The “Ballin Knows Best” chatbot is designed to answer any question related to flooring installation, flooring products, flooring standards, tools and equipment—and might even reveal why the chicken crossed the road. Joking aside, Jason Potts, owner, RIC Flooring, and Ken Ballin, owner, Skyro Floors, are developing a chatbot driven by artificial intelligence (AI) that benefits flooring installers on the jobsite.

Ballin is no stranger to the power of technology. He is known in the industry for his #BallinWithBostik social media marketing campaign where he demonstrates how to properly use Bostik products and how to remedy issues. He is part of the iQ Power Tools iQ 10 Team that showcases how to use iQ’s tools and equipment across various social platforms. Ballin is one of the admins of the Flooring Installers of America (FIA) Facebook group where he and other installers tackle questions related to all-things flooring and installation. He makes appearances at flooring trade shows like The International Surface Event (TISE) and speaks on various topics aimed at helping flooring installers.

“Ken executes things well when it comes to answering the questions of installers,” Potts said. “It was common sense for me to plug installers into this program that basically acts like Ken, suggests things like Ken would and is driven by Ken and his personality and his drive in the industry.”

According to Potts, the chatbot platform took a year to figure out all the nuts and bolts. With the help of 20 programmers, they were able to develop it in two months. It is currently in the beta-testing phase and will be launched soon. There are still a few kinks they have to remedy when it comes to the responses. 

The “Ballin Knows Best” chatbot combines the Jasper AI technology with Generative Pre-Trained Transformers (GPT) technology. Jasper is a program that generates marketing content (or any content for that matter) by utilizing input from its creators and the web. GPT gives applications the ability to respond conversationally.

“When we plugged in the first text message compared to the responses that I'm getting today, it's an impressive evolution in such a short amount of time,” said Ballin.

Potts explains that as an AI-driven platform, it can understand the responses from Ken and is learning how he would respond. For example, they might get 100 questions. Potts alerts Ballin of the list, and he is given access to the questions where he enters responses. Potts, then, enters the responses into an algorithm where the AI scrapes the pages to understand the responses.

What drove the development of this platform is Potts' deployment to the Middle East. He returned home in 2015 and decided to open his own store. “For the first four or five years, I didn’t even know what Ardex was; I didn’t know what Schluter was. The FIA Facebook page helped me with that,” he said.

Potts admits he learned a great deal from installers like Ballin, but “if you don’t have that reference or resource, then you’re gonna Frankenstein stuff up that probably should not be Frankenstein because it will have problems later. You don’t put Ardex Feather Finish on top of a rubber membrane on a soundproof floor; it’ll crack. Those are the questions that Google can’t really answer.”

“Ballin Knows Best” will be available online and through an app. According to Potts, there is no need to create an account. The platform will be open source and is free to installers.

“I'm hesitant to put my name on something,” Ballin said. “I want to think that I have a certain level of quality that I expect if I'm associating with a brand. This is something that I genuinely feel can help a lot of people. As an installer, I didn't have the luxury of learning from someone else. I didn't have the luxury of being an apprentice or having a boss. I just jumped in and learned as I went. I read the directions. I researched on trainings and certifications and went through all that myself. And to have something that I could ask: What glue should I use for this product? What size trowel should I set this tile with? I could have used this information while I was learning on my own that maybe weren't in the directions but still something that I wanted to know. This will turn into a resource that new installers can use to help them out on the jobsite. I think it's so important to put out something that is genuinely intended to do good for the industry and everyone in it.”

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