Virtual chat agents or chatbots are rapidly becoming part of many businesses because they enable automation of countless processes. Chatbots are effective at what they do and can offer instant value, but what makes them even more valuable is their personal approach to users and the ability to engage them in a fun and unexpected manner.
They can find their role in IT as customer support agents, in wellness and beauty for appointment scheduling, in retail as webshop assistants, in finance and insurance as sales representatives, ... So, no matter in what type of business you are in, a chatbot can find a place to fit in and to be of use to you and your customers.
This post will guide you through the steps of designing a chatbot from a company’s perspective, listing the things you should consider and why.
Step 1: Define chatbot’s main functionality and value
The first thing you need to do is figure out what you’re trying to accomplish with your chatbot. What will its main purpose be? Will it be to promote your company (marketing) or to take a load off your IT support team by troubleshooting and resolving problems.
You need to determin chatbot’s main functionalities and define what value will it bring both to the users and to your company.
For example, let’s take a look at sales virtual agent. Its main functionalities could be to:
Conduct cross-sell activities
Store relevant information
This type of chatbot can, because of its guidance and recommendation skills that are available 24/7 to multiple users simultaneously, significantly reduce workload off your employees, increase user engagement and conversion rate. If you are interested, you can read more about chatbot conversion rates here.
Step 2: Specify use cases and locate data sources
Now, once you’ve established the main purpose and value of the bot, it’s time to further specify use cases and to make a list of all tasks you want your bot to be able to carry out. This step could take time, and it’s important to prepare well and collect all required data or locate their sources before the bot development process begins. Here you can consult with your technical team to help you figure out internal data sources that the bot might use, as well as to discuss integrations with existing systems.
Step 3: Analyze the target audience and create a chatbot persona
There are also some important questions that you will need to address in the design process for the purpose of defining chatbot persona. You should look at chatbot’s personality not only as a big part of the user experience but also as an extension of your brand. It should be consistent with the image and the voice of your company. Of course, chatbot’s potential users are to be considered here as well. You should analyze them to determine their age, interests, location, type of devices they have access to, platforms they mostly use, etc.
Once you’ve distinguished who are chatbot’s users, you can more easily decide on:
Chatbot’s character and tonality
Platforms and channels through which the chatbot will be accessible
Ways of interaction – text, voice, image, etc.
Furthermore, your digital marketing department will need to decide on chatbot’s name, gender and visual representation (avatar image, colors), as well as to consider marketing strategies for chatbot’s promotion.
Step 4: Confirm the script and take a close look at the conversational flow
At this point, it is time for the bot designer and writer to step in and start writing the script. This will result in producing the chatbot’s conversational flow, a document containing the dialogue tree and all the lines that the chatbot will be able to use. The flow usually consists of three standard parts, each equally important for good user experience.
In the introduction part, from our experiences, it is best to tell your users that they are talking to a bot straight away and to point out its capabilities and limitations. This will set the expectations right from the start and decrease the chance of an unsatisfying user experience due to misconception and unrealistic expectations.
The main part of the flow is where the majority of the conversation occurs and where all use cases should come to a realization. This part should be well designed and should offer users alternatives and escape routes. Here you also need to consider which user information is relevant to you and whether you want to store it or not. If so, make sure that the users are notified and that permission to collect that data was given.
The closing part represents the ending of the conversation with the bot. It may not always be necessary, but make sure that your bot is at least somewhat polite and responses back to hi and bye messages. It does make a difference. :)
As you can see, the process of designing a chatbot is not that simple. There is a lot to be considered and a lot of decisions to be made, but overall, the process is interesting, exciting, and can definitely pay off. So, if you do decide to get your own chatbot, make sure that you have the right team of experts by your side to guide you every step of the way, making sure that all your requirements are united and translated into a chatbot suitable story.