8 Chatbot Welcome Message Best Practices to Follow in 2022
How do you best welcome users to your chatbot?
Over our many years in this industry, we've managed to distil the chatbot welcome message experience down to a science.
The best practices below will help you get the most of your chatbot. And, of course, will help your users get the most of your chatbot, too.
The importance of the chatbot welcome message
The welcome message is a crucial part of your chatbot experience. It is quite literally the first interaction a user has with your chatbot.
We all know the importance of first impressions. Science says humans form impressions of other humans within one-tenth of a second of encountering them (source).
While this science may not apply to chatbot encounters, we can still derive the sense of importance your very first message will have on the interaction.
After all, even more science (promise I'll stop after this one) shows us we tend to remember the first piece of information we receive (e.g. a message) more than the following pieces of information. The primacy effect, as it is called, is often used in advertising, comedy shows, website experiences; and, now, chatbots.
All this to say something you already knew: first impressions matter. Crafting the right chatbot welcome message goes a long way in creating a successful chatbot.
Let's go through our welcome message best practices.
1. Keep your welcome message short
A short and to-the-point welcome message will engage the user without overwhelming them.
The purpose of your welcome message is to:
- welcome the user (duh),
- give them information, and,
- encourage them to move on and use the chatbot.
Avoiding a longwinded, intricate first message will ensure they move forward with your chatbot experience.
Here are two examples:
Clearly, the welcome message on the right seems like much more work to the user. They need to scroll, they need to read a lot, they need to decipher what information is important.
Keep your welcome message short.
2. Split your welcome message down to (max) three
"But, Alex, I have a lot to say in my welcome message. What can I do?"
Good question, Steve.
We found splitting up welcome messages work a treat in two key scenarios.
The first is when, like Steve, you have a lot to say. If this is the case, breaking down the monotony of a humongous message is best. Here's an example:
The second is when you want to use pleasantries. This like 'Hello, I'm so-and-so chatbot' or 'welcome '. I always recommend splitting those up from the meaty part of the welcome message:
Here's the kicker, though: don't go around creating a 16-message welcome experience because "Alex said splitting is fine". Instead, try and keep it to a maximum of three messages.
Hot tip: my rule of thumb with welcome message(s) length is this simple. Does it take more than 2/3rd of the chat window? If so, I trim it down. I really want to make sure my users can read the entire message without having to scroll and see the space available for them to answer. Simple.
3. Have the chatbot introduce itself
There's something about knowing 'who' you are talking to that makes the interaction more enjoyable. We found chatbots that have a name tend to perform better in general.
Within the first message, make sure your chatbot introduces itself.
If you've given it a clever name, use that.
If you haven't given it a clever name (you don't have to, by the way), make sure it says who it works for. Here are two examples:
By introducing itself, the chatbot frames the conversation and reassures the user. They're in the right place. They're talking to XYZ, the Acme Ltd. chatbot.
You may think a chatbot that lives on a website is quite evidently that website's chatbot. As we'll see later on, you must consider that chatbots do not always live on a website. They may also be deployed on Facebook Messenger or Telegram or Instagram, or any of our 60+ messaging channels.
Finally, this best practice helps build rapport between your user and your chatbot. As they embark on a potentially long interaction, rapport building will prove extremely important.
4. Explain the chatbot's capabilities
We see this mistake time and time again. Here, look at this:
Now, what's the problem with this picture?
It's a short message, great. It's split up into two, perfect. The chatbot introduces itself and seems friendly, tick and tick. So, what's the chatbot doing wrong?
It is giving no indication whatsoever of what it is capable of helping with. Fatal, rookie mistake.
While chatbots are becoming more common, leaving users to figure out what they can or can't ask your chatbot is a recipe for disaster. Only three things can happen.
- The user lucks into asking something the chatbot knows about. 'Twas your lucky day, too.
- The user asks something the chatbot wasn't built to understand, gets frustrated, and leaves.
- The user freezes, closes the chatbot and leaves.
To avoid all this disappointment, follow this simple best practice: tell the user what the chatbot can do. Here's a good example:
Clear, concise, and helpful.
5. Make good use of rich media
As we've seen, your welcome message has two goals. The first is to inform the user about who they're talking to and what the chatbot can do for them.
The second is to convert the passive user who's just opened a chatbot into an active and engaged user.
This conversion is not always easy, yet it is the first step to getting the user to do what you want them to do (purchase a product, enquire about a service, etc.).
We found rich media to be helpful with this conversion. In this context, rich media includes:
ubisend chatbots support all of those, which is excellent to create an engaging welcome experience.
I have no science or research to back this up; only our own experience. I do believe it is clear when looking at the two examples below, which one is more likely to engage the user.
When possible (see below), make use of rich media.
6. Take messaging channels into consideration
Chatbots may live on a variety of channels. At ubisend, we support over 60 chatbot channels including Instagram, Microsoft Teams, full page, and more.
Now here's the kicker. Not every chatbot channel is created equal.
Some support specific types of messages, some don't. Some allow images, some don't. Some allow GIFs, some don't. Through our platform, you can even create one chatbot and deploy it across as many of these 60+ channels as you'd like.
To help our users navigate this complex landscape, we created this thorough piece of documentation.
Best practice #6 is simple: make sure you take the channel(s) your chatbot is going to live on into consideration. As you craft the perfect welcome messages, make sure they are compatible across all the channels you intend on using.
7. Cater for returning chatbot users
When you think about welcoming chatbot users, you immediately think of welcoming first-time users. These peeps have never engaged with your chatbot before.
There's actually a sneaky second type of user you must think about: returning users.
Returning users are, as their name implies, users who have already engaged with your chatbot, left, then came back for a second round.
Most chatbots deal with returning users. Some may return to ask a customer service chatbot another question. Some may return to purchase another product. Some may use your chatbot every day for work (e.g. HR chatbots).
As you define what the very first experience should look like for a brand new user, it is worth considering the return experience as well. There are three possibilities here.
Use the exact same welcome message
If it works, don't fix it. In the case of a customer service chatbot, for instance, presenting the exact same welcome message to new and returning users might make perfect sense.
Create a different welcome message
With ubisend, you can conditionals to sniff out whether a user is brand new or returning. Doing so allows you to create two different experiences. This is a particularly good idea for sales chatbots.
Don't welcome them again
What if users never went back to the welcome experience, once they've seen it? With ubisend, you can decide to keep the chat history active forever, never resetting the conversation, and thus not needing to welcome them again.
8. Don't forget potential legal requirements
I've just gone ahead and decided to end this beautifully helpful article with the most unsexy piece of advice ever. Oh well.
As unsexy as it may be, it is an important best practice.
The majority of the chatbots you will work on will be tied to a company. This means, as they engage with your chatbot, users are engaging with a business.
This may have all sorts of legal implications. Depending on where you are in the world, your welcome message may have to include some legal words. Here's an example:
We cannot advise you on this. You will have to find out your country's (and company's) requirements. We do, however, give you all the tools you might need to set this in place.