You have no doubt seen chatbots on company websites and social media accounts. You may have even interacted with them — mimicking human behavior without interventions from actual human beings, chatbots are instrumental in providing guidance to consumers and helping them solve problems. They offer 24/7 service and engage consumers, as well as generate leads and create investment in your brand.
In recent years, businesses across sectors — Bank of America, Lyft, Verizon, Fandango, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Spotify, Mastercard, Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Staples, to name a few — have turned to chatbots as a critical customer service tool. They are part of the growing conversational marketing sector, which automates key consumer-facing tasks, personalizes interactions with brands, improves the user experience, and much more.
Wondering how you can leverage the power of this impressive technology in your organization? Here’s how to create a chatbot.
Types of Chatbots
Generally speaking, chatbots can be classified as simple and advanced. However, there are many more categories when it comes to what they do and what they are.
A simple chatbot is programmed by a software developer to respond to queries containing specific keywords, phrases, or commands. As is suggested by their descriptor, they have limited capabilities — if the user doesn’t input one of the pre-programmed keywords, then the chatbot won’t be able to understand the query.
In contrast, an advanced chatbot leverages artificial intelligence (AI), which enables them to understand and improve conversational patterns. They can offer an increasing number of suggestions and do not require pre-programmed keywords to respond appropriately. The conversation should flow much like one between two humans.
There are more niches within the chatbot world. Some specific types of chatbots are:
- Button- or menu-based chatbots
- Conversational chatbots
- Customer service chatbots
- Hybrid chatbots
- Keyword recognition chatbots
- Machine learning chatbots
- Rule-based chatbots
- Social messaging chatbots
- Voice bots
Creating a Chatbot: Step-by-Step Instructions
Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to create a chatbot. While the steps may vary depending on a number of factors, this is the general approach.
1. Consider your need for a chatbot
What is the purpose of your chatbot? Why does your website or app need one? How will it contribute to customer service? This is what you need to think about before you begin to work on the rest of your plan for creating the chatbot.
2. Determine the features and requirements necessary
What type of chatbot will you be creating? Once you have a clear idea, make a list of specific features the chatbot should have. Divide the list into “must haves” and “nice to haves.” Chances are, you will want to build a minimum viable product (MVP), which will have only the most basic features. Then, you can go about determining which nice-to-have features will improve your product within the boundaries of your budget.
3. Choose your platform
There are several platforms available to help you construct your chatbot. Many are low-code, meaning that you won’t need to have in-depth knowledge of software development in order to utilize them. Weigh your options carefully when deciding. You can also outsource development to an external provider who can assist you with adding complex features and customizations.
4. Select a location for the chatbot
Now, think about where you want the chatbot to appear. Will it be on your website, social media channels, and/or additional messaging platforms? This will affect how you want it to behave and communicate, as well as how you develop it.
5. Develop the conversation
This will depend on whether you are building a simple or advanced chatbot. The approaches are distinct, although the general lines of conversation should reflect what you want to be communicated. Start by writing a welcome message before developing more complex sequences. With low-code platforms, this is as easy as dragging and dropping different blocks.
6. Test the chatbot
You need to know whether and how the chatbot works. With many platforms, all you need to do is enter preview mode. From there, you can interact with the tool, assessing how it behaves and responds, just as though you were a real user. This is the best way to assess the user experience (UX) and identify any potential hiccups and areas of improvement. Make sure to test it in different interfaces and on different devices.
7. Customize it
Now you have a functional chatbot, but you still need to make it your own. Add branding to reflect the image your organization wants to project — different colors, designs, and other visual elements, for example. Of course, don’t forget to test it again once you’ve made any alterations.
8. Train the chatbot
Hone your chatbot and improve the lines of communication by training it. This is essential if you are creating an AI chatbot. The more data you feed it, the better the tool will learn and be able to respond effectively.
9. Collect and evaluate data
There are two main sources of data: user feedback and analytics. Both will prove valuable in helping you improve your chatbot. Allow users to evaluate and rate their experience with the chatbot, and leave spaces for qualitative feedback. Additionally, monitor the analytics that are generated so that you can see how well the chatbot is responding and identify any issues that are occurring.
Using Chatbots to Improve the Customer Support Service
The best chatbots for customer service are the ones that are perpetual works in progress. They can be highly effective tools for consumer engagement, brand awareness, and personalized user experiences. Plus, they can save your human customer service representatives time, allowing them to devote their workdays to responsibilities that require the hand of an actual person.
But you must constantly look for ways to improve your chatbot, leveraging the data you collect to hone the tool and add more advanced features. This will make it an excellent tool for sales, marketing, customer service — and your entire business.