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A Step-by-Step Guide on Chatbot Development

To enhance customer experience and cut down operational costs, you might want to build a chatbot for your business. From this article, you’ll get to know how to choose the optimal type of bot and how to develop it.

If you start using a chatbot instead of relying on human customer support managers, you might be able to reduce operational costs by up to 30%. This technology provides 24/7 service and improves the user experience. Over 1.4 billion people worldwide interact with such bots regularly. In this article, you’ll find a step-by-step guide on building a chatbot that both you and your customers will benefit from.

Decide on the Type of Your Chatbot

Depending on the needs and objectives of your business, you should choose between two types of bots.

– Rule-Based
This is a basic bot that can answer simple questions. It offers the user a selection of the most popular questions, the user clicks on a question and the bot displays the answer from the decision tree. Also, the bot can collect the user’s contact details so that your managers can set a call or a meeting later.

Rule-based bots are cost-efficient and easy to build. On the flipside, their functionality is limited and they might occasionally provide irrelevant answers.

– AI-Based
These are also known as natural-processing or conversational chatbots. They rely on machine learning algorithms and AI. Compared to their rule-based counterparts, such bots provide highly personalized answers, relevant to the content. Instead of offering users a list of predefined questions, they process their input.

AI-based chatbots stick to the following scheme:

– 1. The user types in a question
– 2. The bot identifies the user’s intent
– 3. The bot asks additional questions if needed
– 4. The user receives an answer

The bot will resort to the dialogue tree to specify which problems the client has and how they can be addressed.

Compared to rule-based chatbots, AI-based ones have more advanced functionality. They can process natural language, handle simple requests and confirm user intent. They form sentences by themselves and keep conversations natural. They can provide personalized answers and execute transactions on the behalf of customers. They cost more than rule-based bots and you should hire a skilled chatbot development group to build them.

Identify the Needs and Expectations of Your Target Audience

The ultimate goal of building a chatbot is to enhance the user experience. To meet this goal, you should identify customer expectations and align them with your business. After you’ve analyzed the needs of your target audience, you should compile a list of possible features for your chatbot. For instance, if you sell educational courses, you might offer your clients to book a trial lesson for free or with a discount.

Select Features and Technology

These are the most important features that you should focus on when building your chatbot:

– Seamless cross-channel communication. The bot should be able to function on any platform that you use for your business, be it a website, an app or social media. Users of all these platforms should get an identical experience.

– Integration with third-party systems. You should be able to integrate your bot with CRMs, accounting systems, marketing analytics, payment gateways and any other third-party solutions that you might need in your workflow.

– Rich messaging. An ideal chatbot supports various types of content. It can read the plain text in a human language and generate answers in the same language. Plus, it can share links, suggest informative articles or even help find products.

– Accessibility. The bot should be able to zoom in, support screen readers and voice messaging.
Security. The list of security standards depends on the industry you operate in. For instance, your bot might need to be HIPAA- or PCI-compliant.

– Advanced analytics. Your chatbot will save all the conversations with customers. You can analyze this precious data either with the help of third-party analytical tools or the instruments that are built inside your bot.

No matter how smart your chatbot is, its scenarios should include the automatic handoff of the conversation to your employees when the customer needs it.

Design the Conversation Flow

If you check chatbot building platforms, you’ll discover a limited selection of drag-and-drop, ready-to-use blocks with answers. But most likely, you’ll prefer to create custom scripts for your bot. These scripts should reflect the specifics of your business. They should be targeted at the topics that your clients will be likely to discuss. You should strive to imitate live and natural communication as if the user were talking to a live person.

Train Your Chatbot

Rule-based chatbots don’t need training but their AI-based counterparts do. You should train yours on a massive data set, such as support tickets, emails and so on. Besides, you can “feed” third-party data sets to your bot that contain the information it needs to know.

Test Your Chatbot

When testing a chatbot, you should get more creative than when testing most other types of software. Ideally, you should ask not only your staff members but also your friends, relatives and random people to talk to the bot. They should try to ask the following types of questions:

– Immediately related to your business, with no serious grammar mistakes
– Related to your business, with a few misprints
– Relevant but formulated in a weird way
– The ones that have nothing to your business

You should make sure that the chatbot identifies the user intent correctly and gives the most relevant answer.

Deploy and Maintain

The chatbot’s maintenance includes the following types of tasks:

– Debugging
– Improving the code and making the bot compatible with any platforms, systems and tools that you might want to use
– Adding new information to the database that the bot refers to when generating answers
– Refining answers using the collected information from previous dialogs and statistical data
The essence of maintenance consists in making the chatbot more useful for your clients.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article came in handy and now you better understand how to build a chatbot for your business. First, you should choose between rule-based and AI-based bots. Then, you should identify the needs of your target audience, choose features and technology and design the conversation flow. Once the chatbot is ready, you should train, test, deploy and maintain it.

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