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Tips for building Website Chatbots

While it is clear that live chat is a very useful tool for websites, it is a little harder to make the same claim for website chatbots.

But you can follow a bunch of tips to help increase the visitor engagement with your bot. Some of these, of course, may be counter to what you expect from your bot. But I am mostly reporting what has worked for me, so this comes from first hand experience.

All these tips are actually much easier to implement if you use Zoho SalesIQ, which is primarily a live chat software which also supports Dialogflow integration in three different ways. In my view, it is the best tool for creating AI powered website chatbots in 2021.

Embed the bot inside your live chat

I have previously talked about 7 ways to add a Dialogflow bot to your website. But it is very rare for a pure chatbot to be sufficient.

For example, compare what you can do with Zoho SalesIQ (live chat + bot) vs Dialogflow Messenger (pure chatbot).

Besides, embedding your bot inside a full fledged live chat tool such as Zoho SalesIQ give you access to all the bells and whistles of live chat tools (and there are so many these days!).

Don’t ask for contact information up front

Allow your website visitor to interact with your bot first, rather than asking for their email address before they even begin interacting with your bot.

Now, sometimes you might add this “barrier” intentionally, just to avoid the trolls. That is certainly your choice. But you should realize that you are placing a fairly significant barrier if you ask people to first fill out contact information.

In SalesIQ, you can just delete all the pre-chat fields.

Once you delete the pre-chat fields, you can see from the preview that the user can begin typing their question right away.

Automatically popup the bot after some time

If you are going to automatically popup the bot, do so after some time. Give your visitors some time to first orient themselves to your website.

I recommend popping up the chatbot after 30 seconds or 1 minute. This is plenty of time for the uninterested visitors to leave your website without encountering something they might perceive as annoying.

There is a setting which allows you to do this in SalesIQ.

Make it obvious they are talking to a bot

I think most website owners do NOT intentionally mislead their visitors into thinking they are online and then presenting them with a bot.

But live chat tools are sometimes just a little too confusing to make this clear. Unfortunately, SalesIQ isn’t all that better when it comes to this.

The simplest solution I found is to automatically popup the bot before user starts their interaction, use a bot as the gravatar image, and make the first message very clear that it is actually a bot.

Don’t obscure the article on desktop devices

If possible, don’t let your bot obscure the actual article on your website. If you think people are more likely to interact with a bot which is “in their face”, you would not only be annoying your user, but you would actually be training them to ignore the bot even if it might be useful for them. It is just bad UX, so avoid it as much as possible.

Sometimes this is hard to do depending on your website theme. It is certainly not possible on a mobile device. But at least try and implement this on the desktop.

Minimize the choices in the first step

If you are creating a decision tree bot using the codeless bot builder, don’t overwhelm the user with a lot of choices in the very first step. Try and restrict it to 2-3 buttons, like below.

Even if you genuinely have many more options, try and organize them into groups. This is not very hard to do if you are using the code less bot builder in SalesIQ.

Add an option to initiate a live chat

In the very first step, I also recommend adding an option to allow the visitor to initiate a live chat.

You might be wondering: “Why use a chatbot if I can just do live chat?”

First of all, you are almost certainly going to be surprised by the ratio of people who will happily interact with a bot – especially if you don’t ask for contact info upfront – versus those who would initiate a live chat. My personal experience is that the ratio is maybe as high as 10 to 1 (for every 10 people who interact with a bot, only 1 will initiate a live chat).

Second, if the bot can successfully answer the user’s questions, or help them accomplish some task, that means your team is free to do other things instead of having someone attend the live chat.

Adding the option to Live Chat is as simple as placing another control block in the SalesIQ code less bot dialog builder (it is called the Forward control block).

In addition, right inside the control block, you have three options:

  • what to do if operator is offline
  • what to do if operator is not available
  • what to do if something is invalid (maybe SalesIQ itself throws some error)

You can handle all these three options individually as you want by using the various response blocks inside the SalesIQ bot builder.

Ask visitor to leave a message if operator is offline

If the operator is offline, you should provide an option for the user to leave a message. Very few visitors will choose this option, but sometimes you do get to hear from people this way too.

Allow the user to skip the email address if they don’t want to provide it

When you ask the user to leave a message, it is a good place to prompt for the email address. If the user actually wants to be contacted, they will provide their email address.

But there are also some people who just want to give you some feedback (e.g. “Can you please discuss so-and-so topic in this tutorial?”).

You are not obligated to do what they ask (anymore than they are obligated to give you their email ID), but there is no harm in learning what your users want. If nothing else, at least you become aware of some missing details in your website.

Lower your expectations

This is the most important tip, but I have moved it to the end as it depends on some of the previous tips.

This is how I think most of these chats happen. 🙂

1 User conducts a web search

2 They open 5 tabs based on the search results, one of which is your website

3 They glance at your website. If they see a chatbot, their guard goes up a little.

4 If they don’t find what they want with less effort on other sites, they come back to your site.

5 If they find something useful or interesting on your site, they click to a second page

6 If they are still interested, they will sometimes read your chat prompt

7 If they are not asked for contact info up front, they will read the first message from your bot

8 If they see an option for both live chat and self-service, they will give it some additional consideration

9 Eventually, a good 30 minutes or so after their web search, there is a chance they will interact with your bot. 🙂

So unless you offer something completely unique, only a very small fraction of your website visitors will engage with your chatbot.

If you start at this baseline, you will in fact be able to get quite a lot from your bot.

If nothing else, a bot which helps the user learn something new or interesting will still

a) increase dwell time

b) lower bounce rate if user clicks on a link

c) increase your expertise in the eyes of your user

On top of that, if you followed the tips provided in this article, you will sometimes also be able to live chat with your visitor, or get their email address, or at least get some feedback from them.

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"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
In this free course, I provide some tips for managing large Dialogflow ES bots without compromising on accuracy.

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