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Getting the basics right

A guide to creating a great FAQ bot

With a little rewriting of your FAQ, you can make it suitable as bot content and create a helpful bot for your customers.

A lot of advice about chatbots says that you shouldn’t make a bot from your FAQs, because the questions are not formulated like real people talk and the answers are too complicated and long. This is true. A chatbot is a very different medium than a FAQ on a website, so the content needs to be reformulated. You wouldn’t put the same content in an email newsletter as you would in a tweet, right? The same goes for chatbots.

As long as you have writers willing to get down to the nitty-gritty of designing a bot, there’s no reason why FAQs shouldn’t become excellent bots.

The tone-of-voice matters

Tone-of-voice is a written expression of your brand, and FAQs are known for having a dry and boring tone-of-voice. Don’t let that happen to your bot. Talking to a bot should feel more like a conversation than being given a block of information, so make sure that your bot’s communication is in line with how you talk to your customers on social media and in your marketing efforts. A chatbot is just another way for you to talk to your customers, so its language should be recognisable.

Using the same tone-of-voice in all your communication will make your brand seem trustworthy and strengthen the connection a customer already has with you through your online presence. Feel free to give your bot a specific personality, just as long as its tone-of-voice is consistent with all your other messaging. A set tone-of-voice will give your customers a better user experience, and your bot is a part of this experience.

If you haven’t given your tone-of-voice a lot of thought, it might be helpful to consider questions such as these:

  • What is your chatbots’s target audience?
  • What is the chatbot’s purpose? (e.g. will it have to simplify heavy information / complex services?)
  • What kind of language does its users expect?
  • How do you communicate in other channels?
  • How can your bot show your customers who you are?

Answering these questions might give you an idea of how you can effectively talk to your customers through your chatbot and strengthen your company’s overall branding objectives. Keep in mind that chatbots have the potential to be highly effective branding tools.

A purposeful greeting

Your customers should receive a greeting from your bot when they open the chat window. At Convertelligence, we’re adamant about two things when it comes to a chatbot’s greeting:

  • It must inform the user that it’s a bot.
  • It must narrow the scope of what it can actually do to help the user.

Why is this so important? Because it helps guarantee a good user experience.

If the bot’s greeting doesn’t include any information about what kind of chat this is, a user might think it’s a live chat, with a real human (or dog?) at the other end. And a real human is capable of a lot more than a bot designed for one specific purpose. A user will almost certainly be disappointed in the bot’s performance, simply because he or she hasn’t been given any directions on how the bot should be used. A good greeting effectively manages the user’s expectations.

In this last example both the name of the bot and the greeting makes it clear that the user is chatting with a bot. The greeting also gives the user an idea of what kind of information is stored in the bot. A good bot designer will guide the user through the chat by limiting options for input.

Another way to steer the user towards questions the bot is guaranteed to answer, is by using quick reply buttons.

The user will click the quick reply button, which functions just like any other input a user might enter. In this way, bot designers can make sure that a user enters an input that the bot will definitely understand.

By giving the user this information, the bot designer will limit the amount of questions to the bot’s actual topic. This will improve its chances for success.

Questions and Answers

A competent copywriter who has a clear idea of the bot’s purpose and tone-of-voice will have no problem creating good answers. Writers love to write and perfect every sentence, so edit the answers in your FAQ until they serve the bot’s purpose. Split them up into several smaller answers if they cover a broader topic. As for questions, you don’t have to use the original ones from the FAQ. This means questions require more work. You need to come up with examples of how people actually ask about stuff and consider every nuance a question might have, and then make sure that questions are directed to the correct answer. In other words, you need to place yourself in your target audience’s heads.

It’s also important to remember that an answer should not begin with ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Make it clear to the user what question the bot is answering by repeating it. This will also make it easier for the user to know when he or she has triggered a wrong answer.

The dreaded fallback

Chances are good that a chatbot won’t be able to answer 100% of all questions. A fallback, informing the user that the bot is unable to answer the question, is therefore necessary.

Even though a fallback is never good, some fallbacks are better than others.

A fallback that only says that the bot doesn’t know the answer, is more likely to kill the conversation immediately, with a disgruntled user to boot. Without any suggestions on how to move on from the fallback, a user is left without any tips on what might work.

Providing the user with quick replies is a great way to get him or her back on track. An FAQ bot is a specialist on a specific subject, so remind the user what kind of information is available.

The user can then click on the button that is most likely to give the correct answer. This button will prompt either a regular answer, or send the user into a funnel. In this funnel, the bot can ask follow-up questions to further narrow down the subject matter.

A cheeky bot may ask rhetorical questions. No need to answer these.

It’s also good to have a few fallbacks on hand, so the bot has several different ones to choose from. This will make it seem less useless and robotic if a user is unlucky and gets several fallbacks during one conversation.

The most important thing about fallbacks is that they present an alternative for the user to move forward, whether it’s instructions or quick replies.

In conclusion

A chatbot is its own medium, and any material that was originally written for another purpose must be rewritten to function in a chatbot. You should therefore never just copy your FAQ into a bot and call it a day. Make it work as a chatbot, and it will be a lot easier and entertaining for your customers to find the answers they’re looking for.


HermineBot’s icon is from Corgimoji and is used with permission from Connie Cheng at Corgi Things.