Gone are the days where you’d groan when you saw a chatbot pop-up thinking, “these things never know what I’m trying to say; it’s a waste of time.” Chatbots today understand you. With the advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), chatbots understand context, dialects and can follow long conversations without “forgetting” what you just said. But what makes a great chatbot? And what are the must-have features that you need in your company chatbot? Let’s take a look.
What Makes a Great Chatbot?
Another way of putting this is conversational maturity. In the past, users would have to think carefully about what they said to a chatbot because if they didn’t, the bot wouldn’t understand what they were saying. Today, you can talk to a chatbot like you were talking to a real person. This is primarily due to advancements in natural language processing (NLP). NLP allows bots to understand conversational language and context without constantly asking validating questions.
Chatbots should be omni-capable, utilizing data from a range of sources. For example, it should be able to access customer data from different digital channels and update information in those channels as it goes along.
Like the last point, chatbots should be integrated into the business systems to be more efficient and reliable. For example, with an omnichannel platform, an agent should be able to see a customer’s chatbot log right next to other communications and within one profile window.
It should understand customer sentiment and emotion and be able to respond accordingly. This is a key part of being successful as a customer service agent. An agent who can’t recognize when a customer is becoming irate won’t be very successful at de-escalating the situation. The same is true for chatbots.
The chatbot should be able to do a variety of tasks. For example, they should be able to sell or upsell a product, provide customer service, update customer account details, or provide useful information to customers (self-service blog posts).
Be Available Where Your Users Are
A successful chatbot is available where your users are. For example, it can pop-up on any page on the website or be on Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, or Telegram.
6 Must-Have Features That Will Make Your Company Chatbot A Success
1. It Should be A Conversationalist!
Some chatbots are purely based on ML, others are purely based on linguistic rules, and others are a hybrid. There are benefits to each. For example, with an ML-based chatbot, your chatbot is always getting better at understanding customers and people in general. It can learn over time what people truly mean when they say certain things. However, ML chatbots require a lot of training material to be successful, and not every company has thousands and thousands of chat logs to use to teach their bot to be more human.
Linguistic rules-based chatbots work by having a pre-programmed response to keywords or phrases. These chatbots are typically easy to make, but they can sometimes fall down if they’re hit with an unexpected question.
A hybrid model combines the two and is an excellent option for most businesses. It allows you to get a chatbot up and running quickly, but also means your chatbot will improve over time.
No matter what approach you use, your Chabot must be a conversationalist. It must sound human or human enough. Sure, users know they’re talking to a bot; they’re not stupid. But we’re also wired to respond in a certain way when we see certain things. Regardless of whether you’re talking to a bot or a human, blunt text devoid of a friendly tone won’t make you feel good.
Here are some tips on making your chatbot a good conversationalist:
- It should follow a typical conversation flow, as though it was a live chat. For example, “Hi,” “how are you doing?” “How can I help you today”. It should feel like a real conversation.
- Don’t use stilted or robotic language: For example, if the user wants to talk to an agent, but one isn’t available right now, it would be better to say, “Sorry, none of my human colleagues are available right now, but I’ll connect you as soon as possible”, rather than “no agents are available right now”.
- Three dots: You know those three magic dots that show you someone is typing? This light up your brain, keeping you focused on the chatbot and reassures you that a response is on the way. Although a chatbot isn’t actually typing in the same way a human agent would be, those three dots can still be very effective at making the bot seem more human.
- Use Emojis – Emojis help convey positive emotion. They can help put customers at ease and make the bot seem more human.
2. Well Integrated
According to a report on the challenges of using chatbots, 19.7% of respondents said that chatbots never have enough information about them. These users become frustrated because they have to keep verifying their identity or answering endless questions that the company should already know the answer to.
If you can’t integrate your chatbot with your CRM or, even better, your omnichannel platform, you should carefully consider whether a chatbot is the best decision for your business. One of the key benefits of a chatbot is that it provides 24/7 service, allowing you to connect with customers in need outside of your operating hours. It also takes some pressure off your human agents because chatbots can deal with the more straightforward customer queries.
However, it’s also vital that you understand that customers have higher expectations today than in the past. If they use your chatbot, they’re going to expect certain things from it. They will be comparing their experience with your chatbot to the experiences they’ve had with other chatbots. If they find your bot asks too many clarifying questions or doesn’t know enough about them, that will be noticed.
3. 3rd Party Integration
A chatbot on your site is a great start, something you should do, but 3rd-party integration is also a must. You can integrate your bot into other platforms that your customers use frequently. For example, WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram, Slack, and more. There are several benefits to doing this:
- Your customers already know how to use these platforms. There’s no learning involved, even for the least tech-savvy users.
- The conversation can carry on at any point – When talking with a bot on your website, the user will be hesitant to move off the site until the issue is handled. They know that if they come back to the bot later, they might have to start the entire conversation again. With social media or messaging channels, they feel assured that this won’t happen.
- Users check these apps frequently (more often than your website) and will be continuously reminded of your company.
4. Autonomous Reasoning
The chatbot should be able to figure out most problems on its own without human input. If you frequently have to check what your chatbot is saying or confirm it has the right response to a problem, then the chatbot isn’t working for you. If it requires constant agent input, then the customer might as well just talk to an agent.
For autonomous reasoning to be successful, the bot needs to access a wealth of company information. This means customer information but also knowledge bases. It should know what information to provide to the customer based on the key words or phrases the customer is using. It should know when it’s received positive feedback or negative feedback and come up with an alternate option.
It’s also critical that the resources at its disposal are always up to date. We often forget to update our knowledge bases properly. We add new information but fail to remove old or less relevant information. Your chatbot might not automatically know the difference between old and updated information, so you must point it in the right direction. Customers can become extremely frustrated if they get one answer from a chatbot but an entirely different response when they later speak to an agent. They will think they wasted their time and worse that your company doesn’t respect their time enough to make sure the bot is working correctly.
Remember, chatbots are still a relatively new technology and one that previously had a bad reputation for being inept. Perception is everything with new technologies. One bad experience can ruin your chatbot’s reputation. It doesn’t matter if you update your bot and now it understands customers perfectly 99% of the time. The customer who experienced the old bot might never trust your chatbots again. It’s crucial to get it right the first time and every time after that.
5. Reflect Your Company Voice in Your Bot
Every brand has a brand culture and voice. Your customers know what you’re about by looking at your social media, reading your marketing content, and viewing your website. If you have a fun, friendly, and modern culture and voice, this should be reflected in your chatbot. By contrast, if you primarily have a very corporate and serious tone because it’s more appropriate for your clientele, then your bot should reflect this.
Here are some ways to make sure your bot reflects your company voice:
- Use the company lingo – If you have specific words you often use, a way of speaking, or if your referral programs have names, then make sure your bot uses this language.
- Your bot should talk the same way you speak on social media. The key is to provide a consistent experience, so customers feel comfortable and don’t find your bot off-putting.
- The interface should match your brand style. If you use certain colors and fonts in your marketing or on your site, use them in your bot too.
6. Constantly Evolving
Your bot should never be finished; it should be continuously updated to improve the customer experience. Over time you might decide to add new features, add some new company vocabulary, update it so it can do more things than what you initially designed it for. It’s also important to continually assess what data you’re collecting about customers and how. You might find that you’re underutilizing some chatbot data that could help you unlock critical insights about your customers. These insights might allow you to enter new markets or improve your conversion rates.