Chatbot Software: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Shadrack Wanjohi
Jul 3 · 17 min read

Your website is always open for business.

Your customers and prospects show up anytime they want and buy whenever they want to.

It’s a different world from brick and mortar stores.

What if they need more information when they land on your site? What if they need help with processing their payment?

If there’s no one within reach to help them, they might call your customer service team or send an email to them, or look for your company pages on social media.

Worse still, they could leave your website, never to come back again. And as a business owner, that’s the last thing you want.

Whether you’re in the B2B or B2C space, having a great customer service team is no longer enough to meet your customers’ ever-changing needs.

What happens if you have a customer who needs help on a weekend or a public holiday? How do you respond to simple customer questions outside office hours?

Such situations mean that you have to go beyond having a “great customer service team.” You want to meet your customers where they are and respond to their requests.

The solution?

Chatbot software.

Oxford Living Dictionaries defines a chatbot as:

…a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.

Quite a solid definition, but it could use some clarity.

It means that chatbots automate specific tasks through speaking with a user through chatbot software. They plug in different platforms such as your website and messaging networking apps such as Slack and Facebook Messenger.

People are shopping and buying in a world of urgency. Whenever they need help, messaging is their mode of communication.

And they want answers immediately.

Chatbots are helping business owners scale one-on-one conversations by responding faster to customer requests. For consumers, they have a better way to interact with their favorite brands.

Chatbots meet users where they are without requiring them to download apps or any URLs. Efficiency is their superpower.

They might sound confusing or hard to implement. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all you need to know in this post.

In the following topics, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into chatbot software.

Feel free to skip ahead if one topic catches your eye:

  • How has Chatbot Software Evolved?
  • Why Your Business Needs Chatbot Software
  • Getting Started with Chatbots
  • Create a Customer Experience Map
  • Create a Content Strategy (Plus Examples)
  • Chatbot Examples in Action
  • Choose the Best Chatbot Platform
  • Launching Your Chatbot

How has Chatbot Software Evolved?

When Alan Turing wrote Computing Machinery and Intelligence in 1950, I don’t think he knew how influential it would be. He argued that one day, people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between an intelligent machine and a human being.

Research by PwC shows that in 2017, 27% of consumers couldn’t tell whether they had talked to a bot or a real human being in their last interaction with customer service.

And here’s a short fun video showing how chatbots have evolved since 1950.

There’s a lot we can learn from the past that shaped how people use chatbots today.

Chatbots ask what they need to understand and solve a problem.The cardinal rule of developing a successful chatbot is not to ignore your users.

You need to understand their goals, needs, and frustrations to create a chatbot that helps you serve them better.

Now, you might be wondering;

“Do I need chatbot software? And if I do, how do I create a chatbot for my website?

I’m glad you asked. Because that’s what we’re getting into next.

Why Your Business Needs Chatbot Software

Chatbots have gained popularity among businesses and, according to research by Oracle, 80% of businesses will be using chatbots by 2020.

But just because chatbots are working for other businesses, it doesn’t mean that they will work for you. And just because other businesses are benefiting from them, it doesn’t mean that you’re also going to benefit.

To find out if you really need to use chatbot software in your business, let’s look at how consumer needs have evolved and what they want today.

This post will help you answer two questions: Is chatbot software right for you? Should you invest time and money into building one?

Emerging technologies have made us more connected than ever before. And with this greater connection comes higher expectations, because customers are in control of their relationships with companies.

They are on the lookout for companies and businesses that offer personalized experiences that are based on trust and understanding.

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This doesn’t necessarily mean that your current customer service isn’t good enough.

It simply means that gaining customer trust and loyalty today is harder than ever before. Because of this, there has been an explosive growth in communication options and most companies are struggling to keep up.

You could use this as an excuse not to identify the best channels to use to win their trust and loyalty. Or, you could take it as a sign that choosing a relevant and effective channel gives you an opportunity to innovate and provide better experience to your customers.

Ever-changing customer needs isn’t enough reason to embrace chatbot software. But we do know that innovation is key to meeting these needs whole providing a great experience.

Let’s look at how chatbot software compares with other channels such as email, live chat, online communities and apps.

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Different generations have their preferences. But if you take another look at these findings, you’ll find that consumers prefer channels where businesses have already deployed chatbots.

Channels like social media with features like Facebook Messenger bots, live chat where you start with a chatbot before a human rep takes over, and voice-activated personal assistants such as Alexa and Siri.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t matter whether one is a Boomer, Gen X, or a Millennial. Each generation prefers to chat more than call or send an email to a company.

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And to drive this point home further, 53% of consumers will buy from a business that they can contact through a chat app. This doesn’t mean that other channels are losing their importance.

It simply means that consumers are embracing innovations like chatbot software and expect companies to do likewise in order to earn their trust and loyalty.

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So, when are consumers most likely to use chatbots?

And in 2017, 67% of consumers used a chatbot when speaking to customer support.

So we’ve answered the first question we set out to answer: Does your business need chatbot software?

Yes.

Here’s why:

  • Consumer needs have evolved and users of all ages prefer to chat rather than call or send emails
  • Consumers are more likely to buy from you if they can reach you through a chat app
  • Consumers are more likely to buy from companies that are embracing innovation.

So, do you need to invest time and money in chatbots?

Well, if you’re in real estate, for instance, you need to generate leads from the people visiting your website.

If you’re in the travel industry, you want to make booking flights, accommodation, and car rentals, a seamless experience for your customers. And if you’re in finance and healthcare, you want to improve customer service by making it easier for customers and patients to book appointments and get additional information.

These are all compelling reasons to use chatbots.

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If you’re in any of these industries, you have the greenlight to proceed. If you’re not, but you have similar customer support needs, it’s likely that chatbot software will help you too.

So how do you create a chatbot that will help you stand out in your industry?

That’s what we’re talking about next.

Getting started with Chatbots

You now know why your business needs chatbots. This section will help you get started and get it right from the beginning.


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Step 1: Create a Customer Experience Map

You’ve probably heard of customer journeys. Most people, however, confuse between a customer journey and customer experience.

A customer journey is made up of all the touch-points a prospect will with your business have before buying from you. These touch-points vary depending on the level of awareness of your customer. They range from one to several touch-points.

If, for instance, you’re looking to buy a traveling bag, your customer journey may be as simple as you driving to the mall and buying it.

It could also involve several touch points such as seeing and clicking on an ad for traveling bags, signing up for emails, interacting with social media content, and reading customer reviews before buying.

Customer experience, on the other hand, occurs within the journey. It is what the customer is seeing, thinking, feeling and doing in each stage of the journey, before they buy. Lets revisit our traveling bag example.

If you went to the mall and found that there’s no bag, you may feel disappointed and wonder what to do next. If there’s no one around to help you, that makes for a bad customer experience.

Similarly, if you sent the seller an email asking about certain features of the traveling bag you want to buy and they never responded, that’s a bad customer experience.

If you have your customer journey ready, mapping your customer experience will help you anticipate every question, problem, or need a buyer has in every touch point.

Given that 76% of your customers expect you to understand their needs and expectations, it will be hard for you to deliver great customer experiences to them.

Here’s another scenario:

A potential buyer visits your website ready to buy. On the checkout page, their card doesn’t go through. If you don’t know about this and do something to fix it, more people will leave your checkout page disappointed because they couldn’t get what they wanted.

They’ll be gone forever. And disgruntled customers will tell 16 more people not to come buy from you.

Think about it.

For that reason, relying on your customer journey alone can be distracting. You might think that you’re delivering great experiences while you’re not.

In fact, 55% of your consumers and 86% of B2B buyers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. And 89% of people have stopped doing business with brands which deliver poor customer experiences.

So, how do you map out your customer experience?

1: Get your customer journey ready. If you don’t have one, here’s how to create one.

2: Gather people from each department in your company namely: sales, customer service, development, IT, and anyone else who interacts with your customers.

Let everyone come to the meeting with customer information such as:

  • Customer journey map
  • Customer Survey Responses
  • Blog Comments
  • Buyer Personas
  • Testimonials
  • Support Emails
  • Amazon Reviews

3: Prepare a white board, sticky notes and markers to help you record all the ideas in this exercise. Each stage of your customer journey has a touchpoint. Identify what the customer is feeling, thinking, or doing.

Remember, there’s no bad idea, just get people to share the information they have concerning your customers. Do this exercise in one four to eight hour session.

4 : Compile all this information together is a simple, shareable design. From this design, you will identify the most likely places that a potential customer is likely to get stuck. Where does your prospect get stuck? Is it marketing, sales, customer service, or onboarding?

Here’s how your customer experience map will look:

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How would a chatbot would help them get unstuck and proceed with their journey?

Read on to find out!

Step 2: Create a content strategy (plus examples)

Once you’ve identified the stage(s) where your customers get stuck, it’s time to create content that will help you get them unstuck.

A content strategy will help you determine the type of content to create, and how the conversation will take place between the chatbot and the user.

Your content strategy will come in handy when deciding the type of platform to choose. (We’ll get to this in the next section.) Here’s are the different elements that should make up your content strategy:

  • Have Goals

In the previous section, you created a customer experience map that helped you identify where prospects get stuck in their customer journey.

Whether that is marketing, sales, onboarding, or customer service, create a goal that you want to achieve as you use chatbots in each of these sections.

For example: “Book more demo meetings” or “help customers process their payments faster.”

Once you set your goals, lay out how the conversation will take place. Here’s how;

  • Build a conversation tree

A conversation tree outlines the sequence of messages that will occur between a user and the chatbot. It presents different scenarios of the conversation that will happen until the user’s problem is solved or when human reps need to take over from the chatbot. Conversation trees help you stay relevant and help users solve their problems faster.

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  • Give your bot voice and personality

Once you’ve designed your conversation tree, look at the type of content that appeals to your audience. Is it formal or casual? This humanizes your bot, making users feel as if they’re talking to a real person.

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  • Make a good first impression

Your opening message should be catchy and compelling enough to make the user want to speak with the bot. Preferably, start with a question that piques the user’s curiosity. You can also add visuals to make your conversations engaging and lively.

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  • Set expectations

Let the user know that they are speaking to a bot and what to do if they want to speak with one of your reps. This helps the user manage their internal expectations early enough and know what to expect.

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  • Be relevant

You’ll disappoint your users if you begin to provide solutions to problems they do not have. You want to avoid such a situation in your chatbot conversations;

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So make sure that your conversations are aligned with the problems they are having at that time so that they are able to respond and get the help they need.

  • Know when to hand over the conversation

Since bots augment customer service, design the conversation in a manner that helps your customer service reps take over seamlessly especially when a customer has a complex issue that needs the help of a human rep.

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  • Have a CTA

At the end of each conversation, let the user know what steps they need to do next.

Remember, the conversation has already started. Take advantage of this opportunity to keep it going on other channels by getting the user take action within the chatbot conversation.

It could be something as simple as subscribing for your emails, reading customer case studies after booking a demo, or providing their views about their experience after speaking to the bot.

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There are several concerns you may be having concerning these elements of your content strategy:

How do I bring them together to have a successful chatbot?

How have other businesses created chatbots with great personalities?

How does great content in chatbots look like?

These are real, valid concerns which, if not addressed, could stop you from using chatbot software. Let’s look at how other businesses are using chatbots in different departments.

Chatbot examples in action

Here are a few examples of common chatbot uses, so you get a feel for the full range of capabilities:

  1. Marketing Chatbot examples

Ideally, you would be using chatbots in marketing to help you share content and generate leads, whether on your blog or on social media.

If you’ve been struggling to generate leads using leadforms on your website, why not get conversational and collect all the information you need from your potential customers using a chatbot on you website?

Or, if you do not want to get rid of your lead forms yet, a chatbot may act as a safety net, by capturing leads who get stuck while filling most fields in your lead form.

Here’s how a drift chatbot for marketing works:

2. Sales Chatbot examples

Instead of having back-and-forth emails between your leads and sales reps to schedule demos, you can use chatbots to automate the whole process.

3. Customer Service Chatbot Examples

Your customers want immediate responses to the questions they have concerning your business, the products or services they buy from you.

Once you convert a lead into a customer, initiate an ongoing conversation with them by letting them know you’ll always be there to help them in case they get stuck.

Integrate your chatbot with your knowledge base, to make it easier for your customers to get help whenever they need it.

4. Onboarding Chatbot Examples

Closing the sale with a new customer is just the beginning.

Onboarding your customer by showing them how your product will make their life easier will ensure that your customer feels confident that they made the right decision to buy from you.

If you’re a small team and don’t have the resources to hire more onboarding reps, chatbots may be what you need.

So how do you know what chatbot software to choose? We’ll look at that next.

Step 3: Choose the best chatbot platform for your business

There are many different chatbot platforms today, with most of them having different features and pricing.

Since your situation is unique, I’ll provide you with a list of the must haves for the chatbot platform you will use to help you decide on the best.

At the end of this section, I’ll provide a link of chatbot platforms to look at that will help you get started in your search.

1. Customer support

You want to use a chatbot platform that offers excellent customer support. Look out for customer service reviews online about the platform to learn about their customer service.

In addition to email support, look for platforms with live chat and chat bots so that you’re sure to get help whenever you need.

2. Learning

For your employees to be effective, they need training. Similarly, a chatbot’s effectiveness depends on its ability to learn on the job. Some chatbot platforms require you to “teach” your chatbot manually.

For instance:

If a customer asks about a certain feature of product X, give them this answer.

Naturally, you’ll expect customers to have different questions around that product. If you’re manually teaching it what to answer based on the questions it is getting, you’ll spend a lot of time and end up frustrated because you don’t know what questions to expect.

Choose a chatbot builder that will learn and understand the information that you already have in your knowledge base, documents, chat logs, and CRM.

This approach allows your chatbot to learn faster and dynamically based on the history of conversations that have been taking place.

3. Understanding

As your chatbot learns and understands the information that you already have, it will be more effective if it can break down complex language patterns and execute complicated tasks.

You need to choose a platform that allows you to build smart chatbots that have natural language understanding and artificial intelligence capabilities.

Let’s take an example to make this easier. For someone ordering a meal, this is what they might tell a chatbot.

“I’d like to order spicy chicken deluxe and have it delivered to my house.”

A chatbot with natural language understanding will proceed to asking more questions concerning the request, paying more attention to the first part of the sentence.

So, the logical step would be giving the user meal size options such as “Large”, “Medium” or “Small” before proceeding to ask for location details.

A platform that has artificially intelligent bots will breakdown complex language patterns by detecting several user intents and entities.

In our earlier example, lets say the bot asks for a location and the user answers:

“I’d like you to deliver it to the public library near the mall.”

A basic bot would have trouble understanding this type of language and it would ask a series of questions such as: “Which public library?” “Which mall?”

On the other hand, a smart chatbot would tell the difference between the two separate entities: Public library and near the mall, and know that the user is describing a specific public library near a mall. The next logical question would be: “Which public library?”

4. Training

Chatbots need constant supervision to ensure that they are consistent in the responses they give to users. This kind of constant supervision may not be scalable if your chatbot is processing close to 1,000 responses per day.

So you need to choose a platform that has inbuilt machine learning and semantic modelling capabilities. This allows it to continue learning from the conversations it is currently having and be in a position to handle future conversations.

The only time you need to come in to manually teach it is when there emerges is a new word or phrase that customers use.

5. Data Security

Basic chatbot platforms are built on cloud servers where you have no control over the amount or type of chatbot data being collected.

If you are exchanging sensitive information such as credit card information or health information over the chatbot platform, this leaves you vulnerable and exposed to security threats.

So, choose a platform that allows you to manage chatbot conversations inside the company’s information system. You’ll have full control over everything that is happening during chats.

6. Multiple deployment channels

Most basic chatbots are inside Facebook Messenger, mainly helping in marketing and customer support.

What if you’re looking to give your customers and prospects a conversational experience throughout their journey? You’ll want to look for a platform that can deploy chatbots on your website, mobile apps, and in messaging apps such as slack.

Now that you know the key features to look for in a chatbot platform, it’s time to choose one chatbot builder from this list, then proceed to build your chatbot.

Step 4: Launching your chatbot

Once you’ve built your chatbot, deploy it to a few users. Their feedback and the effectiveness of the interactions they will have with the chatbot will help you identify bottlenecks and remove them to create a better user experience.

After several iterations, you can do a bigger launch and let more users access the chatbot.

Remember to track the goals you set at the beginning because they will help you look at the right metrics.

A viable goal could be:

Goal: Reducing the time it takes to handle customer complaints and requests from 24–48hrs to 12 hours

Metric: Number of customer complaints resolved in 12 hrs

Goal: Generating leads from your blog

Metric: Number of leads generated out of the total traffic that visited your site

Goal: Booking more calls with leads

Number of calls booked through the chatbot

Metric: Continue optimizing until you achieve the goal you set when creating your content strategy.

Are You Ready to Give Chatbot Software a Try?

You’ve probably felt the nudge to better serve your customers and grow your business in the process. It’s the right time to make the shift because today, customers want you to engage them on their terms.

It’s not as easy as you may think. With what you’ve learned, however, coupled with taking lots of action, you too can have a successful chatbot.

And the best news is that it’s easy to get started. This guide tells you what you need to do. Start where you are right now.

If you haven’t created your customer journey, start there. If you haven’t created your customer experience map, go ahead and create it.

Keep moving to the next step until you deploy your chatbot.

And finally, remember that your chatbot software won’t be as perfect as you imagine.

Perfection is a myth. Focus on making the progress you need to make because you don’t have to figure everything out. Your customers and prospects, who are the end users of your chatbots will guide you.

All you need is to get started. Build your chatbot and keep optimizing it using the feedback you collect.

Before you know it, your customers will be raving about your service and responsiveness!

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Voice technology interviews & articles. Learn from the experts.

Shadrack Wanjohi

Written by

SaaS Content Marketing Writer

Voice Tech Podcast

Voice technology interviews & articles. Learn from the experts.