When we think of chatbots, we tend to think of them as a replacement for human to human interaction.
Chatbots aren’t here to replace customer service — they’re here to expand our customer service. In the digital age where customers demand immediate attention to answer their burning questions — as simple or complex as those questions may be — a chatbot is ideal for companies who need to have a support system in place beyond the call center.
Day and night, chatbots are available, freeing up the phone lines and providing quality service that companies can rely on.
But what goes into a chatbot? How do we make it user friendly, and how can it be the most effective? Here are some step by step chatbot etiquette guidelines that will help build the perfect bot.
A bot should always take the time to introduce itself, especially in the early stages when users are unfamiliar with what a chatbot is, or what it can do for them. The introduction message can be the perfect jumping off point — simply say hello, let the users know what they can do, and suggest a task that will guide the users toward a friendly and helpful conversation.
Explaining the Options in a User Friendly Way
We don’t want to overwhelm the user with too much information at once. Building in specific key words for the bot, such as “help”, “settings”, “start over” and “stop”, which allows the user and the bot to remain on the same page. It’s important that the bot responds to the actions and that the program is able to prompt the user with possibilities so that the conversation doesn’t become stagnant, and the user doesn’t become frustrated.
Leading the Conversation
Bots need to be the leader of the conversation, helping it to unfold naturally, and when necessary, restrict the conversation when it begins to deviate from the script. A good option is suggestions so that the bot is helping the user skip step by step instructions, and efficiently end the interaction to the users’ satisfaction.
“Hi, bot, have flowers sent to my mom.”
“Great, what would you like the card to say?”
Bot interactions need to flow like a traditional customer service interaction, keeping the users updated on progress, letting them know what is needed to move forward, and being proactive. At the same time, though, a delicate balance between necessary information and information overload needs to be considered.
Bots shouldn’t overwhelm the user, which is where anticipating the users’ needs comes into play.
Simple Start, and Adhere to the Learning Curve
Bots don’t need to throw all of the options at the user at once — it would be the equivalent of meeting a customer in a coffee shop, and talking their ears off when all they want is to order a coffee and go.
At the beginning of the bot/user relationship, the user will need help learning to navigate, but the bot can lead the conversation and tutorial sessions in a simple and effective manner. By introducing concepts and information in a gradual conversation, the user will pick up the system faster than having all of the information dumped on them at once.
As the conversations progress, the bot can show expert features in bits at a time, making the entire process more efficient. By being proactive and providing tips and basic feature information as the user goes, the conversation will be satisfactory, the user will get the hang of the interaction, and can move onto the next levels of functionality at their own pace.
Keep It Short
Messages need to be short, sweet, and straight to the point — especially since users will be accessing the bots from their mobile phones, and have very little screen space to work with. Rather than sending long texts filled with information the user will skim over, the bot should mimic human interactions and break the conversation into multiple texts for full readability.
Chatbots will help to move from UI filled with graphics, to a UI of simple texts. The bots will store and work off of previous interactions, so that the user doesn’t need to repeat information, and as the user/bot relationship progresses, the user will be able to purchase products, set and confirm appointments, and give the bot directions with a single click or message — all of which will save the user valuable time and effort.
Merging GUI and Messaging For Optimal Performance
The goal is to bring a hybrid experience of messaging and GUI (graphical user interface) together in one place. Messaging is not always the most efficient way of communication, especially when the user has a series of options to choose from. By inputting structured content and images into the conversation, the possibilities of bot interactions open up considerably.
GUI shouldn’t be relied on too heavily, though. When you use too many structured messages within the conversation, the conversation itself becomes less efficient and takes on an artificial feel. Keeping the human conversation element will be a large part of the bot’s success, and finding simple ways to streamline the conversation for the user will help to create a strong balance of GUI inside the conversation.
Limiting the Options
With so many avenues available for the conversation to head towards, it’s important to keep the chatbot as effective as possible to avoid dead ends. By limiting functionality, bots can guide users down specific paths within the program. Using buttons in place of “yes” and “no” allows the user to choose one answer, rather than type in something that may not fit with the script.
While the content needs to be minimal, the bot can have a personality of its own. The script will keep the answers on track, but the bot’s personality can create a relationship between it and the user. A personality also adds flavor to the exchange, making it more authentic to the user. Companies can choose a personality that fits their brand and interacts well with their specific demographic. Bringing humor into the chat can help to increase interactions and make the process more enjoyable.
Keep it Focused
One thing that can never be forgotten is to remember that the bot is there for a reason. It’s not to keep the users entertained, it’s to make sure that it is efficient and beneficial to the company in the long run. The technology isn’t perfect yet — so keeping the eye on the prize, creating a bot that does a few things really well, and is simple for users to interact with will go a long way in making it a worthwhile investment. Make it smart, keep it focused, and don’t worry about adding too many bells and whistles that the majority of users will never touch.
Always Get the Last Word
No matter what, the bot should never leave the user hanging. If the bot doesn’t understand the user, it should say so. If the user says goodbye — so should the bot. If there are problems on the backend that delay responses, let the user know the bot is still working on it. The bot should never play hard to get, or leave the user questioning its effectiveness.
Bots + Human Representatives Should Support Each Other
Don’t expect chatbots to replace humans. Expect them to enhance the quality of customer interactions. Sometimes you need a bot AND a human to really help a customer get what they want. A bot is just the handy messaging system that lets the customer service representative get to the heart of the problem quickly, without transferring between departments and wasting the customer’s time.
A bot and a human representative give companies the best of both worlds. The bot has endless amounts of information, but the human representative can facilitate the interactions on a personal level. Bots — and their technology — give companies an edge. Human representatives are still priceless assets that can help make sure that the customer always gets the information they need, even if what they’re asking goes off script.