Before you proceed with the chatbot development process, as a business, you will need to define the scope of your bot, understand what you want the bot to perform, and what possible hurdles you may face before you can train your bot to reach its full potential. There are a few points to ponder upon before you give a green signal to your development process.
Let’s discuss some of them and see how they can help us in building an intelligent bot.
Defining Role & Setting Goals
Before you look into how you would develop your bot, the first question you need to ask is why. Once you have arrived at the answer, the next step would be to identify the role of your bot. Your business needs to determine the role of your bot. You should also evaluate how the bot will help you save time, efforts, improve efficiency or yield any other benefits.
Set up goals you wish to achieve with your bot. A set of input values that will lead to a set of appropriate outputs. It is always advisable to start with simple goals and gradually progress to ones that are more complex. These goals and roles can be progressive and evolve as business needs evolve over time.
Knowing Your Audience
Understand that the needs and wants of your audience are important for the success of any chatbot. You need to know your customers — demographics they belong to, and the kind of questions they might have. You can study previous interactions and equip your bot to respond to queries that they might frequently ask. Knowing your customer base well enough will determine the success of your bot.
Choosing the Right Deployment Platform
There are different chatbot deployment platforms as discussed above which may be internal or customer facing. If the bot you are developing is customer facing, then you need to deploy it on platforms that your customers are most likely to use. If you are using text-based bots, the ideal platforms could be your company website, Skype, Facebook, Slack, Kip, etc. As interactions occur, you will also need to evaluate if the service is adding value to your business.
Building Your Conversational UI
A human being can ask the same question in different ways. Therefore, your bot should be intelligent enough to understand the question and provide the user with the appropriate response. The interaction has to be precise and it should be able to solve any query with an accurate response. There has to be a story and flow in the conversation to make it a success. For this, you have to start by building a content model for the conversation. Content model allows your bot to give scalable answers. Content models are always context-independent, that allows you to replicate the same model and structure for other products.
The conversational interface allows the user to tell the bot, what it needs to do. Companies like Facebook and Apple have already implemented such interfaces for their business purposes. It has captured the interests of various companies as it provides an intelligent interface. This not only depends on words but also on the understanding of human language and the meaning behind the words that are being used.
Dialog flow is a key factor for chatbots. You can create a logical dialog flow based on the type of questions encountered by the bot. It should be a detailed response, which requires defining the information for each response. Every dialog flow design should contain the exact representations of the response on each question. The design for detailed answers should happen outside of the actual flow design, as you may want to have variants of the same answers based on the questions. This is known as Random Prompting and it is a technique that you use while developing chatbots.
Recording Previous Chats
Another key factor for developing AI-based bots is to learn from previous interactions with users. Any interaction that users have had with you can be used as a reference to train the bot. If it is for the first time, then it has to be created from scratch. Choosing people with the same linguistic backgrounds can help in your bot designing process by creating data that are more realistic and may include mistakes that may be typical of non-native speakers. So, collecting chat data will help your bot to answer intelligently when posed with questions.
Picking the Platform & the Right Development Approach
Different chatbots will have different approaches to understanding a question in natural language. It is important to analyze the question, understand the intent, and identify words to derive the right response. These tasks can be achieved by two different approaches, one is a rule-based response and the other is based on machine learning.
However, many times, the user may not always be asking a question. Applying machine learning will allow your chatbot to learn from previous conversations and give answers that are more intelligent while holding conversations that are more complex. If you do not have training data then you can prepare responses and implement rule-based chat where the bot will identify keywords and give responses based on the rules pertaining to those specific keywords.
One of the key factors for the success of any chatbot is thorough testing. When it comes to testing bots, it is advisable to have a diverse team to conduct real-user testing. Continuous testing is required along with the revision of your NLU (natural language understanding) components to reach the maximum level of accuracy. These components have to be reviewed from time to time and improvements can be made to make your bot more interactive and accurate.
Once the chatbot is deployed, closely monitor the initial interactions and gather feedback to understand how users are interacting with the bot. Gathering these use cases and adding them to your bot’s arsenal can improve user interaction over time.
Smart solutions are important for the success of any business. From providing 24/7 customer service, improving current marketing activities, saving time spent on engaging with users to improving internal processes, chatbots can yield the much-needed competitive advantage. If you are looking to develop a chatbot, the best thing to do is to approach a company that will understand your business needs to develop a chatbot that helps you achieve your business goals.
Smishad Thomas is a customer experience manager at eInfochips. He has over 10 years of experience in handling customer service and product marketing in the areas of quality assurance, software development and DevOps.