Over the past two years, exciting advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have made it possible for businesses all around the world to create custom chatbots for use on their websites and social media properties. The technology can function as a force multiplier, providing round-the-clock coverage for some customer service operations and automating routine interactions to free up human staff for more critical work. For all of their uses, however, chatbots can also be expensive and fall short of expectations when not implemented properly. To help make sure that doesn’t happen, we’ve prepared a guide to setting up a chatbot for your business—from choosing the right one to how to configure it to do what your business needs.

Basic Best Practices

To begin with, it is important to remember that most commercial chatbots rely on predetermined conversation paths to guide them. That means it’s important to follow some general best practices when setting one up to make sure it provides a customer experience that meets your company’s high standards. They include:

  • A clear and inviting welcome message – it’s vital to let customers know that they’re not speaking with a live representative so they know what to expect.
  • An up-front statement of what the chatbot can do – nothing would be worse than for a customer to waste their time trying to get a chatbot to do something it’s not programmed to do, so make the capabilities known right up front.
  • Provide an escape route it’s important to let your customers know how they can restart a conversation if necessary, as well as how they can reach a live representative if their needs aren’t being met.

Basically, no matter what kind of chatbot you’re trying to build, it’s best to set realistic use cases and limits and let the user know what they are as early in their interaction as possible.

Choosing a Chatbot Platform

Today, there’s no shortage of ready-to-build chatbot platforms businesses can take advantage of. Some of the most popular chatbot platforms are:

  • AivoA customer service focused chatbot platform with an AI-powered backend for maximum flexibility.
  • BotsifyA multi-purpose chatbot platform with wide integration possibilities and a user-friendly drag-and-drop configuration interface.
  • Chatfuel – A Facebook Messenger-specific chatbot platform that powers over 46% of the active chatbots on the popular social media service.
  • ManyChat – An incredibly easy WISYWIG-style chatbot service for Facebook, packed with analytics and a lot of really great conversion tools.

Depending on what your business needs a chatbot to handle and where it will be used, there’s sure to be a good choice among these three platforms—but there are new and innovative chatbot services launching each day, so there’s always more options on the way.

Content to Include in a Chatbot

Since no two businesses are alike, there are no hard and fast rules on what to include in a chatbot. In general, however, it’s a good idea to provide the chatbot with as much rich information as possible to make sure it’s useful to customers. For example, if the chatbot will be used for troubleshooting issues with products, it should be able to call upon the same type of information found in a F.A.Q. section or any help articles that already exist. That way, the chatbot can direct users to the appropriate resources to solve their problem with little outside intervention. The same goes for a chatbot that handles sales queries, which should have access to the business’s complete inventory list and descriptive content.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, no matter how user-friendly today’s chatbot platforms are, there’s a whole lot of pre-planning and strategic decision making that goes into building a chatbot that actually serves its intended purpose. Still, they make a useful and cost-effective addition to any business’s sales and support arsenal when done right. If your business is interested in adding a chatbot to its website or social media channels, contact us today and let our team of experts help you get this all-important innovation right the first time, so your customers can start chatting in no time!