Why Preparing is Important
Preparation is an essential step in any project, AI chatbot projects are not an exception. Planning will help you think about what you need to do before the project starts and make sure that everything is in place for it to go smoothly. A good preparation process will also help you understand what kind of resources are needed in order to create a successful chatbot, how much time it will take, and if there are any legal implications that need to be considered.
Chatbots with conversational AI are helpful when they’re used correctly, but they can also lead to problems if they’re not planned properly, for example it is not adapted and upgraded according to customer behavior and search. Firstly, you need to identify the business objectives of your chatbot. What are the desired outcomes? What is the desired ROI (Return on investment)? What will it take to achieve these goals? Next, you need to determine your chatbot’s target audience. Who is going to be using this chatbot? You also have to decide on your chatbot’s features. How will it work? What features does it need to meet its objectives? Answering all these questions and many more that will be shared in this blog post will help the business to better plan its AI chatbot project and implement it successfully after that.
According to a study by Salesforce, 77% of customers say that chatbots will transform their expectations of companies in a positive way in the next 5 years. And according to another report from April’22 about the top 12 customer service technologies, published by CBInsights, AI-enabled chatbots were placed on the top as the first choice of a technology that businesses prioritize today to stay competitive. Leaders in all industries are already doing it. This means that the software solution will continue to be one of the main tools for automating the overall customer service and assisting with sales and marketing. If it is planned well, it will help the business to grow and meet its goals easier and quicker.
The following steps will help you plan your chatbot with conversational AI. If you plan to start with a smaller project, with a basic chatbot (without AI), you still shall consider most of these steps. Even the basic chatbot that provides information through information cards, images, buttons and links, requires planning of the customer journey in it to be an effective business tool.
AI Chatbot Project Planning – What are the Steps to Consider?
When you are planning a chatbot, there are certain topics to discuss internally with your team, decisions to make and steps to take that are related to the specifics of your business and your customers:
1. Define what will be the main purpose of the AI chatbot
Having an AI chatbot shall not be justified by just because other businesses have it already, or because customers want it, or because you have heard it will save time and resources and increase sales. The very first thing the business must do after deciding to implement an AI chatbot is to define what its purpose will be – an AI chatbot for customer service and support, for marketing and sales, for customer engagement, for internal activities like new employees onboarding and HR, or other. Chatbots can be used also as questionnaires, FAQ tools, making orders and reservations, for collecting customer feedback, for entertainment, games, and many other purposes. The business should choose what their main purpose is and after that continue with the next steps as they depend on what will be the general function of the chatbot.
Another thing is to determine the type of the chatbot: if the chatbot will be a basic one with predefined images, texts, and forms, a chatbot with conversational AI, or a hybrid model with many functionalities. The functionalities of each specific chatbot depend on what the business assigns it to do, where it will be implemented, and with whom it will communicate – with clients, partners, or staff.
The languages of the chatbot shall be also decided at this stage to assign later team members to the project who know these languages. It is essential to know what language the target audience speaks and to provide equal assistance to them through the chatbot.
2. Who is going to be using this chatbot?
The target group’s needs also help determine the main purpose of the chatbot – who are they, what they search for and need, what the business wants to sell/provide to them and how.
If the business wants to give 24/7 customer service and support, then an AI chatbot is the right solution but the business should keep in mind that the target audience will accept this way of communication and adopt it only with the help of the business – to direct the customers to the chatbot at all touchpoints, to promote it, to teach customers why and how to use it.
Another way of using an AI chatbot is for selling products and services and advertising them in a more interesting and engaging way to customers. For such chatbot, keep in mind if your customers are digitally savvy and prefer talking via messaging instead of other ways. Nowadays, fortunately, even the older generations have adopted messaging as a way of communication – starting from the chat with the grandkids and moving to online shopping and service inquiries that the pandemic forced on them. Statistics show that businesses who use online communication via chatbots and messengers are preferred by customers because the past 3 years increased the need of digital services and sped up the adoption rate of such, and the trends are staying even after the pandemic. According to Accenture, nearly 6 in 10 executives said chatbots can improve their organization’s ability to handle customer queries, and that they can deliver personalized attention to website visitors by being more conversational.
Employees or business partners:
Employees can use an AI chatbot when they are new in the company to learn everything about it, for on boarding and useful information. HR can use an internal chatbot to keep employees updated about policies, benefits, new training or education options and other relevant information to keep employees motivated and loyal to the company. HR can have a chatbot also as a recruitment tool where the chatbot offer information about available positions and makes the first level applicant scanning through a customized application form for each position saving time both to applicants and to the HR team.
Potential and existing business partners can use the AI chatbot for learning about the business products and services – new and existing ones, or as an instrument to give additional service to their clients and provide more value to them.
3. What do you need to achieve the chatbot goals?
When deciding to implement a project for a chatbot, budget, team and time must be considered. Calculate the cost associated with chatbot platform fees, chatbot elements creation (images, video, VR, or other that your business doesn’t have and shall spend on the creation), which team or person will be assigned to the project (not only during the chatbot planning and creation but for maintenance and further development purposes too) and the time needed to work on the chatbot, to implement it and to maintain it. Do you plan special educational and promotional campaigns to bring awareness about the chatbot among the customers? What else? In general, the business resources needed depend on the size and the scale of the project – a basic chatbot, an AI chatbot, or a mixed one, what functionalities it will have, and if it will have integrations (when is technically possible). With a lack of resources start small, and plan gradually to upgrade and develop the chatbot to a fully scaled project. The expected return of investment should be higher than the budgeted expenses for the chatbot implementation and maintenance and must be planned in a long term (at least a couple of years) to have at the end a fully working chatbot that achieves the defined goals and brings the expected benefits.
4. When the AI chatbot should be implemented?
The business needs to decide not only what the type of chatbot will use but also when to implement it. For example, a basic chatbot with images, texts, and forms may take a day or two to a week to create it and implement it. If a conversational AI will be included, the implementation will take more time to train it well and it should be trained every day to have a fully working AI chatbot in several months (1-3 months to start with a few hundred trained topics, but after launching the bot it should be continue being trained and retrained every day as it learns from every customer interaction). Is there any specific event that you want to use to launch and introduce your chatbot to your customers? Do you want to see a change in your business expenses, customers, and employee satisfaction next year? Plan to start on time.
5. Where the chatbot will be implemented?
According to Juniper Research, 43% of the chatbots are located on the business website and this trend will grow the upcoming years. The website of the business shall be the center of its digital universe to which all digital paths lead. It is crucial to ensure that all customers’ questions are answered at any time, inquiries are accommodated, and first-party and zero-party data are collected. The AI chatbot helps with all of that. Implementing a chatbot on the website directly and not using some messenger widget means having full control of it and not depending on third parties’ requirements and restrictions. The business can have access to all functionalities and can create, maintain and train the chatbot at any time without the need of knowing the specifics of the messenger-based platforms, having instant access to collected data about customer behavior and customer feedback to understand customers better. Also, the business will have a 24/7 digital brand representative to talk to customers and engage them which will help with customer retention and increase website traffic. Customers won’t leave the website so easily when a proactive chatbot encourages them to stay, learn, find what they need, interact with, and do other actions that the business wants customers to do. Also, having a chatbot on the website doesn’t mean the live support is eliminated or impossible. When an AI chatbot can’t do the job due to questions is not yet trained or the topic being too specific or complicated, it always can offer the customer to leave a message to the staff to follow up or redirect to live chat if available.
A chatbot is implemented on a website very easily – a short code must be placed in the website’s code and it will appear in the right corner – ready for chatting. The code can be placed by the business itself if it maintains its own website or gives it to the outsourced company which supports it to implement the chatbot’s code. The process usually takes just a few minutes.
The rest of the chatbots globally are in messengers (48%) and mobile applications (9%). They have their pros such as covering the omnichannel approach to customer service and making sure the customers’ needs are met in these channels, also keeping the customer chat history accessible. Here are the cons. Messengers have restrictions related to content and communication; price is based on the number of messages or number of customers who chatted with the chatbot (harder to plan the monthly expense) and some even have a package of minimum conversations required that make them expensive for small businesses; adding conversational AI may require integration with open-source AI platforms (learning to use one more platform or hiring someone to do it for you); there are GDPR policies that need to be taken in consideration to ensure no rule is broken; what happens in the messenger stays in the messengers (no traffic to the website, unless you redirect the user to the website but is there a chatbot to continue the conversation?), less data for customer behavior and needs and other. Facebook Messenger introduced an incognito mode to users with automated deletion of the chat after 24 hours, so benefits are gone. Mobile apps are a great instrument for customer retention and communication, but do your customers want to download, install, learn and keep one more app on their mobile device?
There is a workaround: automate the messengers’ chat to go to the website AI chatbot.
Each part of the AI chatbot on the website – an information card, carousel, or a form, has its own unique link and QR code that you can share anywhere online and offline. So, with 1 click or scan your customers will get directly to where you want them to be.
The link can contain the exact place in the AI chatbot and the specific page of the website where you want the client to go. For example, a product or service page with a chatbot that opens an application form, a button to download instructions or watch a video, or something else related to that product or service.
How does this help automation from messengers to AI chatbot on the website?
You do basic automation in the messenger, in which you include the most frequently asked questions, and in the buttons for more information, you put the links to the answers on the “website + AI chatbot”.
6. What will be the chatbot functionalities?
The functionalities of the chatbot depend on the business specifics and needs and what the main purpose of the chatbot will be. The chatbot can have inquiry forms, redirects to different sections of the bot, direct links from online and offline (with a QR code) to a precise place in the chatbot to redirect customers from anywhere to it, gathers live statistics about customer behavior, it can be with or without conversational AI, with voice recognition and commands, on many languages. All these and many more can be chosen by the business based on what it assigns the chatbot to do. For example, a small business, an online car parts store – Danexo in Bulgaria, has a chatbot, made on the Umni platform, that helps potential business partners request an account, and individual customers to place an order for a part – mainly forms are used, without AI. A large 5-stars hotel with many customers, and different services and departments like Casa di Fiore SPA & Medical, has also a chatbot on the Umni platform that offers many functionalities and conversational AI to fulfill all customers’ needs.
7. Who will oversee the AI chatbot project? To implement it, train it, maintain it, further improve, and develop it according to customers and business needs
Building your team of developers and designers for your chatbot project – do you really need all of that? The answer is yes only if you want a custom-made AI chatbot with many integrations and unique functionalities.
When you use a chatbot service provider, look for a no-code platform to build and maintain such technology by the business itself. It does not need to assign developers and professional designers for this task – team members can make such chatbots with or without conversational AI without no technical knowledge and skills. Such chatbot service provider is Umni with its platform to implement, train, maintain, further improve, and develop a chatbot according to customers and business needs.
If the chatbot will be a basic type, the team or a staff member assigned to the project will need to update it only with new information. For a chatbot with conversational AI, keep in mind that it needs to be trained regularly due to each customer interaction makes the chatbot smarter or result in the need to train new topic in the chatbot or add additional information in it to meet the needs of the next customers with similar question or inquiry. In both cases, someone on the team shall keep an eye on the customer behavior statistics and analyze them to use this data for improvement of business products and services.
Therefore, one more question about the team/person assigned to the chatbot project is who will oversee the stats analysis, of the inquiries received through the chatbot? When deciding to put an inquiry form, reservation form, or any other form in the chatbot, it should send the collected information to the right department and team member to deal with customer questions and needs. For example, if a form for reservation is submitted, it must be assigned to the email of the Reservations department. Are there proper procedures established for the team to not miss any inquiry that comes through the chatbot? Do all team members understand and support the implementation of the chatbot and know what is their part in its development and success?
8. Promotion of the AI chatbot
When launching the chatbot, it must be promoted in all social media accounts of the business, offline, or anywhere else so customers know about its existence, have immediate access to it and start using it. The business can direct customers to it via emails, Google ads, social media posts, QR codes online and offline, and other ways and locations so the chatbot will start helping with customer service and support, with attracting customers attention and drive them through the marketing and sales funnels. Good practices and ideas for the business to promote its AI chatbot are:
- Publish posts, stories, and ads about it on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and any other relevant platform, organize some educational and viral events like online competitions among the customers to choose the best name of the chatbot or to choose an avatar, or use it as a digital business representative at business events and etc.
- Promote it on paper materials or other offline objects such as business cards, flyers, labels of products, billboards, t-shirts, mugs, keychains, or other giveaways, on anything else your business can use as an advertising item to place a QR code to the chatbot on it.
- Redirect customers to it for signing up for a newsletter, fill out inquiry forms or to get something free like a free trial, promo codes, white paper, and others, to create a habit of using the chatbot
The promotion of the chatbot is the most important action to take when launching it because it does not attract customers itself. Yes, it welcomes with “Hello, how can I help you?”, but if the business does not direct clients to the chatbot and make them use it and take actions in it, the chatbot may not get adopted by the customers. As Elitza Stoilova, the CEO of Umni chatbot platform loves to say: “You can create the perfect AI chatbot, but if the customers do not have immediate access to it from anywhere to use it, the chatbot is as the newest model of Porsche, parked in the garage and getting dust instead of glory. Drive it out to see it roaring!”
9. Personal data requirements – how to save the data, how to use it, and how to protect it
AI chatbots on the website of the business can collect data about customer behavior and customer feedback that is compliant with personal data restrictions. The first-party data that is collected automatically by the business AI chatbot is not personalized, it does not include names, gender, exact location or anything else that is personal. The collected data is accessible by the business in its account on the Umni’s platform: what customers search for in the bot, when they search for it, what are the most asked questions, and more. When a customer fills up a form with his/her name, email, mobile numbers and etc, – a zero-party data collection by the chatbot, this information is deleted automatically in the chatbot and disappears from it, and all this information is sent to the company email. The team responsible for handling the inquiries through the chatbot becomes responsible for collecting this customer data, saving and protecting it, and using it accordingly – for sales and marketing purposes, customer service and support, or else. The business must have established protocols for the team on how to properly handle the customer data.
10. What statistics will be analyzed?
The chatbot automatically collects data about customer behavior and customer feedback and provides it as live statistics such as time in the chatbot, what, when and where customers search for information and how, all clicks and questions sorted by their level of usage, and many others. The business must decide which of the statistics are the most important for it to meet its end goals and analyze them at least monthly so as to understand customer needs better and provide more relevant information to them. For example, if the business has noticed that customers search for something that is not yet provided as a service or product, it shall be considered as a business opportunity or to provide alternatives to not miss any opportunity for sale.
11. What are the desired outcomes?
All businesses proceed with digitalization and automation when this is in favor of the business itself, their customers, and employees, and want to do it in the best way possible. They want to build a powerful chatbot to help them meet their goals but to do that, all the steps above should be considered to have a fully working successful tool in a couple of months. The desired outcome can be reached when the project is planned very well and implemented at the right time, but the chatbot does not help the business itself if the business does not direct intentionally its customers to it.
AI chatbot Project – Content Planning and Best Practices
Planning of the concept of the chatbot – branding, technical side and content elements, is also part of the chatbot project, and it includes:
1. Design, name, avatar, tone of voice, brand colors
As the AI chatbot is a digital brand representative, it is a good practice to give it a name, design an avatar for it (an image, a cartoon, an animation, or even a 3D digital persona), and choose a proper tone of voice for it (optimistic, convincing, funny, professional, etc.), choose proper colors for the chatbot widget on the website so everything corresponds with the brand mission and vision. When giving a name to the chatbot and making an avatar for it, the chatbot is friendlier and less machine-like, and customers are more likely to have a memorable experience with it and feel like they have been taken care of a member of the team. Such example is the AI chatbot of the hotel Casa di Fiore SPA & Medical – Miss Fiore made on Umni’s platform – it has a name and avatar, also ads and blog posts devoted to Her, so customers now recognize Fiore and use it as a digital employee to help them with their needs. Another example is the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas with its chatbot Rose which is a virtual host with a witty character who helps guests have a good time while they are in Las Vegas.
2. Content ideas for predefined information
The content of the chatbot shall be planned – what information it will include, what images will be used, what will be the customer journey to do a certain action – to buy something, to fill up a form for reservation, to book an appointment or anything else. Content such as CTA (call-to-action), lead magnets, marketing and sales funnels should also be planned and created – where they will be placed and what will be their purpose. It is important to make a strategy that will attract customers’ attention to make an order, learn something new, and become loyal to the brand.
Make sure that the images that will be used in the chatbot are in the right format and are smaller files that will show instantly and properly in the chatbot. If links are used to send customers to files to download, videos to watch, or else, make sure all links work and additionally consider making them trackable (same for the links to the chatbot later). Manage the information, it shall be split into small easily readable on mobile phone pieces of text and according to the chatbot technology requirements (ask for them in advance).
3. Conversational AI
Conversational AI is a technology that makes stronger interactions and greater engagement with customers and needs to be planned before using it in the chatbot – what are the business topics, the business information that will be included, the training phrases (customers questions) and the answers. For example, if a hotel decides to use an AI chatbot for customer service and support, it should include all the topics about its property and services such as information about the hotel rooms, restaurants, spa and other facilities, and list them as topics that the AI chatbot will be trained to answer to customers.
The training and the testing of the conversational AI are the 2 most important things that the team/person in charge must do before launching the AI chatbot, and after that during the life of the chatbot – plan and implement all the questions that customers have asked or your team assume they are going to ask, and their answers. Test them and fine-tune the training so the chatbot answers correctly with the most relevant information.
Where to start with the AI training? Collect and analyze customer questions that your team received and answered through social media, messengers, email, through the website live chat, or over the phone. Have your team begun recording every new customer question or inquiry? The original customer questions are more valuable than imagining what customers would ask and how they would ask it and will help your team focus on the topics that are the most important to your customers recently and overall, through time. Start with the top 10, then move further while keep monitoring customer communication for new topics.
According to research by Markets and Markets (2020), the global conversational AI market size is expected to grow from $6.8 billion in 2021 to $18.4 billion by 2026, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 21.8% which shows that more and more businesses are going to use it as part of their online communication with customers. If your business does not use it yet, now is the time to prepare and plan, to have a fully working chatbot with decent conversational AI in less than 6 months.
Launching the AI chatbot is just the first step – it is a long-term process
The AI chatbot needs to be constantly trained to get smarter to assist with the main goals of every business – more sales, better customer support, and increasing customer satisfaction. The AI chatbot must be part of all business, marketing and sales strategies and take its well-planned place in the digital ecosystem of the business.
Remember, the chatbot is a dynamic software solution that is a combination of technologies that come together to accomplish tasks, not a complete standalone software installed on someone’s computer, and it is a long-term project for long-term results!
Mistakes to Avoid
When implementing a chatbot on the business site, there are a few mistakes that must be avoided so the chatbot works to benefit the business in its best way.
1. Not strategically planned chatbot project – it is a long-term process and needs to be planned carefully according to the business needs, goals and resources, and technological capabilities.
2. Not promoting the chatbot – the chatbot does not search for users itself, the business needs to direct its customers to it from all social media, from emails, offline, or anywhere else.
3. Good practices are not monitored and applied according to the specifics of the chatbot – there are always some good practices to attract leads, to advertise in the bot or anything else that should be kept in mind to improve the chatbot and its actions
4. No one is assigned to the chatbot project and its further training and maintenance – there should be a team or a person that train, maintain and improve the chatbot by monitoring customer interaction and behavior in the chatbot and taking the necessary actions to keep the chatbot up to date in all ways and meanings.
5. The chatbot content and assistance is not developed and adapted according to the data analyses about the customer behavior and feedback that are collected in the bot – If customers search for information not included in the chatbot, it shall be added. If customers search for a product or service that is not provided by the business, offer them alternatives to not miss the opportunity.
6. Grammar mistakes in the text – this makes a bad impression on the brand
7. Mistakes in factology, illustrations, etc. – Always check what is shown in the chatbot to be in favor of the business and its products and services
8. Checks of links, forms, etc. – Always check before launching the chatbot and after each update whether the buttons, links, forms, redirect, or other work properly and guide the customers where you want them to go.
The rule about learning from our mistakes does not apply in the AI chatbot – correct the mistakes before launching the chatbot so as to not make a bad impression on the brand, and after the launch, observe anything in the chatbot before the customers notice any issues. If customers find mistakes or issues before your team, react fast so they will be satisfied with their AI chatbot experience.
Welcome Your New Digital Employee!
After going through all the steps above, the business shall be ready to have a digital employee to become part of its family. The overall market size for chatbots worldwide would be over $1.3 billion by 2024 according to a new research report by Global Market Insights Inc.(2019) which means the technology continues to spread all over the world. To successfully become a part of the digitalizing world, choose an AI chatbot service provider that will support you in your way. If you feel Umni’s no-code platform would be the right partner for your team, contact Umni now for a demo and free consultation to get started with an AI chatbot for your business.