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I know what you are thinking: can it not be both friendly and functional?
Well, it was a rhetorical question. I think everyone will agree that it should be both friendly and functional. The real question is: if you think of the Chatbots you used or implemented: do they lean towards the friendly side or the functional side? Okay, now one can think of many Chatbots that are friendly but not very functional and similarly few others very functional but not very friendly.
Let me first be clear about what I mean by friendly Chatbots. Friendly Chatbots are ones that converse using short text messages: they can understand short messages from the user and can respond in short easy to understand messages or ask simple easy to comprehend questions. Conversely, one often encounters Chatbots that are strict rules driven and at the drop of a hat chucks big daunting GUI forms at the user. These type of Chatbots are really Software Wizards (like software installation wizards found in desktop computers from the 1990s) rebranded as Chatbots.
There is no doubt that many of these GUI and forms driven chatbots are highly functional at whatever they are designed to do. Equally, there is no doubt that Chatbots must be defined to function within boundaries of some rules (even if they are somewhat loosely defined).
From the end user point of view, the true value of Chatbot will be realised if:
- The user can express what she needs to do that is easily understood and acted on by the Chatbot. The less the user is forced to read large amounts of texts and fill forms the better.
- The user’s specific tasks are completed as quickly as possible with minimum number of steps or messages.
In addition to better user experience, another reason to design your Chatbot with small text messages and minimize the dependency on large forms, is that it makes it very easy to adapt it for multiple platforms and devices including mobile phones and voice based Chatbots.
So, how should one approach implementing a Chatbot that is both functional and friendly? Some of the ideas below might be of help:
- Track a metric for percentage of messages served that are large forms vs. small texts. Institute a process to track this metric and continuously think of ways to improve.
- Think of training the Chatbot in similar ways as you train your agents. Make sure your Chatbot can learn from mistakes, from users and from other agents like your agents can.
- Test drive the Chatbot in the real world in an environment where failures can be seamlessly handed over to the agents without any disruption or bad experience for the user. This will ensure usefulness while continuously improving the Chatbot in the real world.
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