To prepare for a recent interview, the journalist asked me "what is one thing you'd like to talk about? One thing you think our audience should know about chatbot?"

I racked my brain a little bit. Should I talk about statistics? Should I try to convince people that chatbots are the future and now is the time to invest? Should I talk about artificial intelligence, machine learning, or all the super duper tech?

Then, it hit me: onboarding.

The audience I got a chance to speak to already knew about chatbots. They didn't need convincing. They didn't need statistics. They didn't need a bunch of buzzwords and complex technical explanations.

They needed tips on how to onboard chatbot users. Actionable, from-the-front-line tips that will help them improve their bot today.

Chatbot onboarding should be a priority

We don't have any patience. And, in my opinion, rightly so.

We don't have the time to be patient. When trying something new, we need to find value right now or we'll pass. People working in the mobile app space have known this for a while. Researchers found 80 to 90% of all downloaded apps are used once then deleted.

When it comes to chatbots, this is true, too. If you don't catch your users' attention and deliver value almost instantly, you will lose them. Whatever amazing tech powers your impressive bot, no one cares -- they're already gone.

So, let's avoid that and onboard users the right way. At ubisend, we have three golden rules to chatbot onboarding.

Golden rule #1 - Don't fake it


Here's the thing: we may not have patience, but we're not dumb.

Your bot is a bot. It's not a human. Don't try to fake it. Humans are not dumb, they will realise sooner or later that they are interacting with a robot. When they do (and they will), they will never forgive you for the way you've treated them.

So, to comply with the first golden rule, announce to your users loud and clear that they are interacting with a chatbot. Say something like,

'Hi [name], good to meet you! I am the [your company name] chatbot, [cute name you gave to the bot].'


Golden rule #2 - Give clear instructions


Remember what I said about patience? This is where it gets important. Your users don't have the patience to sit there and figure out how to use your chatbot. They want, nay need, to be told.

In our experience, users will only try once or twice to figure it out. Then, they bail.

Comply with the second golden rule, express exactly how to use your chatbot. Say something like,

'I can help you find a good movie to watch Netflix tonight based on your taste. For instance, ask me "recommend a good horror movie" or "I want a top rated action series"'.


Golden rule #3 - Always offer a fall-back


The fall-back is the old faithful. It's the safety blanket that allows you to sleep at night. It is something you should always have in place.

The way it works is very simple. The user tries your chatbot. Even though you've tried your best to follow the rules above, they still fail to use the bot properly. Your chatbot doesn't understand what is going on and asks to rephrase. Your chatbot still doesn't understand and offers the user to bypass it and go straight to a human.

That's the fall-back. A fall-back to human is crucial in most cases. In fact, I have never worked on a project that didn't have one. It's a security measure, to make sure you don't make your users crazy.

Everyone accepts that chatbots have limitations. Yours is no exception, it is not supposed to know everything about everything.

To comply with this rule, make sure you implement the fall-back feature. But, that's not all. Tell your chatbot users how to trigger it. If there is one thing they shouldn't have to figure out for themselves, it's this one! Say something like,

'If you are stuck and need one of my fellow humans to help out, just tap the 'Human' button at the top'.


Start onboarding users and iterate

You now have the three golden rules of chatbot onboard in your hands. This is powerful stuff. It will give you a leg up, for sure.

But, it's also not all there is. The only way you'll find the best practices to onboard your chatbot users is by onboarding them. Get out there, start onboarding, use different sequences, change the language, try different things.

The onboarding sequence can make or break a chatbot. Make sure you spend time on this.