Chatbots have taken the world by storm. These robots act as personal assistants, customer support representatives, marketing executives, and more. They’re either powered by artificial intelligence (AI), meaning that they learn from every interaction, or rule-based, meaning they’ve been pre-programmed by a human to know how to answer specific questions regarding specific scenarios.
Whether you opt for an AI-powered bot or rule-based one, it’s important that it receives the adequate amount of attention with regards to conversational design. While chatbots can help make an online conversation between a brand and a consumer seem highly personal, these machines need to be trained similarly to a human representative.
Below, I’ve highlighted 10 chatbot conversation-building tips to ensure your customers have a seamless experience when communicating with your company.
1. Define User Goals
Before you can design a perfect chatbot, you need to establish your bot’s purpose for both your brand and your audience. There’s a number of ways a chatbot could benefit your business, such as:
- Learning more about your audience
- Providubg customer support through social media
- Drivingtraffic to your website
- Increasing sales
Additionally, chatbots can help consumers by:
- Offering easy access to information regarding services and products
- Providing quick online support
- Entertaining customers while they speak to a human representative of your brand
- Solving a variety of problems regarding accounts and orders
Whatever your reason for creating a chatbot, make sure it’s clear in order to not lose focus when designing its conversation flow.
2. Make Your Chatbot Proactive
Your audience will not use your chatbot if they don’t know it exists or are unaware of how it could help them. It’s important that you make your chatbot proactive by telling your audience how they can start a conversation. Begin by creating an engaging welcome message that introduces your chatbot to your audience and explains how it can help them.
3. Design Your Conversation Flow Carefully
Designing a conversation flow is extremely challenging due to the language we use; therefore, the conversations we have can be unpredictable, and that’s not to mention the fact that we are prone to typos…something that some chatbots aren’t yet designed to understand.
You need to design your bot to be able to ask and answer specific types of questions, some of which include:
- Alternative choice questions
- Who, what, where, when, why questions
- Yes or no questions
- Tag questions that help the conversation flow naturally; for example, “California is beautiful, isn’t it?”
Try to avoid rhetorical questions at all costs. Aside from the fact that they may come across as rude, humans have a tendency to answer them anyway, meaning that your bot may become confused and won’t fulfill its purpose.
4. Offer Help Where Possible
While your chatbot will have a level of control over the conversations it has because it will be able to ask questions itself, humans can type whatever they want, whenever they want. With this in mind, design your chatbot to lead the conversation in a way that will keep it on track.
When asking the user a question, design your chatbot to offer hints. For example, “What type of holiday would you like to book? We offer cruises, all-inclusive jungle adventures, and villa rentals.” Remember, your hints can come in a visual format like buttons to make them easier to differentiate.
5. Confirm Valid Answers
A simple way to ensure conversations don’t go off on tangents is to always confirm the information the user inputs. Once a user answers a question, ask them for confirmation before moving onto the next question. Alternatively, you could tell your audience why you can’t help them with a request and point them in the right direction, whether it be talking to a human representative or forwarding them a relevant email address.
6. Use Buttons
While buttons may be known to reduce an audience’s engagement when communicating with your chatbot, these may improve the conversation flow and help them to quickly receive answers to their questions. Use pre-suggested text in the form of buttons when you need or want to offer essential information, such as:
- Yes or no answers
- Contact Us buttons
- Feedback buttons
- Buttons that forward customers to a relevant webpage
7. Think About the Microcopy
While you should never lie to your audience and trick them into thinking they’re talking with a human representative, it’s important to follow a natural conversation flow…one that represents your brand image. Consider designing your micro-copy in a way that reflects that of a normal conversation. Additionally, you should:
- Avoid complicated grammar
- Keep conversations short and concise
- Stay away from gender-specific pronouns
- Add a level of humor or character to your chatbot
8. Don’t Overwhelm the User
While you may feel like a complex chatbot with loads of features is what your customers want, it’s highly possible that it won’t have the capabilities to perfectly undertake multiple tasks. As a result, you’re better off keeping things simple to avoid overwhelming your audience.
Start slowly by gradually revealing features over time. Set expectations by telling your audience what they can achieve by conversing with your bot. Later, unlock additional features as users grow more comfortable and confident in your chatbot’s ability to complete tasks.
9. Give Your Chatbot Personality
Thanks to AI, you no longer have to launch a chatbot that’s limited to specific sentences. Instead, try and launch a bot that has a little personality. While you must be careful to not make your chatbot seem obnoxious or rude, giving it some personality could increase engagement, and in turn, sales.
10. Back Your Chatbot With a Human
Last but not least, the technology that powers chatbots isn’t perfect, meaning you should back your chatbot with a human representative in order to avoid losing leads. Offer your audience the chance to speak with a human throughout the conversation to decrease the possibility of having an unsatisfied customer.
I asked the expert AI developer Fernando Rivero from XenioAI about recipes for success in bot world.
“Focusing on specific domain knowledge when creating your chatbot is extremely important to increase the success rate and usability,” he said. “If you truly understand the business aims of the chatbot and have a great data set you can make an AI with specific domain knowledge which will greatly improve the user’s chatbot experience. I have created AI driven chatbots and virtual assistants for companies such as CHADand Momentum Events and I have learned that the more training / understanding you can give your AI the better.”