How to Build a Chatbot from Scratch

How to Build a Chatbot from Scratch

This year alone, 50 percent of businesses have plans to spend more money on developing chatbots than they will on developing mobile apps. Clearly, chatbots are the way of the future.

Are you interested in building a chatbot to help you handle customer service for your business? If so, you’re in the right place. Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to build a chatbot from scratch.

What Is a Chatbot?

Before you can get properly interested in building a chatbot for your business, it helps to understand exactly what a chatbot is and the benefits it has to offer. Let’s start with a simple chatbot definition.

A chatbot is a type of artificial intelligence-driven computer program designed to simulate and process human conversations. It allows humans to engage with digital devices in the same way they would if they were communicating with another person.

Chatbots can be divided into two main categories:

  • Task-oriented chatbots: These are single-purpose programs designed to carry out one function (e.g., answering common questions like hours of operation or handling simple transactions)
  • Data-driven chatbots: These are also known as virtual assistants; they’re much more sophisticated and converse with people in a natural, human-like way while also learning preferences and adapting to specific needs over time

Task-oriented chatbots are the most common form used today. That will likely change in the future, though, especially as technology gets more advanced and more businesses continue to invest in chatbot development.

Why Do You Need a Chatbot?

There are lots of reasons why businesses out to be using chatbots. The following are some of the greatest advantages they have to offer:

Keep Up with Trends

As we mentioned above, businesses are spending less money on app development these days and are focusing more on developing chatbots. This is because they’re following the trends of their customers.

Fewer consumers are downloading apps these days. In fact, one study showed that, in a one-month period, 65 percent of smartphone users don’t download any new apps on their phones.

As a business owner, it’s important to keep up with what consumers are and aren’t doing on a regular basis. Instead of investing in an app, investing in a chatbot might yield more long-term rewards for your business.

Chatbots allow brands to engage with customers in the natural way that they seem to prefer. They also allow brands to connect with customers on other platforms, including social media.

Improve Customer Service

Chatbots allow businesses to take their customer service approach to the next level. They enhance customer service in a variety of ways, including the following:

Improved Customer Assistance

The majority of online shoppers require some kind of support while they’re shopping. They might want to learn more about a specific product or they might have trouble navigating the site, for example. Chatbots can ensure that customers are taken care of through every phase of their buying journey. This helps to decrease the likelihood that they’ll click away without completing their purchase and increases the chances that they’ll come back in the future.

24-7 Accessibility

These days, people have the ability to shop at all hours of the day and night. Because of this, it helps to have some form of customer service available at all hours, too. When shoppers can get help at any time, they’re likely going to be happier and will be more inclined to shop with your business again.

Chatbots also help to decrease wait times for customers. They allow the business to be able to handle more tasks at once and ensure that customers are helped as quickly as possible.

Proactive Customer Interactions

Chatbots allow businesses to engage with customers proactively, rather than waiting until they have a problem and need assistance. By being proactive, brands can ensure customers are helped right away and don’t have a chance to get frustrated or overwhelmed and click away from the site.

Increase Customer Engagement

Chatbots do a great job of boosting customer engagement on social media, too. You can use a chatbot to make social media engagement more interactive. This, in turn, can lead to increases in customer spending and improvements in overall customer loyalty.

For example, you can use chatbots to engage with customers via social media messaging apps. This helps them stay connected and lets customers know that they’ll be taken care of even when they’re not on your business’s website.

Chatbots can alert customers to upcoming sales and promotions, too. This further increases their chances of shopping with your business and helping to boost your bottom line.

Monitor Data and Gain Insights

Chatbots are very effective when it comes to gathering data and gaining insight into customer behaviors as well.

You can use chatbots to learn more about the people who visit your site. This includes information on their shopping behaviors and their preferences. Armed with this information, you can create advertisements that are directed specifically to certain customers.

For example, you can show them new products (using platforms like email marketing or social media chat) that they might be interested in based on their past purchases. You can also remind them to restock on certain items after a certain amount of time has passed.

Improve Lead Generation

Chatbots are very effective lead generation tools. You can use them to deliver personalized, carefully crafted messages to shoppers as they go through every stage of the buying journey.

From keeping customers informed to making recommendations for additional purchases, there are lots of ways to use chatbots to nurture leads and convert them to paying customers.

Your chatbots can also help to spot unqualified leads based on criteria like the amount of time they’ve spent on the site. This saves you from wasting time on leads that are unlikely to go anywhere and allows you to give more attention to the people who have a greater chance of becoming paying customers.

Easier Globalization

The use of a chatbot allows you to take your business global. When you have a chatbot as part of your business’s website, you’ll have an easier time communicating with a wider range of people. Because help is available 24-7, for example, you can assist customers who are shopping in other countries.

You can also use chatbots to translate answers to common questions into other languages. That way, everyone gets the help they need right away without having to jump through a bunch of potentially confusing translation hoops.

Save Money

Don’t forget, chatbots can save you money as well. There is an initial investment that can be offputting to some business owners. Keep in mind, though, that the money you’ll save in the long run far exceeds what you’ll spend upfront.

Chatbots save you from having to employ tons of customer service agents, for example. A well-designed chatbot can do everything a customer service agent can do and more. Gone will be the days of paying several agents and worrying about salaries, benefits, and office overhead.

With a bit of research and development work now, you’ll be able to handle all of your customer service needs from your computer later.

How to Build a Chatbot from Scratch

Okay, you’re convinced that using a chatbot is a good idea. How do you go about building one from scratch, though? Follow these guidelines and you’ll have no trouble building a chatbot that handles everything you need it to do:

Consider Opportunities for a Chatbot

A good starting point is to first think about the opportunities for a chatbot within your company’s current structure. How could a chatbot benefit you, specifically? What areas of the business would run more smoothly if they were automated?

Artificial intelligence solutions are often divided based on these two criteria: work complexity and data complexity. From here, they’re further divided into four types of activity models: Innovation, expertise, efficiency, and effectiveness.

You can use this matrix to help you figure out where the opportunities for a chatbot lie within your specific business.

For example, if you’re struggling with efficiency, you might do best with a chatbot that can perform routine work that’s very structured and low in complexity. If you need help on the innovation front, on the other hand, you’ll be better off with a chatbot that can handle higher levels of data complexity and work complexity.

Identify Your Customers’ Goals

In addition to thinking about what you want for your business, it’s also important to consider what your customers want. Since most chatbots serve as customer service tools, you need to think about their experience and how a chatbot can be used to enhance it.

Ask yourself what your customers’ current problems are with your existing customer service system. Then, consider how a chatbot could help to fix these problems.

For example, maybe your customer service line is only available for a limited number of hours. Having a simple, task-oriented chatbot in place would ensure that customers can get answers to simple questions at any time, day or night.

On the other hand, you might decide that your customers’ problems are better served with a more intuitive, data-driven chatbot. If they want to feel as though they’re talking to a real person when they engage with your website to ask questions, incorporating a more complex chatbot into the site will yield better results and higher levels of customer satisfaction.

Taking the time to think about your business goals and your customer goals will be very helpful later on in the chatbot-building process. You can return to these goals, again and again, to consider whether or not you’re making decisions that are in the best interests of your business and your customers.

Design Conversations

Once you’ve decided what kind of chatbot you want to develop and what you want that chatbot to do, your next step is to start designing conversations. The process of designing conversations is a complex one, but it’s essential, as these conversations will guide the chatbot and ensure that it is useful to your customers.

Designing a conversation involves the following steps:

Considering Customer Requests

First, it’s important to think about what kinds of requests a customer would be making when using a chatbot.

Let’s say you run a hotel, for instance. In this case, customers engaging with a chatbot might want to make or cancel reservations. They might also want to find information about check-in and checkout times.

By anticipating these common requests, you can design a chatbot that provides the customer with the help they need in the most efficient way possible.

Simulating Conversations

The next step is to simulate the types of conversations a customer might have with a chatbot when making requests like those outlined above. Taking the time to think about the questions customers might ask, as well as the different ways in which they might phrase them, ensures that the chatbot provides them with the correct information every time.

Designing Interactions

Now, it’s time to design interactions. This involves knowledge of typical conversations customers might have, as well as knowledge about different messaging platforms. For example, the process of designing for a platform that only supports plain text is different from designing for a platform that supports custom keyboards.

Developing Scripts

Finally, you’ll need to think about scripting conversations between the chatbot and the customer. This can be an overwhelming task, as there are so many different ways in which a conversation can go.

A good place to start is with close-ended conversations. These conversations are easy to handle and can get wrapped up fairly quickly. Then, you can turn your attention to more complex open-ended conversations.

In all cases, it’s important to stay focused on the primary goals of the chatbot. What are customers most likely to ask and what kind of information will they be expecting?

Choose a Chatbot-Building Software

The right chatbot-building software can make the process of scripting much easier. There are tons of software options on the market that are worth considering. The following are two of the most popular and most reliable ones, though:

Chatfuel

Chatfuel comes with a variety of features that you might find useful when building a chatbot for your business. This includes things like the option to add content cards as well as tools that let you share updates with followers automatically.

You can also use Chatfuel to gather information by using forms inside of Messenger chats. It allows you to let users request information and interact with your chatbot using specific buttons, too.

ManyChat

ManyChat lets you build a chatbot within just a few minutes. It’s designed specifically to help with sales and marketing, so it’s a good option for businesses that want to focus on boosting revenue and turning leads into paying customers.

ManyChat also integrates with other popular tools that online businesses might be using. This includes apps and websites like Shopify, HubSpot, Zapier, and ConvertKit.

How to Choose a Chatbot-Building Software

There’s a lot to keep in mind when choosing a chatbot-building software for your business. One of the first things to consider, of course, is your specific goals, as well as the goals of your customers.

Is increasing sales your top priority? Do you want to simplify customer service? Knowing what you want will help you select a software that’s best designed to meet those needs.

Think, too, about the specific features the software offers. Consider which features are most important and will best serve your business.

It also helps to look into the software’s customer service options. What kind of resources do they offer to help you troubleshoot your chatbot and get the most out of it?

Consider Outsourcing

Figuring out how to build a chatbot from scratch isn’t for everyone. If you feel that you’re already stretched too thin at your business, you might not be up for designing your own chatbot, even with the help of a chatbot-building software. In this case, outsourcing to a professional can be a great option.

Look for a designer who will still let you be involved in the process. They should take your specific goals and preferences into account, but they’ll do the heavy lifting for you.

Pay special attention to the designer’s reviews and check their references, too. Ask if you can see examples of their past work as well. This will help you ensure they’re reputable and up to the job.

Do You Need Help Building a Chatbot?

As you can see, there’s a lot to keep in mind when it comes to figuring out how to build a chatbot from scratch. The process can seem intimidating at first. If you follow the guidelines outlined above, though, you’ll have a much easier time putting together a chatbot that helps you keep your business running as smoothly as possible.

Do you want to learn more about building a chatbot? Do you need help figuring out any of the steps listed above? If so, get in touch with us to see how we can help.

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