In technical parlance, 2016 can be termed as a ‘chatbot year’. Chatbots have grown into a preferred platform for user interaction. At this point, we are not hearing about technology giving the push to simulate conversations with computers for the first time. The better-known sibling of chatbots, bot, has been around for some time allowing automation of tasks performed by a user.
Chatbots have become the new obsession. What has fuelled this obsession? Why have chatbots taken center stage of communication? How to build them?
There are many pelting questions that deserve suitable answers. A comprehensive guide on chatbots resolves any and every doubt about chatbots.
What is this chatbot all about?
A chatbot is a software program for simulating intelligent conversations with human using rules or artificial intelligence. Users interact with the chatbot via conversational interface through written or spoken text. Chatbots can live in messaging platforms like Slack, Facebook Messenger and Telegram and serve many purposes – ordering products, knowing about weather and managing your finance among other things.
Is contextual communication triggering the rise of chatbot?
In everyday life, while we converse, communicate with our friends, families and peers, we become aware of the context of the subject discussed. For instance, when someone says he is reading a book, you would ask him who the author is or if he likes the book; you would not ask him if he had read another book. You respond in the best possible way for the moment. Contextual communication is emerging as the standard of interaction, and chatbots are making their mark by conversing contextually.
The dynamic intelligence of chatbots will allow them to converse with users as in a way we converse and communicate in real-life situations. Conversational communication skill of the chatbot will not only make it a trendy and promising technology but also empower them to deliver what we are looking for – response in human terms.
Though we find chatbots conversing contextually with users, they are yet to communicate contextually on anything and everything that the user wants.
How has chatbot transformed user experience?
User experience has always been referred to convenient and easy interactions with a product. When the interface connecting man and machine becomes intelligent and conversational, it becomes easy for the user to converse with the machine and get things done on human terms. Chatbot has demonstrated the power and convenience of conversational interfaces. As of now, language is emerging as the interface. According to Gartner, 30% of browsing done by users will turn out to be screen less in 2020. Chatbots are being built to handle user requests, provide relevant information and be the friend one would look for to seek information.
Moreover, chatbots have brought the twist to how businesses reach out to their target market. From welcoming users to the ecosystems they have created, businesses now look to reach users where they are found – messaging platforms. With users embracing messaging platforms, chatbots have made it easier for users to communicate and get what they want.
How to build a chatbot?
First step in this guide on chatbots is development. Building a chatbot can be challenging, but with a keen eye for details, you can build a chatbot that offers great value. The plan to build a chatbot must also ascertain the purpose for building the bot, knowing what problem the bot is going to solve. Chatbots can be built in two ways – rule-based approach resulting in hard coding or machine learning that necessitates streaming data for the system to learn on its own.
There are the basic chatbots and then there are chatbots with AI brains. With customers wanting to converse with chatbots that understand natural language, enthusiasts are making every attempt to create a bot that is rich in AI – Enthusiasts can now take advantage of sources like Api.ai to build chatbots with AI brains.
The choice of the platform also matters when it comes to hosting the chatbot – a range of platforms are available including Facebook Messenger, Slack, Discord, Telegram and Kik. After choosing the platform, settle on the services that can be leveraged to build the chatbot.
Services that can be leveraged to build a bot include:
● Microsoft bot frameworks
● IBM’s Watson
Bot building enthusiasts without programming skills are not left behind as they can use services that encourage them to build a chatbot. Some of the development platforms include:
● Octane AI
What are chatbots built for?
In essence, chatbots must understand the intent of the user. There is a need to infuse intelligent quotient into the bot. Let us take the case of a user asking a bot to suggest the best place for eating. The chatbot must understand what the user wants, provide a proper response – In this case, provide the name of the best hotel, though the user has mentioned it as ‘place’.
NLP makes this possible. Without implementing NLP algorithms on your own, NLP API can be used to infuse NLP capabilities into the chatbot. Some of the sources that can be used to build NLP API include:
● Microsoft LUIS
What are the design elements to be used?
Design elements of a chatbot depend on the messaging platform you choose to deploy the bot. There are top design elements that can be considered to build a bot.
Buttons – It is the bot that makes a user take decisions. Buttons prompt action when the user clicks it. Interactive buttons can be added to help the user take decisions faster.
Get Started Button – This is an intuitive feature prompting the user to set the bot into action. A chatbot built for Facebook Messenger cannot do without this feature.
Cards – These are primarily used to serve information like links, text, images and buttons as blocked containers. Blocks fall in columns when the phone is turned on its side. A user can select the card that is relevant to him.
Smart Reply – Smart Reply is a feature included to help a user respond fast to the chatbot’s query without the user attempting to type anything. This feature is useful when the chatbot is context-aware and also has user information.
Quick Reply – A user can make use of this feature as a response button. Tapping quick reply, a user can send his response message to the bot.
Persistent Menu – A user can make use of this feature to steer his way to another portion of the bot that is not readily available.
These are some of the popular elements that can pave the way for an enriching bot experience. It is ideal to pick the best feature to suit the purpose, moment and above all user needs.
What are best practices for chatbot development?
The year 2016 was chatbot’s year. That doesn’t imply that people you come across may know all about bots. It is important to consider this while building a chatbot. We have shared best practices that can be leveraged for building chatbots and ultimately deliver a bot that is user-friendly.
The talk of best practices brings two perspectives into picture – practices for making bot development a success and practices for assuring conversation with the user is seamless. For assuring successful chatbot development, it becomes imperative to know the target audience in the first place. It is also important to identify use case scenarios, chatbot development platform, determine how to initiate conversation and the tone of chat among other requisites. The blog – ‘8 best practices for bot development‘ provides a detailed account on the subject.
By adhering to best practices included below, the desire to assure seamless conversations with users can turn into a reality.
Know who your potential users are
First things first – Successful bot building experience starts with the understanding of the target audience. Know who the users are as well as the purpose the bot is going to serve.
Points to score
● Know what you are building the bot for, it could be a bot to entertain audience, allow users to buy and sell, provide news or serve as a customer service channel
● Learn about the customer product and know how the bot fits in to make it more customer-friendly.
Read user sentiment and make it emotionally rich
The conversation here is just not an interface; it is more about emotion. Read and understand user sentiments to promote content blocks that can prompt the user to continue with his conversation and end up having a rich experience. The user comes back only when he goes through a rich conversational experience. The least expected of a chatbot is in the way it behaves to meet user expectations. It is important to visualize the bot that is going to shape the conversation with the user. A chatbot is not created to be cold and automated, but to be warm and friendly as a human. It should make people comfortable and be equipped to give people what they want.
Points to score
● Leverage positive sentiments for promoting your product or turn users into brand ambassadors
● Address negative comments to stay afloat in this conversation game
● Make use of friendly language to make users feel that they are chatting with a familiar person
● Ensure users understand everything and feel comfortable by repeating inputs
Welcome the user for conversation
Though chatbots are growing in prominence, users are not that experienced to enter into a conversation with an object. This creates the need to extend a warm welcome to the user and make him comfortable with the conversational interface.
Points to score
● Use buttons that are familiar to users wherever possible to make it comfortable for the user to enter into a conversation with the bot
● Encourage the user to respond by typing, enabled through actionable command
Guide the user
Guide the user to keep him engaged. In the case of a website or an app, users have got used to the limitations of these platforms – like the buttons used for pressing or the page length. In the same way, it is essential to set limits and create paths for the user to make him comfortable during his conversation with the chatbot.
Point to score
● Guide user conversation through actionable statements and buttons
● Take cue from their previous experiences with apps and websites
Reduce user struggle
Designing the chatbot with button clicks and a template can keep a check on the bot breaking quite often. Users can get into limitless conversion, and your bot will not have all the connections to serve the users as time elapses after you have built your chatbot.
Points to score
● Make users feel that you understand their pain
● Help them land in safe areas of the system, offer human help when the conversation stalls
Listen to the user’s voice
You cannot give everything your user wants or even anticipate everything he wants with your bot. Without trying to play the guessing game, include natural ways and means allowing the user to give his feedback during the interaction.
Points to score
● Prompt users to come up with their suggestions and ideas when they don’t find things that they are looking for
● Allow users to submit articles when the chatbot fails to respond to queries or requests submitted by them
How to promote chatbots?
Building a chatbot is just the beginning. Ths guide on chatbots will never be complete without promotion. Having built the bot to solve a specific problem, it becomes important to find users who will benefit from the chatbot. It is important to draw the attention of the target market and ensure that the chatbot finds more users. Here are some ways that you can use to attract the target audience and bring users into your fold.
Add your chatbot to catalogs
Target specialized catalogs for adding your chatbot – these catalogs have the potential to attract users. Venturebeat.com reported that MyPokerBot tasted an initial success of attracting users after finding a place in Best New Bot pertaining to Storebot catalog. These catalogs include:
● Cat Bottle
● Bot Family
Leverage media power
Media can attract users for your chatbot. Chatbostmagazine.com reports that coverage in Forbes magazine was instrumental in increasing registrations for PokerBot. Mention of your chatbot in media serves well to attract the target audience and bring more users.
Introduce a referral system to bring new users
Referral system is another reliable source to bring new users. MyPokerBot not only employs referral system but has witnessed daily registrations increase by 21%, as reported by Chatbostmagazine.com.
Make your bot speak different languages
Users like to converse in their native languages. With your chatbot speaking many languages, it is well equipped to attract users conversing in different languages. Take the case of PokerBot attracting users speaking English, Spanish, Russian, Italian and Persian among other languages. That is because PokerBot has the capability to converse in 14 languages.
Request users to rate your chatbot
User ratings will help you establish lead in your niche. That’s not all. Treat negative ratings in the same way you would a positive rating as a negative rating gives you the opportunity to know where and what is that you are lacking and make amendments to improve user experience.
Chatbot future looks bright
In the world of communications, chatbots have become the in-thing. They are all over the messenger platforms and what’s more, users have grown fonder of chatbots. But the real challenge lies in building a bot that brings value for the user. Leveraging technological advancements in machine intelligence and artificial intelligence, developers can realize their dream of creating intelligent chatbots in the days to come.