9 min read
Chatbot best practices
June 30, 2021
We all know now that a well-designed chatbot can delight your customers, increase your sales, and save you time. You know that your competitors are using chatbots to create personalized customer experiences. You know that your customers love using chatbots. And you know your team appreciates that chatbots can take on their mundane responsibilities.
With so much content out there, we decided to really simplify chatbot best practices. Chatbots don’t need to be complicated. Including them in your marketing strategy is easy when you have the right chatbot guides.
There are five important questions to ask yourself when adding website chatbots to your marketing strategy.
- What problem are you trying to solve with chatbots?
- What does success look like for your chatbots?
- What are realistic goals for your chatbots?
- How do you reach your chatbot goals in the fewest steps?
- How do you make your chatbots engaging and easy to use?
These chatbot design best practices will help you create useful chatbots which will meet your customers’ needs.
1. What problem are you trying to solve with chatbots?
“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”
We sometimes forget how important it is to define a problem before coming up with a solution. Instead we have a great idea, and try to custom fit it into a solution to a presumed problem. We do this often with no clear idea of the problem we’re trying to solve.
Why is it so important to define a problem before you try to find the solution? As Einstein said, the more time you spend understanding the problem, the more effective the solution will be.
Beware of starting with an idea for a great solution (that came to you suddenly) and then working backwards to find the problem.
What kind of problems might you be trying to solve with chatbots?
- Capture lead information from website visitors so that you can send targeted marketing campaigns
- Qualify website visitors to see if they’re a good fit for your products or services
- Invite website visitors to schedule a meeting with your team
- Allow website visitors to chat live with your team
- Accelerate your lead qualification process
- Generate more leads from website visitors
- Convert website visitors into qualified leads or customers
- Welcome website visitors with a personalized message based on how they arrive at your site
- Help website visitors to quickly find information on your website
You should be able to write a single sentence for each problem you’re trying to solve with chatbots. Here are some examples of typical problems you may be trying to solve.
- Our website conversion rate is poor
- We don’t have a great lead engagement experience
- My team wastes time by meeting with unqualified leads
- It takes too long for a qualified lead to meet with my team
- The return on investment for our advertising budget is too low
Chatbot best practice tip: Define your problem before thinking about the solution.
2. What does success look like for your chatbots?
If you’ve defined your problem well, it should be easy to say what success looks like when you’ve solved that problem. In fact, if you can’t define what success looks like, then you probably haven’t defined the problem.
At this point we’re not talking about chatbot goals. You’re not even sure that you need chatbots yet. What you’re doing is defining the business problem that needs to be solved, and what it would like if you did solve it.
Here are a couple of examples.
- Problem: My website has a poor conversion rate
Measure success #1: Doubled current conversion rate
Measure success #2: Increased conversion rate for specific landing pages or campaigns
- Problem: My team wastes time meeting with unqualified leads
Measure success #1: Higher rate of discovery calls that lead to a second meeting
Measure success #2: Reduced number of overall meetings
Remember, there are no right and wrong answers here. It all depends on your business and what you’re trying to achieve. You won’t find magic answers to these kinds of problems anywhere on the internet. If someone tries to give you one, they’re lying. You’re the person that knows your business best, and you know what’s best for your business.
Chatbot best practice tip: Don’t think about chatbots, yet. You are still thinking about the problem, and what it would look like if you solved that problem.
3. What are realistic goals for your chatbots?
Now, you’ve defined the problem you’re trying to solve. You’ve defined how you will measure success. It’s time to think about whether chatbots are the right solution. A chatbot can do many things but it’s not a magic tool that solves every problem with your business or your website. In fact, sometimes a chatbot is the wrong tool to use on your website. This is why it’s important to go through the first two steps, before you make this decision.
Here are a couple of unrealistic chatbot goals.
- Generate more visitors to your website
Chatbots can reach out to visitors when they arrive on your site. They can provide a personalized, engaging experience. What they can't do is get them to your website in the first place.
- Help website visitors to understand your product or service
If the content on your website isn’t doing that already, then a chatbot is going to struggle.
Here are some realistic chatbot goals.
- Increase your website conversion rate, especially for marketing campaigns with dedicated landing pages
- Reduce the number of meetings with unqualified leads by asking the right questions at the right time
- Reduce the amount of time it takes for a qualified lead to meet with your team by inviting them to immediately schedule a meeting
- Accelerate your sales pipeline by automating the lead capture, qualification, and scheduling process with smart chatbots.
- Generate more qualified leads from website visitors by reaching out to them with personalized, engaging content.
Chatbot best practice tip: Remember a chatbot isn’t a magic tool to solve all your business or website problems. Use them wisely to accelerate your customer journey and other marketing efforts.
4. How do you reach your chatbot goals in the fewest steps?
First things first, you can (and should) have many different chatbots throughout your website. You could have different chatbots for different pages or audiences, but each chatbot must have one clear goal.
You could have multiple outcomes for each of your chatbots. For example, a qualified lead might be invited to schedule a meeting, but a non-qualified lead is offered a webinar link. However, each chatbot should have one main, primary goal.
So before you start building your chatbots, think through these questions:
- What is the primary goal of each chatbot?
- What are the secondary (optional) outcomes of each chatbot?
- Who is the target audience for each chatbot?
- Why did those visitors come to your website and what are they trying to do?
- How could you personalize the content or reach out messages for the target audience?
- What’s the minimum amount of information that you need to collect?
You’re at the point where you’re ready to start building your chatbots! You know your problem, you know what success looks like, and you know your goals and audiences. So now, how can you reach those chatbot goals in the fewest steps?
We’ve all experienced badly designed chatbots. The ones that ask too many questions or don’t give sensible answers. You can avoid those mistakes by thinking and planning before you start building.
You don’t need any special tools to plan a chatbot conversation because it shouldn’t be long or complicated. This is how simple it is to do. Two steps...
- Write down the ideal flow of the conversation for someone to reach the primary goal of each chatbot
- Think through each of the secondary outcomes and how the chatbot conversation could lead to those.
Chatbot best practice tip: You should have multiple chatbots on your website, but each one must have a single primary goal.
How do you make your chatbots engaging and easy to use?
Even if you have a clear goal and plan for each chatbot, you need to make sure they’re engaging and easy to use. Otherwise, no one will use them…
Here are a few things to keep in mind when building your chatbots.
- First impressions count
The initial greeting message for each chatbot sets the tone for the conversation. Consider personalized greeting messages for different audiences, marketing campaigns, or website pages.
- Chatbots aren’t humans
Make sure your website visitors know they’re interacting with an automated chatbot. Give it a sensible name and icon.
- Show the value
Your website visitors need to know quickly how they can get value from your chatbot. Give them sensible choices and avoid asking them too many questions up front.
- Less is more
Write in short sentences, one at a time. No one wants to read a long, complicated paragraph in a small chatbot window. No one wants to spend hours answering lots of questions, either.
- Make it a two-way conversation
Don’t write more than two or three sentences without giving the visitor a chance to interact. No one likes a one-sided conversation where they’re just being talked to.
- Write as you would speak
A chatbot is supposed to be conversational. It's fine to use a more informal tone of voice compared to your other content. On the other hand, don’t feel that your chatbot needs to have a hyperactive personality.
- Don’t be abrupt
If a lead doesn’t qualify for the primary goal of your bot, make sure the secondary outcomes are useful and polite.
Chatbot best practice tip: Create an engaging, easy-to-use chatbot to accelerate the experience for customers on your website.
Chatbot best practice isn’t rocket science
Creating useful chatbots really can be simple. All you need to do is take a step back. Look at your problems, and what life could look like if you solved them. Consider realistic primary goals for each of your chatbots, and some secondary outcomes. After that, building useful chatbots, and making them engaging is the fun and easy part.
Check out our playbook, The Essential Guide to Getting Started with Chatbots for some tips, tricks, and inspiration.