Chatbot best practices

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Chatbots are all the rage right now and it’s not uncommon to see a chat window immediately loading a website.  Chatbots are often heavily supported by humans providing much of the real chat functionality.  The website chat provides a great way to engage with website visitors and reduce the fiction of first contact.  Some best practices to  get maximum benefit from your chat bot:

  1. Activate in the lower left corner. Users look for and expect a chat option to appear in the lower left corner of the website. On desktop this is easy to support but on Mobile it can be a challenge and you may need a full bar across the bottom of the browser window to engage the user.
  2. Make it “Human”. Using a name like “Helpbot” or even “ChatBot” will turn off users, nobody really wants to chat with a bot. Instead use a generic human name to start the conversation. The chat bot can then transfer or escalate the issue to a human.
  3. Keep a regular schedule. Just like having a store or office hours, it’s important that you be consistent with your chat bot hours so that people can rely on it for communication. Very few websites will be able to support a 24/7 chat experience so being upfront with users will be more effective. This is particularly important if your chat bot needs to escalate to humans regularly.
  4. Balance automation and effectiveness. Often a chatbot conversation fails when the user asks a question that the bot cannot understand. Instead of sending a response that doesn’t make sense it’s usually better to wait for a human to respond. Another approach when humans are unavailable is to ask the user to contact you using another channel or at another time.
  5. Use sound. Most chat conversations will eventually encounter a delay and the user may have switched to another tab, window or application. Using sounds will make it clear that a response is waiting for them.
  6. Avoid pop-ups. While pop-ups are less of a problem in 2018 most web browsers limit them and a new browser window may not open for the user. Often the new window will also get lost behind their other windows too. Instead keep the conversation inside the website window they opened where ever possible.
  7. Stay connected across your website. Sending users a new URL on your website shouldn’t end the conversation. Instead your chat interface should re-open exactly where the conversation left off.
  8. Keep them engaged. After answering the user’s concern it is a great opportunity to ask them to sign up for a email newsletter, follow you on Social Media or share their experience on Social Media.
  9. Measurement. Lastly with all services on the web, it’s important to measure your chatbot and its effectiveness. This could tie through from chat to sales, or chat to goal conversion or simple chat to content consumption.

Chatbots are a powerful tool your web marketing and customer service toolkit. Leveraging them can greatly improve the engagement and success of your website.