Chatbots have forever changed the way we do business in the digital age. While it’s true that chatbots had a rough beginning, with many people finding them cumbersome to use, today, it couldn’t be more different. The chatbots of 2021 are fast, intelligent, understand context, and, thanks to omnichannel platforms, can access a wealth of information about customers. The benefits are endless for both customers and businesses. Businesses enjoy faster response times, higher conversion rates, reduced pressure on agents, and more. Consumers get responses immediately, no matter the time of day.
However, getting your chatbot design right is paramount. A poorly designed chatbot not only cuts you off from these benefits but can also harm customer relations and your brand reputation. Put simply, a great chatbot does wonders for your company – it boosts revenue and improves loyalty. But a low-quality chatbot is worse than not having a chatbot at all. With this in mind, we’ve put together seven expert tips to create an engaging chatbot that your customers will love. Let’s take a look.
1. Chatbot Design Flows
This is the structure of your chatbot. A typical example looks like this:
Chatbot – Greeting/Introduction. For example, “Hey there, can I help you with anything today?”
User – Asks a question. For example, “What flagship Android phones do you sell?”
- Bot reflects an understanding of the question. For example, “We sell a range of flagship Android smartphones.”.
- Bot asks for more information. For example, “What price range are you looking for? $600-$700, $700-$800, $800-$1000+”
You can design the flow of your chatbot using a spreadsheet or dedicated chatbot software. Here are some things you need to consider:
- Be specific – The user should be able to provide a specific answer that helps move the interaction forward.
- Avoid too many open-ended questions. While chatbots today are much better at context than in the past, this is where they can fall down.
- Capture as many possibilities as possible, even if you don’t give them all to the user for consideration. The last thing you want is for your chatbot to be trying to steer the conversation in a direction opposite to the customer’s needs.
2. Hook the User In
It’s a good idea to design your chatbot to do more than just answer a few simple questions. You can add fun or informative features to your chatbot that will drive better engagement and get them hooked. For example, if you sell photo-editing software, your chatbot can pop up saying, “Want to vote on the best photo edits from our users this week?”. That transforms the chatbot from a simple customer service tool into a game that improves engagement. It also allows you to show off other elements about what makes your company great. Are you a fun and social company? Well then, make sure you reflect that in your chatbot.
Here are some other ideas:
- Stats: If you have any fun or intriguing stats surrounding your product, your chatbot can lead with that or weave it into the conversation. For example, “60,000 of our users have used the new X feature, do you need help with how to get the most from this feature?”.
- Personalized fun content: For example, let’s say you run a sportswear company and the user is looking to buy a football helmet. After the bot has answered the users’ questions, you can say, “What’s your favorite football team? Or “Who is your favorite football player?”. When they answer, you can link news articles or other content related to their answer by saying, “Did you catch this?”.
3. Understand The Platform
A chatbot can be an excellent opportunity to show off your company branding with a stunning and unique UI. However, what you can do will depend on your platform. If you’re designing a chatbot for your website, then you will likely have much more freedom to add your own branding. However, you can also create chatbots for Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, and more.
Creating chatbots on another platform, like Facebook Messenger does have unique benefits, for example:
- Your users most likely already use the platform, so they already know how to communicate with the bot.
- They can access the bot easily because they likely have a Messenger app on their phone or tablet. This saves time searching for your website in a browser and makes it more likely that the user will seek out your chatbot.
- Users are already familiar with the interface. This means they can communicate distraction-free.
It’s absolutely worth exploring your options for chatbots outside of your core-site. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a one or the other type of situation. You can have a branded chatbot on your website and a simpler chatbot on Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
However, you have to be aware of the limitations of chatbots on different platforms. On Facebook Messenger, for example, there’s a character limit for responses. With this in mind, you should design your bot’s questions and responses to fit this character limit. There’s no use asking a customer an open-ended question that they can’t fully answer within the bot window.
4. Set the Tone
Chatbots revolve around conversations and interactions. Their job is to imitate a conversation between two people and not to appear robotic. Many people misunderstand the importance of humanizing their chatbots. They think, “well, users know they’re talking to a bot. Why pretend otherwise?”. The truth is, just because we know we’re talking to a bot doesn’t mean we don’t want the conversation to feel human. It’s just the way we’re wired – we respond to positive emotions, friendly and warm phrases, and emojis.
A poorly designed chatbot will come across as overly robotic and stunted, and ultimately, users won’t want to use it. If users don’t enjoy talking to your chatbot, then they’ll only do it once.
Here are some tips:
- Use emojis – Don’t overdo it by using emojis to replace words or by using them too much. However, a few carefully placed emojis can set a positive and friendly tone.
- Use your company voice – Do you have a name for your referral program or loyalty program? Use it. Do you talk like a Gen Z’er while on Twitter? Then do that on your chatbot. Your company voice should be consistent across all of your communication channels.
- Do your research – Every chatbot has a purpose. When you’ve decided on a purpose, do your research to determine what phrases users respond best to in that segment.
5. Decide the Purpose of Your Chatbot
Being too general can mean your chatbot fails to achieve its goals or fails to resonate effectively with users. The first thing to do in any design project is to decide on the end-goal. What do you want to achieve with your chatbot? And what is its purpose?
Here are some examples of specific chatbots with a purpose:
- To suggest outfits and clothes to users.
- To recommend the best tech product.
- To tell the weather.
- Give sports updates.
You get the idea…
You can design your bot to do almost anything, but you need to decide its primary purpose before you start. Once you know the bot’s purpose, you can shape your UI and conversation flow around that purpose. In the first interaction, the bot should say what its goal is. For example, it could say:
- “Hey there, I’m Clio, a customer service bot here to help. Do you have any questions about our products, your account, or a recent purchase?”
- Hi! I’m Teddy. I can help you transfer money to different accounts or cash checks. Do you want my help?”
- Hello! It looks like it’s your first time here. I’m your weather friend from [company X]. What would you like to know?”
Bonus tip: Use buttons to stop the conversation from ending. If the conversation reaches a natural stopping point because you’ve answered the user’s question, you can add buttons with more options like “browse more products” or “talk to a human agent”.
6. Plan for Hiccups
Chatbots today are much more intuitive and powerful than in the past. However, they’re not perfect. Even in human conversations, we often misunderstand what someone is saying to us or get things confused. This happens even more frequently over text. Face to face, we rely on facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice to determine the context and intent behind the words. “What did you just say?” has two entirely different meanings depending on how it’s delivered. If it’s said softly with a hint of confusion, it means the listener has simply missed something crucial that they want to know before you continue – it helps them piece together the other things that have been said. However, if it’s said angrily, it means the last thing you said insulted the person, and they want you to explain yourself.
With chatbots, all interactions happen over text, so there’s a possibility that the user might say something the chatbot doesn’t understand, or the chatbot might misunderstand the user’s problem and give the wrong answer—plan for this. Here are some tips:
- Don’t use error messages: It reminds the user that they’re talking to a bot. Instead, use plain English to say the same thing. For example, “Sorry, I didn’t get that. Can you try again?” “I’m not sure what you mean. Could you try rephrasing that, please?”.
- Don’t be repetitive: If the bot needs to answer several times for the same information, make sure it delivers the message differently. This has two purposes. Firstly, it stops the bot from appearing repetitive (more robotic), and secondly, the rephrasing might help clear up misunderstandings.
- Use buttons for when attempts fail: If after repeated attempts to understand the user, the bot is still confused, then use buttons. You can direct users to FAQs, Self-service knowledge bases, or a human agent.
7. Analyze User Behavior
Your chatbot should never be complete. It should always be evolving and improving. How do you strengthen your chatbot? By looking at the data. We’re in the age of Big Data and collecting and generating more data than ever before. Make sure you use this data to make better business decisions. You can try out different introductory responses in your chatbot and see which ones users respond best to. You can do the same with Emojis, character profiles, branding, and more. You might find that users respond better to buttons than having to type responses. Or that users talk to the bot for longer when it has a name and icon. The possibilities are endless, but it’s your job to find out which ones work the best.