Businesses of all sizes are beginning to see the potential in implementing a chatbot as a means of engaging with customers and increasing sales.
Since Onix specialists have vast experience in building custom chatbots and addressing specific business needs with them, we decided to share our development guide with you.
Table of contents
If you're looking to create your own chatbot, this guide is for you. We'll walk you through everything you need to know to get started, from choosing the right platform to developing your bot's personality. So let's get started!
A chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation. It can be used to create or enhance client service, marketing, and engagement experiences. Chatbots are commonly used in online customer service as they can quickly answer questions or give information about a product or service.
Chatbots are typically designed to mimic human conversation by using natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI). NLP is a form of artificial intelligence that helps chatbots understand human language. AI is used to help chatbots generate responses to questions or queries.
As people become more accustomed to interacting with chatbots, businesses are finding more and more ways to use them. Here are some key advantages of making a chatbot for your business:
1. Increased engagement with your brand: A chatbot can help create a more personal connection with your brand by engaging in two-way conversations with customers. This interaction can help create loyalty and build relationships with potential and existing customers.
2. Improved customer service: Chatbots can provide quick and efficient customer service, answers to frequently asked questions, and help resolve issues and complaints. By automating these tasks, you free up your customer service team to provide a higher level of support.
3. Cost-effective: Chatbots are a cost-effective way to create content and interact with customers. They can be used to replace or supplement other marketing channels, such as email or social media.
4. Increased efficiency: Chatbots can automate tasks that would otherwise need to be done manually, such as scheduling appointments or sending reminders. This can save you time and money while increasing your team's productivity.
5. 24/7 availability: Chatbots are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This means that your customers can always get the help they need, when they need it.
6. Improved data collection: Chatbots can collect customer data, such as contact information, preferences, and purchase history. This data can be used to create targeted marketing campaigns and improve your overall marketing strategy.
Making a chatbot for your business has many advantages that can help you reach your goals. With increased engagement, improved customer service, and increased efficiency, chatbots can help take your business to the next level.
Building a chatbot sets different levels of challenges, starting from programming logic to capabilities of a messaging interface. A chatbot can be a very simple service that is powered by standard rules of if/else logic and responds to a limited number of specific commands. Or it can function using natural language processing that understands a user’s language (not commands) and grows smarter when it gets trained by learning from conversations with users. Such chatbots understand messages and give answers based on a user's intent that it concludes from a message.
In terms of technology, drag-and-drop and code-based chatbots are differentiated. Drag-and-drop bots are created using bot building platforms that typically offer templates that correspond to a specific business purpose (e-commerce, customer support, surveys, marketing) and permit to build a chatbot with a predefined functionality, so a user has only to add the features they need their bot to have. These are popular among non-technical users and you can find a vast number of such building platforms on the Internet (e.g., Chatfuel, Motion.ai, Chattypeople).
Unlike DIY chatbots, code-based bots are programmed from scratch with the help of software frameworks (e.gAPI.ai, web-based bot development framework purchased by Google, Facebook Bot Engine with Wi.ai NLP service, Microsoft Bot Framework with luis.ai NLP service) and include a built-in artificial intelligence technology.
There are many different ways chatbots can be used. Some common use cases include:
Chatbots can be used to provide customer service and support. They can answer questions, help customers troubleshoot issues, and provide information about products and services.
Sales and marketing
Chatbots can be used to generate leads, promote products and services, and close sales.
Chatbots can be used to schedule appointments and reservations.
Chatbots can be used to plan and manage events. They can create event schedules, coordinate logistics, and keep track of RSVPs.
Chatbots can be used to create, edit, and publish content. They can also be used to curate and manage content libraries.
Chatbots can be used to capture and input data. This data can be used for things like lead generation, customer profiles, and marketing campaigns.
Chatbots can be used to manage projects and track project progress. They can create and assign tasks, set deadlines, and track milestones.
Chatbots can be used to process orders and payments. They can track inventory, create shipping labels, and generate invoices.
Chatbots can be used to analyze data. This data can be used to make decisions about marketing campaigns, product development, and business strategy.
A chatbot can proactively reach out to website visitors and engage them in conversation. During the conversation, the chatbot can capture leads by asking for contact information.
Engagement and retention
Chatbots can be used to keep customers engaged and reduce customer churn. They can send reminders, create loyalty programs, and offer customer support.
Chatbots can be used to create games and gamified experiences. This can make things like learning new information or completing tasks more fun and engaging.
Set the goal for your chatbot
When creating a chatbot, it’s important to set goals and define a role for the chatbot. This will help you create a chatbot that is tailored to your specific needs and requirements. Some things to consider when setting goals for your chatbot include:
-What do you want your chatbot to accomplish?
-Who is your target audience?
-What type of information do you need from your users?
-What kind of interaction do you want your users to have with your chatbot?
Once you have answered these questions, you can start to define the role of your chatbot. The role of the chatbot will be determined by the goals that you have set. For example, if your goal is to create a chatbot that can answer questions about your products or services, then the role of your chatbot would be to provide customer support. On the other hand, if your goal is to create a chatbot that can promote your brand or sell your products, then the role of your chatbot would be to act as a salesperson.
Choose deployment platform
When it comes to chatbot development, one of the key considerations is choosing the right deployment platform. This is because the platform will determine how your chatbot interacts with users and what sort of features and functionality it will have.
There are a number of different factors to consider when choosing a deployment platform, including:
- Ease of use: The platform should be easy to use and understand, especially if you're not a programmer or developer.
- Compatibility: The platform should be compatible with the messaging service you're using (such as Facebook Messenger or Slack) as well as any other software or applications you want to integrate with your chatbot.
- Features and functionality: The platform should offer the features and functionality you need to create an AI chatbot that meets your specific goals and requirements.
- Pricing: The platform should be affordable and offer a pricing structure that fits your budget.
Some of the most popular chatbot deployment platforms include Chatfuel, Botkit, and Motion.AI. Each platform has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, so it's important to choose the one that's right for your particular project.
Build your conversational UI
Building a chatbot starts with understanding your audience and what they want to achieve. Once you know this, you can start designing a chatbot conversation flow. The conversation flow is the sequence of messages that your chatbot will send in response to user input. When designing your chatbot's conversation flow, it's important to keep in mind the following. Your chatbot should be able to understand the user's input. This means that you'll need to design your chatbot with an NLP system. Also, your chatbot should be able to respond to the user in a way that is appropriate and helpful. This means considering the tone, style, and wording of your chatbot's responses. Your chatbot should be able to handle user requests that are outside of its scope. This means having a plan for how your chatbot will handle unexpected input, such as a user asking for a product that your chatbot doesn't sell.
Pick the right development approach
When it comes to chatbot development, there are two main approaches: rule-based and AI-based.
Rule-based chatbots are the simplest to create. They use a set of rules, or if-then statements, to determine how to respond to a user's input. This approach is good for small projects with limited functionality.
AI-based chatbots are more complex. They use artificial intelligence, or machine learning, to understand user input and create responses. This approach is good for larger projects with more complex functionality.
Test the chatbot thoroughly
When you create a chatbot, it's important to test it thoroughly before release. This helps ensure that your chatbot works as intended and provides a good user experience.
There are a few different ways to test chatbots. One way is to use a service like Botium, which allows you to create test cases and run them against your chatbot. This can be helpful for testing basic functionality and making sure that your chatbot responds correctly to different inputs.
Another way to test chatbots is to create a small group of test users and have them use the chatbot in a real-world scenario. This allows you to see how your chatbot performs in a realistic setting and make any necessary tweaks.
Finally, it's always a good idea to get feedback from chatbot users after they've used the chatbot. This helps you identify any areas where the chatbot could be improved.
Read also: How to build an app with ChatGPT
1. Approach chatbot design with the end-user in mind
Chatbots should always be created to assist users. Service automation may be one of the goals, but chatbots are best to use when:
- human service agents can’t process requests quickly enough to satisfy the end-user;
- the user has to supply financial, medical, or other sensitive information which might be judged by humans - but not by a computer program;
- It is critical to engage the user, personalize each interaction, and qualify the lead in real time, such as in the case of landing pages.
Learn the target audience’s needs and communication methods and offer a UX design which they’ll enjoy without leaving their habitat. For example, messenger chatbots already enable brands to build interaction with those customers who wouldn’t download their apps. If you are trying to reach teenagers and young adults, it’s best to launch your bot into popular messaging apps.
Then, you need to determine what your chatbot interface should and shouldn’t do for the audience. Should it only respond to general support queries? Can it handle the whole onboarding process for new customers? Think of it as a user story and try to keep it simple.
Do some research by testing the bots’ flows, i.e. paths the user can go down to achieve the desired result, across Facebook Messenger, Slack, and other platforms. See how the dialogue, onboarding, suggestions, dead ends, and natural language understanding happen. Remember that a useful bot must provide access to the required service or information in as few steps as possible.
Now it’s time to design bot conversations for specific situations. Prototype your conversation flows and test multiple responses to see which ones work best. Every error can increase abandonment, but can also teach you what users want to do with the interface, what its limitations are, and what opportunities might add value. If you’re paying attention, the bot’s every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to steadily improve your chatbot design.
2. Build a simple conversation for a chatbot
Conversational interface design primarily deals with a conversation. Good user experience requires simplicity, intuitive interfaces, and maximal similarity to a natural human conversation. Prior to writing a line of code, think how you expect the dialogues to flow and solve the users’ problem(s). The chatbot’s conversation topics should be kept simple and strictly close to the subjects it was created to resolve.
Try to narrow the interface’s scope. The less the bot does, the less integration work you have to do and the lower the odds of the conversation going off the rails. Design conversation flows with as few interaction points as possible to give users the shortest path to the desired result.
Selectable button options, prompts, and other graphical UI elements will support the dialogue flow, but the language you use is your primary instrument for delivering a superb user experience. Asking an open question, give an example and show what formats of the required data are valid. If the bot fails to understand a question, it should be able to ask clarifying questions, rephrase queries, and provide prompts for solving errors. Provide one clear call to action for each interaction.
3. Focus on creating a bot personality
A chatbot’s style of message generation and assistance to users differs from what a human can do. Its communicative activities can’t fully resemble those of a human being - but should they? Creating a personality for your bot is a way for the customer to enjoy the service, but also understand it’s not a human they are speaking with. Who then?
Amazon’s Alexa, Cortana, OK Google, and Siri all speak in a different manner and yet fulfill their purpose. A unique, if not ‘humanized,’ bot personality will not only set you apart from the competitors but also hook the users through empathy.
The first impression of your conversational UI is crucial, especially if you are obtaining users through advertising. Users may imagine the bot’s ‘personality’ or gender even if you hadn’t designed any. To have more control over the bot experience, it’s better to endow it with a personality from the onset. A distinct bot personality also helps reduce the number of topics and the words that will be used in the interaction. Luckily, the text-based format of conversational interfaces provides room for creating any personality you fancy.
Get as much information about your target audience as possible. Take your time to nail both an appealing suitable personality and user’s flow when engaging with the bot.
Facebook Messenger, Slack and other messengers have their own UIs. There is nothing you can do about it but design the interactions and dialogues your bot will have with the visitors. However, if you have an independent app, you can develop a unique visual conversational interface design too. Finally, if you are developing an interface of your own, consider having dynamic avatars that can convey nonverbal information with facial expressions and body language - like we humans do.
Translate your business’ digital personality into that of your conversational UI. Personality is strongly correlated with language. What would your brand say if it were a person? Would it be funny or to the point? Would it use emojis? The latter, used as click-through CTA for each story, may be quite engaging. The element of unpredictability in your chatbot’s repertoire will prevent boredom and keep your customers interested.
4. Simplify input structuring
Interaction with chatbots should always be easy for a user and save them extra typing.
Simplify text input for as many interactions as possible. The chatbot algorithm may offer multiple choice options or confirmation buttons with sensible defaults to let the user only click on a button instead of typing in text. If appropriate, enrich your conversational UI with emojis, animation, or other media, but make sure they are contextually relevant, used sparingly, and align with the brand.
Take advantage of the tools that minimize data entry tasks, such as the need to supply the user’s location or other info. (Such as Facebook Messenger which gives access to the user’s name, so the bot doesn’t have to ask.) Consider allowing the user to send attachments, stickers, videos, and photos to tell the system exactly what they’re looking for.
Design ways to make search easier. For example, a user might need to tap six times: 1) Women’s clothes, 2) dresses, 3) cocktail dresses, 4) black, 5) size 4, and 6) under $200. Not that many, but a user-friendlier bot would better search for a ‘black cocktail dress’ first (guessing the user is looking for women’s clothing) and only ask two intelligent follow-up questions. This approach applies to filtering results too.
Still, asking chatbots for help through typing and tapping is complicated compared to voice. Amazon Alexa, Cortana, and Siri that rely on voice commands represent conversational interfaces. One of these days, context-aware voice conversations will become the dominant chatbot interface - the required technology is underway.
5. Adjust bot dialogues to messengers
To ensure consistency within a particular messaging platform, chatbots need to be adjusted to the format of the messenger.
Chatbots must feel native to the messaging platforms. Because users expect your chatbot design to be controlled and adaptable within the guidelines of the particular platform, your conversation flows may look a little different across different messengers.
When you design a bot on Facebook Messenger and other platforms, you will find out that their customization capabilities are limited. Despite having little GUI design control, some messaging apps allow you to add product photos, icons, and menus, edit the color palette, use animation, sound, and video, and insert stickers and conversation landmarks.
To get a working chatbot, you need to have a developed web app for your specific bot, messaging platform connectors to get messages from chat platforms, NLP for message intent processing in a human language, and a server to ensure communication with the API.
But developing bots and adjusting chatbots for multiple messengers and bot SDKs can be complicated. Bot development frameworks were created as advanced software tools that eliminate a large amount of manual work and accelerate the development process. Such bot frameworks also have an emulator, easing up the task of BOT testing for a developers’ team through the cloud.
Among bot development platforms, Microsoft Bot Builder currently provides the necessary components to launch and maintain a high-quality chatbot. It is also one of the fastest and most scalable bot frameworks and is also an open-source chatbot design framework.
Microsoft’s bot framework includes two independent components, a Bot connector and an NLP component known as luis.ai. It can integrate with Skype, Slack, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Webchat, and SMS/email, covering the majority of messaging platforms and working on smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
Let’s see how our team used Microsoft Bot Builder to create a Skype bot that works with clients of a payout program for the elderly and at the same time makes it easy for our customer (bot administrator) to manage its functions.
At Onix, our developers' team produced a chatbot based on RASA Framework. RASA offers two main components:
- RASA NLU is used to process and understand natural language. It can be used to create chatbots that can understand human language.
- RASA Core is used to handle dialogue management. It can be used to create chatbots that can have conversations with humans.
Rasa bot is an innovative artificial intelligence chatbot. First of all, it’s a program code that can understand a person and maintain a meaningful dialogue. A positive aspect of this bot is the ability to diversify communication through interactive elements (buttons, images, etc.).
Our company has developed a Rasa bot, which partially solves the tasks of a sales manager. Such a chatbot can act as an assistant that processes typical requests from potential customers. In addition, the developed chatbot is able to communicate on general topics, that is, you can ask it about time, its name, its job, whether it’s satisfied with its life, and many more things.
RASA Bot Framework has helped significantly improve the chatbot because these bots are intelligent, responsive, and scalable and interact with a user naturally.
Creating a chatbot can be a fun and rewarding experience. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can create a chatbot that is both functional and engaging. With a little creativity and effort, your chatbot will provide value to your users and help you achieve your business goals.
These days chatbots are widely used in the travel industry, as well as chatbots in healthcare are in special demand, so every business will be able to make use of it.
If you still have questions on custom chatbot development, contact our specialists to get a free consultation on this topic. We are looking forward to hearing from you soon!
How do chatbots work?
Chatbots use a combination of artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing (NLP), and machine learning to interpret and respond to user input.
What are the benefits of chatbots?
Chatbots can improve customer satisfaction by providing quick, accurate responses to common questions. They can also reduce the need for human customer service agents, which can save businesses time and money.
How can I create a chatbot?
There are many ways to create a chatbot, but the most common method is to use a chatbot development platform. These platforms provide tools and templates that make it easy to create and deploy chatbots.
What are some popular chatbot development platforms?
There are many popular chatbot development platforms, including Chatfuel, Botkit, and Motion.ai. Each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it's important to choose one that's right for your needs.
How much does it cost to create a chatbot?
The cost of creating a chatbot depends on the platform you use, the complexity of the chatbot, and the time and resources you have available. Generally, creating a custom chatbot can cost from $20K to $80K.
What are some tips for creating a successful chatbot?
Some tips for creating a successful chatbot include studying your target audience, making sure the chatbot's personality is appropriate for your brand, and testing the chatbot before you launch it.