How to Build the Perfect Chatbot
The first thing we need to know: There is no such thing as the perfect chatbot. There is no best-practice guide. Every chatbot behaves differently, depending on the purpose, topic coverage, and the target group.
In general, however, there are various ways to build a chatbot and improve the quality to achieve a better conversion rate.
A successful chatbot is not characterized by the technology behind it, but by a well-thought-out conversational design. We, therefore, have to put ourselves in the visitors' shoes and adapt the flow of conversations so that the chatbot delivers the appropriate answer as quickly as possible.
Less is more. When we start to create a chatbot, we should only focus on the most important scenarios and optimize these processes accordingly. If these work well, then we can add more stuff.
Pre-train your Conversational AI.
When our chatbot comes to life, it often only has a small amount of training data. We should, therefore, feed our AI engine with various phrases in advance to recognize the correct intent. Answers should be as generic and simple as possible so the system does not have to distinguish between small things.
It is best if there is already existing data from previous communication channels (e.g. email or messenger). From this, intents can be derived and extracted in advance.
Train and test your chatbot continuously.
Users will ask all kinds of questions that you don't know at first. These new questions must then be fed quickly. However, this also changes the behavior of the chatbot. You should not assume that the chatbot project is finished at a certain point, because there is always something to improve.
So, once the chatbot is live, we need to continuously validate, adapt, and test the newly trained data to improve quality.
Beside testing conversation flows, there are other important factors and methods to be tested. They include the following:
- Natural language processing testing, to improve your chatbot's understanding;
- E2E testing, for verifying the end-user experience;
- Voice testing, to understand your users on voice channels;
- Performance testing, to ensure your chatbot is responsive under high load;
- Security testing, for making your chatbot secure; and
- Monitoring, so you geet notified when problems arise.
Choose the right chatbot engine/platform.
As you might have noticed, there are a large number of vendors, so it often seems impossible to know which ones fit your needs. When choosing a platform, think about future plans so you don't have to change engines. You also could test platforms internally and use which one fits best.
To help you to choose the right platform, here are a few points to which you should pay special attention:
- Coding or non-coding:Are you a developer who knows how to code? Or do you have developers on your side? Platforms that rely on coding are usually cheaper than those that offer a purely visual interface.
- Multilingual AI: Depending on whether your users are international or local, sometimes chatting in one language is not enough. There are platforms that speak local languages with region-specific terminology and nuances to ensure a natural and meaningful interaction.
- Multichannel integration: Your users might use multiple channels, like Facebook or Whatsapp. Think about which channels you want to cover in the future and choose your platform accordingly.
- Back-end integration: A chatbot has to be useful. This is where integration with back-end interfaces comes into play. Make sure that the connection of your chatbot to the back-end system is possible.
- Security and privacy: When you look at the daily increase in cybercrime, security is critical. Chatbot platforms have different security standards, only partially comply with European data protection regulations, and should, therefore, be chosen carefully, especially if conversations contain sensitive data.
- Sentiment analysis: It's important to see how your customers are reacting so you can improve the experience. This can be done by manual analysis or automatically with a sentiment analysis feature.
- Hybrid chat: Some chatbot platforms can automatically hand over to human agents when fall back intents occur to ensure high customer satisfaction.
- Contextual understanding: If needed, ensure that the system you choose can hold context, which means that the chatbot can associate information from previous conversation flows and the current conversation step.
Use a fall-back strategy.
There is one fact that cannot be denied about chatbots: Chatbots can't answer all questions. Why? Either because the AI is not fully trained yet or because there are questions that the chatbot is not designed to answer.
As chatbot developers, we also have to worry about fall-back intents and handle them in detail. Often, the bad reputation of chatbots comes from exactly that.
There are several ways to handle these fallback intents. You could capture the contact details and forward them to an employee who will get back to you later. Another wayis to resolve the already triggered fallback intent with an intent that deals with the confusion of the questioner.
Give an idea what your chatbot can do.
Explain upfront how and what your chatbot can do. This avoids annoyed users wasting their precious time asking questions that the chatbot can't answer anyway.
For people to use your chatbot, it must be made known. The strategy behind it depends on the status quo. In the beginning, it might be better to maintain the current communication channels and run the chatbot in parallel.
Here are a few strategies you could use:
- Reference the chatbot in emails via signature or in the newsletter;
- Launch a marketing campaign via social media; and
- Place a web widget on the website.
Getting feedback is a must.
Beside the information you get from analyzing sessions, simply ask users for feedback and suggestions for improvement. Getting negative feedback can identify opportunities for improvement. Keep it simple, leading to higher response rates. If the feedback is negative, ask the user how you can improve. This can provide a wealth of suggestions and ideas to further improve the chatbot.
Give your bot a personality.
Instead of annoying customers with a robotic character, chatbots should have a personality. Especially for enterprise chatbots, one of the most important features is its personality. Your chatbot's personality represents your company on a personal level and should be present at every stage.
Here are some examples how you can brand your bot:
- Avatar — a memorable image representing the chatbot;
- A personalized greeting;
- Individual asking and answering questions;
- Providing information and services.
Think about user experience.
Designing a chatbot window is similar to designing other products. You should focus on including elements that follow the company's branding, such as typography, color, and bubble background.
When interacting with the content, you should use rich interactions like buttons, quick replies, and cards to give the user predefined options to choose. Using such elements greatly enhances the user experience because users often don't know how to phrase the question or what information the chatbot needs.
In summary, independent of which chatbot platform you use, creating a chatbot is a complex task, with many factors playing a role. Back-end functionalities, the correct creation of conversations, and the design of the front end are all high priority.
But the key factors are continuous training and the import of new intents, as well as testing on all levels and aspects. This is the only way to improve or maintain the quality to give your users the best experience.