Have you ever been inundated with client communications and aren’t sure where to start when it comes to replying? Or, have you ever responded to the same question so many times that you are starting to wonder why you even have a FAQ page? Thankfully, there is now a way to solve these problems and more through a chatbot development project.

While many people have heard about chatbots and are interested in creating one for their company, most people aren’t sure where to get started. In this article, we are going to run through everything you need to begin a chatbot development project. On top of that, we will include a list of best practices to make sure that your time is well spent.

With that being said, let’s first start by taking a look at Chatbots in general, how they function, and the difference they can make in your company’s offering.

chatbot development project

Introduction: Chatbots and You

In some form or capacity, Chatbots have existed for well over 30 years. Starting from phone trees in the 90s, the technology has evolved to incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning to better serve users and deliver more valuable insights. Now, you can have full conversations with chatbots and hardly tell the difference between them and a real customer service representative.

This is not by accident. As chatbots have evolved, the personalized aspect of their code has come to the forefront. It’s very possible that in the near future, chatbots will be able to hold complete conversations using voice responses like Siri or Alexa, but on an even larger scale. As this happens, it will become even more important to create and set standards of practice to ensure the best possible experience.

How do they function?

In order to create your own chatbot solution, it is important to understand how they function so that you can match the functionality with the user pain points you want to target. At a glance, chatbots look like any other app. There is an application layer, a database, and an API to call external services. The only difference is a chatbot’s UI is replaced with the chat interface. Regardless, the UX of this interface will be incredibly important.

When it comes to actually taking this framework and turning it into a working chatbot, the key is something known as Machine Learning. At first, you will simply write out the conversations stemming from questions your users will be asking. But then, once the system has seen how real users interact with your chatbot, it can “learn” from the conversations to expand its database of answers and solutions.

The brilliance of this is that, when done correctly, your chatbot will only get better and better at its job the longer you have it running. However, it will require a certain level of guidance to avoid evolving in the wrong direction. We’ll review chatbot maintenance more later, but remember to always eliminated unwanted threads from the code to avoid distractions.

Conversations & Conversions

While no two chatbot development projects will be the same, unless you are looking to fill a specific niche, your chatbot will likely be used to help the sales process on your website. Not only does having a warm greeting on your site improve the user experience, but it can lead to better, faster conversions as well. Ultimately, this is what you should focus on when designing your chatbot: how to get users from the welcome screen to a finalized sale.

Thankfully, this is exactly what most chatbots are designed to do. Almost any framework that you operate with will be geared toward improving the sales cycle. All that you will need to do is provide the context for the chatbot to operate within. We highly recommend reviewing this table to find the best framework for you and your company.

Beginning Your Chatbot Development Project

Now that you have a better understanding of the how and why of chatbots, let’s take a look at the tools, tips, and processes you will need to actually begin your chatbot development project. These steps are each designed to fill out the various areas of your chatbot needed to achieve the best possible results.

Step 1: Start Small

As we mentioned earlier, the best way to build out your chatbot is to start small and add as you go. Think of this first iteration like a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that only contains the most necessary aspects of your chatbot. Functions like welcoming visitors to the site, presenting contact information, and site guidance. Really focus on each of these features and fill them out as much as you can before moving on.

The other reason you should start small is to prove that your concept will work. Rather than investing hundreds if not thousands of dollars into a chatbot that may or may not work, begin with something easy to handle and validate the benefits of your solution. Not only will this save time and money, but it will often lead to a better final product.

Step 2: Define Your Chatbot’s Purpose

Once you have validated your chatbot, the next step is to define its personality and, ultimately, its purpose. A few basics like choosing the name, preparing the greeting, and finding an image that matches your branding will be your first step. Then, meet with your team to discuss the type of bot you want to present to potential clients. Think about your brand as a whole and write down words you want to be associated with. This will be a good jumping off point.

From there, you will need to lay out how these attributes will be conveyed through the chatbot development project. For example, if you want your chatbot to be playful, spend time working on key phrases that can be peppered into the conversation to give off this image. The goal is to be memorable without being distracting.

Next, take time with your team to define the purpose of the chatbot. This will likely be something basic like ‘convert more users,’ but it could be more nuanced like ‘provide a better overall experience’ or ‘guide users through the ecommerce process.’ Regardless, clearly defining your chatbots purpose will be essential in how you approach the rest of the project.

Step 3: Set Expectations

Now that you have a defined purpose for your chatbot, the next step will be to set expectations for your users in regards to how they interact with the bot. This is one of the best ways to facilitate success with a chatbot: set expectations early in the conversation and then meet or exceed them throughout the interaction.

For example, you never want to mislead your users by trying to have your chatbot seem like an actual customer service representative. Let users know that they are speaking with an automated bot so that, should they not be able to find what they are looking for, they can get in touch with someone who can help them rather than waste their time.

Setting expectations is also important because you can explain the scope and limitations of the chatbot. By understanding exactly what the bot can do for them, users will be able to move through the process with confidence to find what they are looking for. The faster they can find a solution, the better their experience will be.  

Step 4: Write Out the Script

With your expectations set, your purpose defined, and your MVP built, now comes the time in the chatbot development project where we step things up a notch. At this point, you will likely have an idea of what you want your chatbot to look and sound like, but now is the time where you will actually write out the script for it to follow.

Like before, we recommend starting small with your opening greeting. Then, lay out a few frequently asked questions, followed by potential conversation trees that could happen from there. Since you will define the options, try your best to push users in the right direction. Finally, add a call-to-action at the end of each branch, either to complete a conversion or go back to the beginning of the conversation.

Step 5: Test for Variables

Once your initial script is written out, you will need to test the chatbot for variables in the conversation and potential hang-ups. This is vital to presenting the chatbot as conversational and accurate. If you skip QA testing, it will be terribly obvious that your chatbot has only existed in a hypothetical setting.  

The best approach here is to recruit a sample audience that can attempt to run through each of the chatbots scripts to achieve the designated goal. Only once these routes have been proven is the chatbot ready to be launched and even then, your work is far from over.

Launching Your Chatbot

After taking the steps necessary to create a working chatbot, the time will come to launch your chatbot to the world. Although this may seem like a grand gesture, it will likely be no more than clicking a button on your website. However, now that your chatbot is live, you can begin the work necessary to fully optimize the experience.

The most vital part of this step is ensuring that you have sounds procedures for collecting user engagement analytics. Depending on the chatbot development company you plan on working with, they will likely already have a system in place. Do your best to make sure that the information gleaned from this system is used correctly so that your chatbot can continue to evolve.

Upkeep and Maintenance

Along with user data, your chatbot will likely require a certain level of upkeep and maintenance to maintain the desired level of familiarity and helpfulness. This is should be part of any chatbot development project, but it can often be forgotten and lead to future problems. Work with your team to establish regular chatbot maintenance to avoid this predicament.

Best Practices Moving Forward

Finally, the last thing you will need to take your chatbot development project to the next level is a couple of best practices for design, process, and success moving forward. While the steps we have reviewed so far will get you started, these best practices are designed to help set your chatbot apart from the noise of the internet and keep users focused on their goal.

1. Don’t Let Users Wander

As you are likely already aware, users often have an incredibly short attention span. In fact, for most landing pages, user’s attention spans are less than 8 seconds! Even if your chatbot pops up the instant they launch your site, you need to get to work right away if you want to gain their interest. Our advice is simple: don’t let them wander.

Being the owner of your site, you know the various reasons why someone would visit your site. Hopefully you have already programmed your chatbot to meet these needs, but identifying them and pointing them in the right direction is something else entirely. When creating your script, try to find out what they need as quickly as possible and then direct them there quickly.

By keeping your eye on the ball and avoiding distractions, users will have a better experience and a higher chance of converting. While they may end up learning more about you by wandering, they are just as likely to move on to another site.

2. Perform Real World Testing

Earlier, we mentioned the importance of QA testing when working on a chatbot development project. However, QA testing can only do so much. Real-world testing is necessary after the launch of the bot to make sure that it is functioning properly and meeting the needs of actual customers. Monitor your users’ behavior to better understand how they interact with your bot and your brand.

From there you can try A/B testing and other tactics to drive more conversions. As you see your chatbot progress, it will become easier to match your solutions to the problems your users are experiencing. If you can do that, you will be on your way to a successful chatbot program.

3. Personalize Whenever Possible

Our last best practice is twofold, but it hinges on the idea of personalizing messaging whenever possible. While you may not have much information when a random user comes across your site, you can use your chatbot to gain that information and then use it throughout the conversation.

For example, your welcome message could include the line “My name is SnyxiusBot, what’s yours?” Not only does this prompt a response, but it gains valuable details that can be used later. It also sets up a conversational approach in case you want to ask them later for more pertinent details, such as their email address or phone number.

By being straightforward with your users about your intentions and offering them a personalized experience, they will be far more likely to react well and pursue a relationship with your business. Which is, after all, our ultimate goal.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, a chatbot development project is no simple task, but the benefits of seeing it through far outweigh the time and effort you will invest. We hope that this article has given you the tools you need to be successful when you launch your own chatbot.

And should you need help with the development, we hope that you’ll give us a call.