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An idea for handling fallbacks in mixed mode Dialogflow (API.AI) chatbots

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You might be familiar with the concept of the fallback intent in Dialogflow.

It can be tricky to handle.

All the more so when you are getting user input.

However, you can try the following idea if you are creating a mixed mode chatbot.

Asking user for input

So in the regular intent, you ask the user for input. At this point, they can just type or speak their choice.


User:”I want to book a flight”

Bot: “Which class of ticket would you like?”


Bot:”OK, where from?”


Here is what a simple fallback might look like:

User:”I want to book a flight”

Bot: “Which class of ticket would you like?”

User:”The best one”

Bot:”I am sorry, I didn’t get that. Can you repeat that?”

Obviously, repeating the phrase isn’t going to help the user much

Mixed mode

In the mixed mode chatbot, you will let the user type their preference first.

Note: I have built this example on top of my GiftMinion chatbot just for illustration. Please ignore the first list selector at the beginning of the conversation

User gets it right

When the user gets it right, we just move on to the next question.

User gives incorrect response

Suppose the user doesn’t provide one of the values which the entity can take, in the custom fallback intent, we re-prompt the user, but this time as a list box they can select from. This way, the user cannot provide an incorrect answer again, and we can avoid fallback loop hell. 🙂

Why not show a list in the first place?

At this point, you are maybe thinking “What? Why not just show them a list in the first place?” And yes, there is a good argument to make for just showing the list box in the first place.

But it may not be that simple.

For example, the user may be interacting hands-free with the chatbot, and if you use this idea, you can give them an option to continue to be hands-free and then shift to the ‘Tap’ mode only if they need to.

Design pattern

This is a generic idea which can be used for any chatbot which does have a mixed mode interface. I think this is like a design pattern for chatbots. 😉

I will call it the FallbackToList pattern if I wish to refer to it in the future.

The recently released Zoho SalesIQ v2 allows non-programmers to build chatbots using an easy-to-use code less bot builder. What is really unique about Zoho SalesIQ is the fact that you can also integrate AI into their code less bot builder. In my Zoho SalesIQ chatbots course, I explain how to use Zoho SalesIQ to add a chatbot to your website.

"The magic key I needed as a non-programmer"

The custom payload generator was the magic key I needed (as a non-programmer) to build a good demo with rich responses in DialogFlow Messenger. I've only used it for 30 minutes and am thrilled. I've spent hours trying to figure out some of the intricacies of DialogFlow on my own. Over and over, I kept coming back to Aravind's tutorials available on-line. I trust the other functionalities I learn to use in the app will save me additional time and heartburn.

- Kathleen R
Cofounder, gathrHealth

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