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Latest 14 May 2020 | Customer Service | 5 min read

Cathy Pearl's 6 Top Tips for Designing a Chatbot

A chatbot connects people with the information they need. That’s a very simple definition but it gets to the very core of what a chatbot does. Go a bit deeper and you’ll discover that the best examples of these automated assistants work as an extension of a brand.

A chatbot may be utilized by thousands of customers every single day. When you consider that fact, you realize the importance they have within your overall customer experience.

To help you on your way to developing the best chatbot for your brand, we pulled together the top six top tips from our discussion with the oracle of conversational design, Cathy Pearl.

You can listen to our conversation with Cathy in full on the Machine Yearning podcast.


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Here are 6 best practices for designing a chatbot

1. Linking your brand and chatbot persona

Think about the persona of your brand first. So for example, if you’re a bank, do you have a really formal persona? Or perhaps you’re taking a different approach and your bank has a more light-hearted tone. 

Your chatbot should be a reflection of your brand identity. If you had a conversation with your chatbot without knowing it was yours, would you be able to tell?

2. Selecting the right language

Selecting the right language is the first step to building your chatbot persona. What are the types of phrases that this bot is likely to say or not say? Maybe there are words they would use and words that you think “no, they would never say that.” 

Establishing that upfront doesn't have to be a 10-page dossier, it could be just a few paragraphs. It could even be a few bullet points of things they may say or not say. As this list of sentences and phrases develops, so too does your chatbot persona.

Google's handy guide to building your chatbot sample dialog is a great place to start.

3. Naming your chatbot

Once you’ve thought about how your chatbot speaks, you can then think about giving it a name. What name embodies this persona or this brand that you have? You may already have other branded elements of your company that could help you with this. 

You may even decide that you don’t need to name your chatbot. That’s fine too. Another decision is whether your chatbot has a gender or do you simply give it a name like Spot?

What's most important are the characteristics that you're trying to embody in your bot. And that comes out through the phrasing and the words that the bot is using.

"If you had a conversation with your chatbot without knowing it was yours, would you be able to tell?"

4. Make it clear to people that they’re speaking to a chatbot

One of the guiding principles of conversation design is that we should never be fooling people into thinking they're talking to a person. We always need to be upfront about that.

It could be something as simple as starting off the conversation by saying, “Hi, I'm Pat the automated chatbot.”

It’s always best to be transparent with customers and it also sets their expectations as to what they can expect from this conversational experience. People are getting used to speaking to automated services and will naturally tailor their questioning to suit the capabilities of the chatbot.

5. Handing conversations off to a human

Sometimes a chatbot isn’t able to answer a customer query. Conversocial bots currently handle 85% of cases attributed to them, the remaining 15% are routed through to an agent. 

If your chatbot is able to pass the conversation over to a human, you should let your customers know about that option too. Your bot could say, “I'm going to do my best to help you, but I can always bring in a human partner if needed.”

6. Let your chatbot breathe

A chatbot can talk forever without taking a breath, but people can't. So the places where you pause to take a breathe might also be a good time to take a turn in the conversation because that's a chunk of information.

Try to use succinct sentences and send them one at a time, not one after the other. Give your customers the time to read what your chatbot has said. If you have a human who's spewing a paragraph at you, you’re probably not enjoying that interaction. So, thinking about how a human would speak to your customers is a great place to start when designing your conversations.

Choosing the right platform

If you’re reading this post to plan how your chatbot is going to look and sound, then you’ve probably already got a platform in place. But if you don’t, or you want to see how we make it easy to implement automation on messaging channels, check out our Conversocial Bots platform.

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