BPA Featured Article

Tips for Creating Successful, Usable Chatbots

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor
March 06, 2017

Companies have been searching for the perfect automated customer support solution for decades. They want something easy to use and inexpensive to maintain. At the same time, it needs to be flexible, interactive and adaptable. Customers actually like self-service and most prefer to avoid the necessity of live telephone calls. By providing them with a self-service channel that works well, organizations can save thousands, if not millions, each year on live contact center support.

Chatbots are potentially that self-service technology. They are chat-based automated “virtual” customer support assistants. They use a conversational approach to engagement that customers like. Imagine a hotel guest who uses her smartphone to access the hotel’s app (where the chatbot might reside). She could type, “Can you get me extra pillows?” The chatbot might return, “Certainly. How many would you like?” In response, the chatbot sends a message to housekeeping with the critical information: two extra pillows to room 304. No live contact center agent required.

Companies today can either design their own chatbots from scratch, or they can use pre-built chatbots like those offered through Facebook (News - Alert) Messenger. If they choose to do it themselves, there are several considerations to keep in mind.

Keep it simple. Many chatbot users will be engaging on their smartphones, so don’t make it too big, too visually complex or too layered. It’s vital that the chatbot load quickly. While you may be tempted to load all manner of marketing messages into your chatbot, remember…that’s not what it’s for. It’s to help the customer with a request or a problem as quickly as possible. Don’t make them wade through promotional material.

Be visual. While it’s important to keep the chatbot uncluttered, it’s also important to use a visual “avatar” that users can immediately identity in the future. Make sure the avatar you choose matches the message you want to provide customers with.

"Customer service chatbot avatars should reflect the target consumer as well as represent the brand's image,” according to Scott Darrohn, founder of digital marketing agency fishbat.

Ensure there are escalation capabilities. In some cases, the chatbot won’t be able to help the customer, in which case it’s vital that the chat be escalated to a live agent. Otherwise, customers will abandon the chat and never return (either to the chatbot or your business!)

Monitor it for quality. Don’t image you can put up a chatbot and never think of it again. Like any customer support channel, it needs to be continually monitored for quality. Ensure that your current quality monitoring platform includes the ability to keep track of non-voice channels, or engage a third-party remote call monitoring partner to keep an eye on quality. Some chatbots that “learn” can learn the wrong things if trolled by malicious users (inappropriate words and phrases, for example).

Keep it updated. A chatbot can only be as good as the knowledge bases that back it up. If the chatbot isn’t updated regularly, it may be providing customers with wrong answers and outdated information.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi