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  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Shane Barker
  • NOV 01, 2019

The Beginner’s Guide to Making a Chatbot

 

There has been a lot of talk about chatbots these days. You come across them quite often in Facebook Messenger.

In fact, right now, there are more than 300,000 active chatbots on Facebook Messenger. For a technology that has gained momentum just a few years ago, this number is huge.

Not only on Facebook Messenger, chatbots are also showing up on a lot of business websites. That’s because the barriers that prevented people from using chatbots are breaking down.

According to a recent survey by Drift, customers are becoming increasingly comfortable interacting with chatbots. Only 38% of people said that they prefer to talk to humans when engaging with a brand in 2019, compared to 43% of people who said the same last year.

The remaining 62% of consumers are happy and satisfied with chatbot support.

Why are Chatbots So Popular?

One of the primary reasons behind this surge in the popularity of chatbots is the development of AI-powered chatbots. AI-powered chatbots are easy to build and can interact with humans with astonishing accuracy.

Chatbots are bringing in significant structural changes in many organizations. They are proving to be an integral part of sales and customer support. They empower businesses to provide excellent customer service around the clock without the need to hire additional employees.

In fact, chatbots are now being deployed in almost all aspects of customer support. People like to use chatbots for a variety of purposes, including:

Image via Drift

Benefits of Using Chatbots for Your Business

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using chatbots and how they can contribute to the growth of your business.

1. Using Chatbots is Better and Cheaper Than Building a New App

A majority of smartphone users actively use social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp. They like the comfort of using these apps and are very less likely to replace them with any new apps.

Therefore, integrating chatbots into one of the platforms that your consumers already use is better and cheaper than building a new app.

For example, Lyft, a ride-sharing app, allows you to request a ride via a chatbot integrated into Facebook Messenger. The chatbot also updates you about the vehicle number and the current location of the driver.

Image source: Social Media Today

2. Chatbots Can Provide Extensive Customer Support

Shopping online may seem easy but it isn’t always. Many online shoppers need assistance while shopping. From dealing with navigation issues to seeking help during registration, payment, and checkout processes, your customers may need support.

In such situations, chatbots can assist them just like a salesperson would if they were in a retail store.

Along with solving basic customer issues, chatbots can also ask questions to understand the buying preferences of your customers and recommend relevant products to them accordingly.

The best part about using chatbots is that they can provide round-the-clock customer support.

You don’t need to hire more customer support executives as chatbots can handle multiple requests at one time. This ensures that your customers don’t have to wait very long.

Also, these bots can be programmed to give predefined answers to common questions. They can also forward requests to a real human in case a customer asks any complicated question.

Starbucks’ chatbot is an amazing example. The bot makes it extremely easy for customers to place an order using either voice command or text messaging. The chatbot also tells you the amount of time required for your order to be ready and the total bill amount. And if you want to repeat your past order, all you have to do is to just ask the bot.

Image source: GeekWire

3. Chatbots are Cost-Effective

Integrating a chatbot is cheaper and easier than creating a cross platform app or hiring people to perform each task manually.

Since chatbots are automated programs, they can handle multiple customer requests at once. This means that you can save on repetitive employee costs by investing in a chatbot.

Using chatbots can also enable you to prevent issues caused due to human errors.

4 Steps to Make a Chatbot for Your Business

If you are wondering how to make a chatbot with minimal or no coding knowledge, you shouldn’t worry. There are various chatbot platforms such as AivoManyChat, and Botsify that let you create a customized chatbot without any coding knowledge.

You can follow this guide to learn the step-by-step process to make a chatbot as a beginner.

Step 1: Understand Your Goal Behind Making the Chatbot

Before you start to make a chatbot, it is important to understand what you want your chatbot to do. Determining this can help you select the right chatbot platform for your business.

This information will also guide you to create conversations that can address your end goals.

For example, if your end goal is to engage your customers until a real human takes over, you can design a simple chatbot with some predefined text. You don’t need to leverage artificial intelligence for this.

However, if your end goal is to pitch products and engage customers to increase sales, then you need to make an AI-powered chatbot. Your chatbot should have the ability to deliver the right solutions to a variety of questions that your customers may ask.

A brilliant example of this is Dom, Domino’s interactive chatbot integrated with Facebook Messenger.

Dom allows you to place orders and repeat previous orders without you having to create an account. You can place an order from the entire restaurant menu without having to leave the comfort of your favorite app.

Image source – Digital Marketing Institute

Step 2: Examine the Communication Habits of Your Customers

They way your customers interact with your business serves as a primary factor for deciding how you should design and develop your chatbot conversations.

To understand how your customers interact with your business, you should answer the questions below:

Which communication channels do your customers use the most?Do they contact you via chat, phone calls, emails, or any social media channels?What kind of questions do they usually ask?How often do your customers contact you?

These customer interaction habits will put you in a better place to set up effective conversations for your chatbot.

Step 3: Design a Chatbot Conversation

Chatbot conversations need to be accurate, interesting, and engaging. The way your chatbot communicates is the differentiating factor that decides the quality of customer engagement it can deliver.

Due to advancements in natural language processing (NLP), chatbots are now able to understand user intent. They are emerging as intelligent, conversation-driven, virtual assistants for businesses.

Image Source – IMPACT

Broadly, chatbot conversations can be divided into two segments:

Structured Interaction

Structured interaction is a logical flow of information that works similar to the FAQs section on a website. It takes menus, choices, and forms into account and can be designed easily based on your analysis.

In this case, you collect commonly-asked questions from your customers and then set their answers in your channel.

Unstructured Interaction

This involves freestyle conversation such as one that may happen with family, colleagues, and friends.

Developing a script for unstructured interactions mainly depends on AI. AI uses natural language processing (NLP) to find the intent of the communication and then provide suitable responses.

Designing chatbot conversations is not only about providing correct responses but also about creating a conversational user interface. It is important to keep the conversation topics close to your goals.

To meet your end goals, designers need to develop both close-ended and open-ended chatbot conversations. Close-ended conversations are for customers who want specific answers whereas open-ended conversations are for customers who are looking for assistance and natural conversations.

Step 4: Choose Between Non-Coding and Code-Based Framework

If your product is not extremely complicated and you are clear about what your visitors expect, you can create your chatbot using a non-coding framework.

There are many chatbot applications which allow you to make a chatbot using a simple drag-and-drop builder. You can design simple conversations and upload them to a cloud-based platform and you are done.

However, if your product is extremely complicated and you want your chatbot to handle unstructured conversations, you need to use a code-based framework.

This kind of conversation is usually not addressed by default templates. You may need advanced knowledge of programming languages, machine learning, and AI. Also, if you want to store and analyze customer data, making a code-based chatbot will be your best bet.

Design Elements to Use in Chatbots

In order to ensure that the chatbot offers a smooth and interactive user experience, it is important to include the right design elements. Of course, the design elements will depend on the platform you choose to build your bot on.

Let’s take a look at the top design elements you can use when you make your chatbot.

1. Buttons

Buttons enable users to take action. When a user clicks any button, it prompts an action. It is a good idea to include interactive buttons to help users make decisions faster.

You can add buttons to ask users to choose one of the multiple options you have to offer.

Image source: Chatbots Magazine

You can also add a “Get Started” button to encourage users to start a conversation.

2. Cards

If there is any additional information (apart from the conversation) that you want to serve users, you can leverage cards. You can enter text, links, images, and buttons into cards which the user can view as a side column during their conversation.

Users can click the cards relevant to them or they can choose to hide them.

Image source: Zumata

3. Smart Reply

Smart reply is a feature that allows users to respond to questions asked by the chatbot without actually typing anything. You can use this design element when you can give a list of available options to the user. This can make it easier for users to interact with your chatbot.

Gmail’s smart reply is a brilliant example of this. In addition to offering three responses to choose from, Gmail provides you an option to auto-complete your sentences without typing anything.

The GIF below shows how this smart reply feature simplifies the lives of Gmail users.

GIF source: Google Blog

4. Persistent Menu

Users can opt for this feature when they want to browse another feature of your chatbot that is not otherwise readily available.

Tips to Make a Chatbot That Has an Engaging Personality

If you want to make a chatbot that users would love to interact with, you should keep a few points in mind.

1. The Chatbot Should Be Able to Direct Users

To give continuity and direction to any conversation, a chatbot should ask questions that are relevant to the conversation. They should also offer options that are easy to select with a “tap.”

If a user does not know what they want, the chatbot should be able to provide directional cues to help them.

For example, instead of asking the user what they would like to do, the bot can give a list of things it can do for the user. This way, the user can easily figure out all of the options that the bot has for them.

2. The Chatbot Should Connect with Users on a Personal Level

You should make a chatbot that effectively incorporates personalization. Your bot should address users by their names, greet them when the conversation begins, and give personalized suggestions based on previous conversations.

Adding a personalized in your chatbot conversations can help you break the ice and give your users a feeling that they are talking to a real human.

3. The Chatbot Should Use Fillers for Time Gaps

If the bot needs a certain amount of time to process a request, it is a good idea to use fillers to keep the user engaged for that time.

If you leave a user waiting, it can break the flow of the conversation and, in the worst case, the user may also leave the conversation.

It is a good idea to use random trivia facts as fillers during conversations.

4. The Chatbot Should Understand Emotions

The capability to include emotions in chat is what makes humans different. If you want to make your chatbots more human-like, it is important that they are able to understand the emotions behind a conversation and respond accordingly.

If a user accomplishes a task, your chatbot should respond with a cheerful reply. Similarly, if the chatbot can’t help a user the right way, it should be able to convey an apology for the inconvenience caused.

A good idea is to use emoticons. You should try to integrate the most basic and commonly used emoticons in your chatbot conversations.

Image source: Singularika

Conclusion

Today, when customers seek instant responses to their queries, chatbots are a popular solution. They are already all over Facebook Messenger and are steadily making their way to other messaging mediums as well.

What’s interesting is that users have grown fond of chatbots and they don’t mind interacting with them to improve their shopping experiences.

The real challenge, though, lies in building a chatbot that is engaging, interactive and is able to provide real value to users.

With easy-to-use chatbot platforms, making a chatbot is now quick and hassle-free. And with unprecedented technological advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, the future of chatbots looks bright.

This article published on Shane Barker’s blog.

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