There is something tricky about crafting the best AI chatbot.
The clue is in the acronym: intelligent. Building an intelligent machine is a tough enough task in itself. It is hard technical work. But that is not all it is.
Building an AI chatbot brings more layers of trickiness. After all, this is a machine humans are going to talk to.
In this article, I want to go over a few of the characteristics that make the best AI chatbots. I am going to move away from the technicalities and focus more on the human aspect of it all.
What makes the best AI chatbot for us, humans?
It has to be on point
Listen, I can talk to you all day long about the intricate emotional impacts of a poorly constructed chatbot interaction; none of this would mean anything without the tech being on point.
If you are going to release an AI chatbot, you better make sure that what powers it is up to the task. This means a few things.
One, make sure you know what you are doing. If you are building it yourself, the responsibility is yours. If you are picking a chatbot building company to do it for you, make sure you do the right kind of research -- you'll want to pick the best for the job.
Two, make sure you study your future users. All the most fantastic tech in the world will not save you from releasing a chatbot on the wrong platform.
Three, make sure you keep listening. We will touch on this later on in this article as well. The point I want to make here is to keep listening to your users and your data. If your chatbot fails to answer questions, fails to live up to its task, fails to deliver the experience your users deserve, they will be the first ones to tell you.
It has to be user focused
This is true for any chatbot (in fact, this is true for any product or service -- but let's not get into that). For AI chatbots, though, you have to deal with a level of uncertainty.
Whether it is a one-way or two-way AI chatbot, you will have to deal with the surprising input of your users. Trust me when I say no one can predict what a chatbot user might say. Planning for every possible input is impossible.
Thus, you must be prepared and user focused.
The more you focus on your users, the more prepared you will be. We very often hold half days with clients just to talk through the ideal user. Who is (s)he? What does (s)he like? Does (s)he goes to concerts or horseback racing on weekends? What is (s)he aiming to achieve with our chatbot? How does (s)he expect the conversation to go?
And so on.
If you focus on learning about your users and delivering an experience that makes sense to them, your chatbot is bound to succeed.
The more you plan and develop your chatbot in a vacuum without consulting anyone, the more likely you are to crash and burn.
It has to be task focused
An AI chatbot is exciting. It brings a humongous amount of possibilities to everyone involved, from the top of your C-suite to your most loyal customers.
Who is your chatbot going to delight first?
This question might be hard to answer when you think of all the possibilities. I tend to advise companies to focus on the low-hanging fruit and highest impact automation first (kind of like an ICE ranking growth model).
Whoever you are going to help first (your customers, your sales team, your HR team, etc.), you must define the task your chatbot is going to take over.
Very often, we write about the importance of focusing on one task and to do it exceptionally well. This is true for an AI chatbot, too.
The trickiness with an AI chatbot, though, is the user's perception of an open conversation with a machine. It can get hard to keep the user confined within the conversational path that is going to bring your One True Goal to completion.
Let's put it this way: if your users are aware that your chatbot can chitchat about random stuff, they will. That is going to distract them from reaching the goal you had planned for them.
With an AI chatbot, being task focused is paramount. You must plan for all these seemingly random interactions your users are going to have with your chatbot, and plan how you are going to reel them back into the right path. This can only be done if you are following the One True Goal policy and know exactly what you are trying to achieve.
I has to be trained. Before, now, and after.
If there ever was something to not 'set and forget', it is an AI chatbot.
Artificial intelligence requires maintenance, proper care, and training. I know, I know. You'll tell me you can build machine learning powered chatbots that learn over time by themselves as long as they are fed data from reliable sources.
I know. Yet, nothing is ever that easy.
Before you can safely release an AI chatbot, you need to train it in private. You need to teach it what to say, how to say it, when to say it.
Once released, after performing a significant amount of internal testing, you must monitor. Constantly. Like we said before, people are going to say some weird stuff. Your chatbot may react in a way that does not suit you, your company, or your brand. You simply cannot just release it and forget it -- even if it is plugged into relevant database of information to learn from.
In the future, this task does not end. Training is never over. Maintenance is never finished. Though it might take less and less time to rectify mistakes or teach it new things, someone will always need to keep an eye on your chatbot. This is where leading chatbot companies that train and monitor chatbots 24/7 bring huge value.
If your chatbot's sole purpose is to improve a part of your business, you need to make sure it does so consistently. The only way to make sure of that is to keep an eye on it.
It has to have phases
This last section should be a given if you have carefully read the previous ones.
AI chatbots are not easy to build. They are not easy to make perfect. Their users are not easy to please. Their users can also be unpredictable.
The best way to go at it? Release in phases. Don't go all out building something massive all at once. Pick milestones and build to reach those.
As an example, most of our HR chatbots are built in three phases. We span these out over the course of a few months, allowing time to build but also to test, learn, and adapt.
You may have a very simple goal like 'increase sales from our website'. Great. A sales chatbot is something we build all day every day, but what is the plan? Should it sell more high ticket products? Should it up-sell small add-ons? Should it inform users about products so they make a better purchase and ask for less refunds?
In this particular example, we would analyse the possibilities with you and craft a plan that makes sense to your business. This is something you can do within your company as well.
You could, for instance, pick the 'up-sell more small add-ons to purchases'. Cool, so we will first build a chatbot that will pop up on the checkout page and inform the user about closely related products they could have for under £10 more. This would be phase one.
Then, phase two could be for the chatbot to pop up whilst the user is still browsing and offer information about the product they are looking. 'Did you know most of our users also get X product that goes with it? It helps them achieve Y faster'. That's another way to do it.
Then, phase three is deeper knowledge of your products and in-depth knowledge of your users. It is useless to try to up-sell baby clothes on a children e-commerce website to a user who has teenagers. If your database knows that about your users, so should your chatbot.
You get the idea. Plan and release in phases. You will get to learn from each iteration. Your users will get to experience your new chatbot little by little. Your team(s) will learn to use your chatbot as an ally.
I have used the word tricky quite a few times in this article. Hope you weren't counting. Building AI chatbots is what we do day in day out. The characteristics I presented above are almost rules we live by.
Now they are yours. What will your best AI chatbot do?