How To Create a Chatbot Strategy in 7 Steps
Introducing the new role of chatbot strategist and why it matters
Using a chatbot to grow your business, whether it’s to acquire customers, help existing customers, or build brand awareness, is becoming increasingly popular and is only going to grow more, with 80% of companies planning to implement some type of chatbot by 2020. The formula is simple: create a bot, advertise it, engage users, and grow your business, but what happens between point A, having an idea for a bot, and point B, converting users, requires strategy.
Now that we’re three years in with Facebook chatbots and even longer with website and SMS bots, users expect them to do more than say “Hello” and “Sorry, I didn’t get that.” The purpose of conversation design is to make the experience feel invisible. The real goal of chatbots is to automate conversations at scale, but the user should still feel like they’re having a one-to-one conversation with your brand. When we approach conversation design through a strategic lens, we not only ensure the user has a pleasant (and on-brand) experience, we gain their trust. Chatbots are ready to introduce a chatbot strategist to the design process.
What Does a Chatbot Strategist Do?
A strategist determines the main user experience and conversational flows. This includes the feature set, advanced technical elements, and how to best reach the bot’s goal through the flows. The concepts, how they can evolve, and the specific measurable goals for a bot separate the successes from the failures. Additionally, once the bot is out in the wild, the strategist can track feedback on performance against the KPIs and plan future developments.
How Do You Create a Strategy for Your Chatbot?
There are seven major keys to a successful chatbot strategy. In our strategic process, before we start production on any bot, we run them through a system specifically designed for customer acquisition bots.
This same process applies to chatbots I’ve designed for big brands while consulting, and we have now made that approachable and accessible for bold, innovative brands everywhere. The keys are audience, goal, performance, key intents, storytelling, platform strengths, and feedback.
Let’s walk through them in order.
The first key to a successful strategy is to profile your ideal customers. Your strategy’s ultimate goal is to create a user experience that connects to that audience in a relatable and useful way. Your design frame of mine should look at the scope and anatomy of all conversations a customer has with your brand and extend in a consistent way across all channels. The audience is your guiding light throughout your strategy. Every decision you make should start there.
To define the purpose or goal for your chatbot strategy, begin with the end in mind. Envision the best-case scenario for the audience and what actions you want them to take to create the experience. In customer acquisition, the goal is conversion. However, collecting a user’s contact information to sell them something isn’t enough. The difference between a basic or spammy chatbot and a strategic acquisition tool is value. What can the chatbot provide the user that will get them to that conversion? What is the carrot you can lead with and create a journey around? This is the goal. Get a quote, get pre-qualified, file a claim, receive a personalized plan; the key to your best-case scenario will be something a user can act on.
With your goal and conversion point in mind, the next step is to determine what success looks like for the experience. Once we know what we want the users to do (example: get a quote), we can create conversational activities that meet the performance metrics. Conversational completion benchmarks, quotes delivered, qualified leads, etc. These benchmarks will become our KPIs in the conversation funnel.
4. Key Intents
Outlining the key intents, or user actions, that the chatbots will complete (at this time) as they move through the conversation funnel will help create a streamlined design and manage the user journey. Like the goal, the intents must be outlined and communicated to show an audience that this chatbot can do “some things” but not “all things.” Think of it as setting realistic expectations. Key intents not only represent the actions a user can expect to complete, but can also be used and collected by your NLP. Intents convert user actions or patterns into actionable outcomes.
Armed with the goal and key intents, next you will design the storylines the audience follows to reach that conversion point. These will become our flows, which for customer acquisition can start out as simple as hello flow, qualify flow, qualified flow, and not qualified flow. Additionally, we’ll want to define what happens when the users say or do something the chatbot doesn’t understand. This will become the catch-all flow. Why is storytelling important? Having an effectively designed chatbot is the main key to success. The story shows the user what you want them to do, keeps them on track, and helps them have fun along the way, so they want to buy your product or service — and share the experience.
Personality Pro-Tip: A great way to create a bot personality is to visualize who this bot may be, what they do for work, and who they are to the customer. You can give them a name, call them a digital assistant, or let your brand personality speak on its own. Just because they’re bots, doesn’t mean they can’t have feelings.
6. Platform Strengths:
When building the conversation strategy, it’s important to consider which experiences, features and audiences will perform best on which chat platforms. A few unique strengths of chatbots are that you can be personalized (use someone’s name when talking to them), state-aware (know what’s going on in the world and remember things they’ve said), and engage with the audience actively (it replies instantly). Considering our overall conversational strategy, we should keep in mind which experiences, features, media, and audiences will perform best on which platforms.
During the platform strength analysis, you can also consider any complex integrations (like APIs) you want to build in.
A good starting point is to ask yourself the following questions:
- How will we create a personalized experience?
- How will we be timely and contextual?
- How will we enrich the experience with media and other integrations?
- What creative assets do we have available for the project?
- Will NLP allow us to serve the customers better? At which points do we want to activate it?
One of the most vital components of successful chatbot strategy is feedback. During the design process, you will want to do iterative feedback throughout to ensure all of the flows will make sense to the end-user, lead to your conversion point, and that you’ve filled any necessary holes (example: if a user wants to know more about your company or is unsure how to self-assess their health). When writing a conversation script, the experience is flat. It is easy for the designer to predict where the conversation will lead, and see all parts of it in a logical way. In a live chatbot, the conversation is 3D. The pathways are not displayed for the user, and unlike the designer, the user does not already know where the conversation will lead. Testing and QA are very important. When you’ve completed your script, the next step is to complete an internal QA and feedback process with your team and with your clients if you’re building a bot for someone else. Before you launch, it is important to test your chatbot in three phases: Phase 1: Core Project Team, Phase 2: Internal Team, Phase 3: Controlled Release.
Be sure to test all of the flows. Here is a quick overview of what to look for:
- Overall conversation tone and language — does it sound like you?
- Hello Flow (Select your call to action, about us, contact us)
- Qualifying Flow (answering all of the questions)
- Becoming a qualified lead
- Becoming a non-qualified lead
- Any re-engagements you’ve added in (i.e. dropping off of the experience and receiving a reminder message after 30 minutes)
- Goodbye Flow (going all the way through the experience to the end)
- Catch-All Flow (typing something the chatbot doesn’t understand)
After you’ve completed all rounds of feedback, you’ll be ready to create your launch plan.