Website chatbots are consistently touted by many – including us – as one of the hottest marketing technologies to watch in 2018. They efficiently combine elements of customer service, marketing and branding in a way that is uniquely important and, better still, automated.

A well-designed chatbot will interact with leads and customers alike in your brand’s voice, helping convert curious folks and engage pre-existing fans. Since your marketing and customer-service teams should already be aligned, it’s a no-brainer.

That’s why it’s so unfortunate that not all chatbots are well-executed. A poorly thought-out chatbot can deter leads, frustrate customers and damage your brand.

Here’s how to make sure your website chatbot is primed to help, rather than hurt, your company.

Craft an exact goal

What do you want to accomplish with your chatbot? Some tech companies want to focus entirely on customer service, relieving some pressure from their call centers. But that’s not for everyone: restaurants might include one to offer insight into their dietary substitution options and unique reservation requests.

Start by picturing your target audience, maybe your brand’s buyer persona. Consider what they would be looking for. This goal (or a precise series of goals) will be the benchmark for the rest of your plan.  

website chatbots

Outline the user’s options

Unless you’re crafting some creepy human-voiced machine-learning algorithm, odds are you’re going to keep your chatbot simple. One way to streamline that is by giving your users specific options, and clarifying their limitations. A standard message – “If you need anything else, I can help connect you to a human who can answer your questions” – is a clean way out for anyone who needs more help.

Be proactive, not reactive

This requires a good marketer’s touch. After crafting your goals and options, remember that a good chatbot – nay, a good customer experience – engages users before they even think of a question. But creating the environment isn’t as easy as bombarding newcomers with questions they haven’t asked; rather, it’s about predicting user behavior and addressing it proactively.

You can create a website chatbot that generates unique content for them that you’re fairly sure will interest them, even before they ask for it. What that exact content is depends entirely on your business and industry. The important thing is to take an active approach, rather than sitting back and waiting for people to come to you.

Find examples of what you want to emulate

The last step before you actually start creating your chatbot is to find examples of what to emulate. This is especially important if your chatbot is more complex and being handled by freelance developers who may not understand your brand or goals. Having a template is always a safe approach.  

That said – and this should go without saying – don’t try and emulate their product completely. Do your research, then create your own environment.

Give it the right personality

This is where branding development comes to life. Personality is everything, especially in text, where you control the figurative voice and tenor of your product every step of the way.

Formality is always good, but it can also alienate people. Likewise for a casual vibe. The guiding principle should once again be your first step on this journey: your goal. Turn to your buyer persona and consider what you want them to get out of this experience. Then match that with your brand’s style.

website chatbots

Maybe you want to expand this into a full-blown character, with an avatar and animation? Go for it. Maybe it’s bringing to life to pre-existing mascot? Awesome. Maybe it’s just a script that chats the way your audience speaks? Killer.

In this age of media personalities and influencers, personality is everything. Don’t underestimate it.   

Clarify your metrics for success

You may have your goals lined up, but how will you know if they’re being met? If your website bot’s primary goal is to reduce customer-service wait times, you’d best know how many minutes you want to shave off. If the goal is to bring leads to certain pages, have a percentage increase in mind. If it’s to alleviate calls made to your customer-service centre, track those calls carefully.

While tracking these metrics is important, the only way to know for sure whether your chatbot had any influence is by asking your customers. Add questions about your chatbot into your a customer-service feedback survey you might put out every year or so. And you can even have your bot itself ask folks if they found it helpful at the end of an interaction. Spell out the options and include a variety of accepting, humble responses regardless of whether people find it useful or not.   

Keep it short

Lastly, remember to not overindulge. Website chatbots are still relatively new tech, but they’re not so new that you need to show off all the cool options and phrases you have in mind. You’re not writing a choose-your-own-adventure novel.

website chatbots

This is particularly worth remembering if the goal is to improve your customer-service experience. When people are angry, they don’t want to play games with your fun new toy. They want answers. You can flip that experience into an engaging one, by using your chatbot to start the convo and then turn it over to a live human to zero in and solve the customers problem.