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How to build an effective chatbot – the 7 steps

Summary: Building a successful chatbot requires understanding your goals and target audience to create an effective conversation flow. Using the right software combined with customer data and programming, you can train it to answer the questions your site visitors need and achieve real results.

Building a chatbot that will work effectively takes some thought and planning, but get it right and the results are more than worth it. Thoughtful setup and continuous optimisation ensure you get the most out of chat.

1. Understand what problem do you want to solve

In order to create an effective chat strategy, you need to have a clear goal in mind. 

Is your human team currently inundated with queries and drowning under frequently asked questions? If so, a customer support focused chatbot working to handle questions would be your best option.

If you are looking to increase the number of leads coming through via your website, a chatbot can be used to qualify leads, or even integrated with sign up forms to generate leads in chat. 

Chatbots also work well for sales, so if you would like to drive more ROI through your website, a bot that can make product suggestions and guide customers through the buying journey would be a great place to start.

walle the robot

2. Understand your customers 

One of the most important aspects to a successful chat strategy is understanding your customers, as this is how you will be able to program the bot effectively.

Think about your target audience. Are they young, and likely used to interacting with artificial intelligence already, or are they older, and need a bit more support and explanation when chatting to your bot?

What kind of questions will they be asking, and how can you ensure your bot answers in a way that will be of most benefit to them.

3. Design the conversation flow

Depending on your goals, the conversation flow will be different. If you are simply looking to answer customer support questions, the questions your bot proactively asks will be different, and will more likely be in response to user queries.

If you are looking to guide the customers through to a goal, you will need to carefully design a set of questions to bring them to this point, without being pushy. Without a human understanding to pick up on subtle nuances, this can be trickier to do, but is essential if you want to see results.

4. Choose your platform

There is a wide range of software available for building a chatbot, and finding the right one depends on what you need.

Some are simplified into a drag and drop style of creation, whereas others require more technical knowledge. Software like the Facebook Messenger bot is simple to set up, whereas more complex chats will require more complex software.

Considering which integrations you need is also important when it comes to choosing software, which is why it’s a good idea to understand your goals and conversation flow before paying for something.

You may need a platform that can support in-chat features such as sign up forms, calendar or meeting links, information changes or even ordering, so consider what you need and choose accordingly.

lightbulb on blackboard with ideas

5. Training the bot

Training a chat bot to answer the right questions in the best way requires digging into your data. If you have chat transcripts from human chat or previous chat use, you can already get a great understanding of what people are commonly asking, and the way they ask it.

If you don’t have transcripts, you can use email or phone calls to understand what your customers are searching for. Once you compile a comprehensive list of queries, you can begin to write answers and assign those to questions using your software. 

It’s important to also think about the multiple ways that people may ask questions, and to understand the intent behind certain phrases. ‘Do you have these in a size 10?’ for example, often really means ‘If you have these, I want to buy them’. Ensuring the bot has an understanding of what to say next to guide the user to your chat goals comes in this stage.

6. Add integrations

As well as programming the chatbot to answer questions, you need to add integrations here. Often this can require more technical skill to get right, so ensure you have the right team and knowledge. 

Adding features such as product recommendations and sign up forms can often be customised, so you can play around with the design until the style suits the size and format of the chat window, as well as being on brand and accessible for the user.

people sat at a table with laptops

7. Ongoing optimisation

The work doesn’t end when your chatbot goes live. In fact, it’s often afterwards that some of the best improvements are made. All chat, whether AI or human, needs to be continuously analysed and improved.

By reading transcripts, you can see which patterns emerge. Is there a certain phrase or word the bot isn’t understanding? If so, you can match it with responses or write new ones. If customers are getting frustrated when the bot isn’t able to understand something, is there a common reason for this? 

By observing the chats and analysing them, you’re able to gain a greater understanding of what needs to be done to improve your bot, and then add in any features or responses that are needed. When working with a more complex bot and using machine learning, the bot can train itself through the data it receives.

Final thoughts

Using any type of chat effectively always requires strategic thought and planning. Chat is the face of your business on your website, and needs to provide your customers with a seamlessly positive experience in order to increase satisfaction and retention.

If this sounds like a lot of work and you need some expert advice to assist you, chat with us.