes a bit of time initially to set up the Chatbot and to get your employees used to it, but you will notice huge benefits quite quickly!’

Chatbot Nicol@ has two goals: automation of repetitive questions regarding things such as recruitment, and lead generation. The fact that Watermelon also uses WhatsApp as a channel is a huge plus point for AFAS, as it is a very widely used channel.




Channels connected


Days to going live

jortijn bijl afas software

“Watermelon’s interface was clear straight away and they were the people who could make our ambitions reality. We weren’t mistaken: we were live within two days!“

- Jortijn Bijl - Senior Marketing Manager

An@, Bab@. Mohamm@, Fr@ and of course Nicol@

A successful Chatbot needs to have the right content, but the personality of the Chatbot is also important. How can you make sure that it gets with the branding of your company? Jortijn, being a marketer, thought long and hard about this: ‘If you think about your brand as a person, how would you speak to them? We went for an informal and sustainable tone combined with diversity, because that fits with AFAS’ core values. Nicol@ ‘drives’ a Tesla, to showcase the fact that Nicol@ is sustainable. If you ask Nicol@ if she has a partner, she will tell you about her girlfriend. AFAS wouldn’t be AFAS without our sponsorships, so it goes without saying that Nicol@’s favourite football team is AZ. We also went for Nicol@ because of the fact that you meet digital receptionists An@, Bab@, Mohamm@ en Fr@ when you register as a guest with AFAS.'

chatbot afas softwarechatbot afas software

Innovation is a priority

Making the transition to a Chatbot colleague is more difficult for some organisations than others. It went smoothly at AFAS: ‘Colleagues at AFAS realise that the only thing that stays the same is that there’s constantly change. AFAS is constantly evolving and we launch new initiatives every month. I’ve also promised that almost anything goes under the header of ‘pilot’, so we can go live quickly with a small team. This allows us to see results quickly and encourages acceptance amongst our users. We recently set up a project group to make sure that this project keeps on developing and that we keep on getting feedback which we share with Watermelon.’

Chatbot or employee?

It is often prudent to guide the final user when working with new technological developments. AFAS bridged this new development easily: ‘Initially we set it up so that you could only chat with a Chatbot. Later we added an option allowing you to choose whether you’d like to speak to a person when opening the chat. We have noticed that this is still important, although it will change in the future. It’s easy as a semi-nerd to be pushy with these things, but in the end the user-friendliness for our prospects and potential interviewees remains the most important thing.’




Conversations build


Countries available


‘Chatbot Nicol@ has already automated a number of repetitive questions for the recruitment and sales processes, and this number will only increase. We also love the fact that we can be reached via our normal company phone number on WhatsApp. We don’t have to keep track of so many different apps. The Chatbot supports the Commercial Team perfectly. When it encounters two unknown questions, the chat will automatically be forwarded to an available employee.’

Next step: automate even more!

Watermelons primary core value is Making Customers Happy, which Jortijn experienced first-hand: ‘Our Customer Success Manager Sven helped us proactively when needed. When we indicated which features were important to better help our clients and prospects, we feel like we are really listened to.

The development of the Webhook module is now on the to-do list. It’s going to be a big help to us.’The development of the Webhook module is currently underway and Custom Fields has already been released. This new feature will allow AFAS to automate the service even further. ‘If we can build a link between Watermelon and our own help center, even more questions can be automated and Chatbot Nicol@ will get even smarter, even with regards to products.’

chatbot afas software

‘It was amazing that we went live in only two days thanks to Watermelon. We feel listened to when we make requests via the platform, and I’m looking forward to further development with the Webhook module. Chatbot Nicol@ is already answering so many questions; this development is going to be a huge support to our hundred-man strong support team!’

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