Chatbot Fever: How to Build a Chatbot

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03 Jan 2017
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Alina A.
Copywriter

Everyone around is talking about chatbots a lot. It seems like some kind of fever that doesn't want to calm down. Although, the chatbot thing isn't new, even more, the first chatbot named ELIZA was created fifty years ago! So why does it become hot again?

Recently, market giants including Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have begun to invest big money in AI development, so obviously the idea is now leading the top IT trends.

If you are one of those who's already got infected with chatbot fever and you want to create a chatbot, then this article is for you, because well tell you how chatbots work and how to create your own chatbot.

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is a program that can communicate with people in a human-like manner. It's always created to fulfill specific tasks such as answering questions or providing specific info to users.

As an example, a user can ask a chatbot what concerts are holding in their city this weekend and the bot would find and show the results to the user along with additional information such as addresses and prices, so the user wouldn't have to spend the time to find the details.

Modern chatbots are mostly used in messenger apps, where users can ask them questions and receive needed information or accomplish tasks such as booking, shopping and a lot of others all within one mobile application.

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Learn why messenger apps are so popular in our article: 5 Success Stories: Messenger App 

However, the increasing popularity of chatbot messengers made people talk that now apps are doomed. Why would they think so?

Well, nowadays, users require products with the features that are easy to use and do not need a lot of actions to use. That's why apps may look a bit clumsy and inconvenient compared to chatbots.

But for now, it's hard to say whether chatbots will replace apps because they still haven't proved themselves as a universal service delivery medium.

How do chatbots work?

Before you start creating your chatbot you need to learn about some aspects of their development and how they work.

Types of chatbots

The first thing you need to remember that chatbots are divided into two groups according to their functions: 1) those that work on specific commands and 2) those that use machine learning.

The first is a simple type. Such chatbot is programmed to respond only to strict commands, and if a user says something differently, the chatbot won't understand.

The second type is much more advanced. The bots of this type use Machine Learning Algorithms and Natural Language Processes, so they can understand not only specific commands, but a human language, because they learn more from the communication with users.

Machine learning

One of the reasons of the renewed chatbots popularity is a sweeping development of Machine Learning technology. But what is it? Isn't it an artificial intelligence that makes chatbots communicate with people? Truly said, no. Developers are still far away from creating a real artificial intelligence. However, they have already achieved the significant results in one of its subfields - in machine learning.

AI and Machine Learning

Machine Learning is a subfield of AI technology

Machine learning is focused on the development of the programs that can learn from patterns and previous experiences.
Machine learning algorithms are used in chatbots development, so they could learn from conversations with users to optimize their next interactions.

Natural Language Processing

To make interactions with users really good a bot needs not only to learn from users but also understand them.

Natural language processing is a technology, based on different types of machine learning algorithms, that provides language understanding and language generation. It allows users to communicate with a virtual chatbot not through commands, but just like with a human.

Chatbot communicates like a human

Chatbot should communicate in a human-like manner

What apps can you implement with a chatbot?

Of course, messenger apps are the most popular place for businesses to implement their chatbots. However, messenger app is not the only option. A chatbot can become a good helper for users in various different applications, so if youve already got your app it may be a good idea to implement it with a chatbot.

Here, I want to show you some examples how a chatbot can be useful in different apps.

Weather apps

We've already mentioned a bot named Poncho that tells you a weather. So, if you have a weather app and you're looking for the ways to improve its UX, a chatbot is the best choice to make here.

Cooking apps

How do you think your users will feel if they have a personal mini-chief in their smartphone? They'll love it! Implement your cooking app with a chatbot, so it could find the best recipes for your user, or maybe make some advice on have to make their dishes better.

chatbot in a cooking app

Chatbot can help users in cooking

Language learning apps

Not that long ago, Duolingo app has been implemented with chatbots that are something like tutors for users who help people learn language through communication. These bot-tutors have already increased the daily usage of Duolingo, and it's growing pretty fast.

That's why, I think the owners of language learning apps should take this successful experience into account and consider chatbots as a must-have.

Duolingo's chatbot

Chatbot in Duolingo app

Retail and delivery apps

The biggest branch of applications that provide retail and delivery services is not an exception. A chatbot in this kind of apps can become a priceless assistant and advisor that will make easier not only UX but users life.

Chatbot in a retail app

Chatbots are good helpers in shopping

Chatbot development experience by Cleveroad

Recently, Cleveroad has finished working on an exciting project called Doctoring. It is a social network that allows doctors from the UK communicate with each other. You may ask why would someone need a chatbot in a Doctoring app? Well, our chatbot isn't regular. 
Our client came up with the idea of creating a chatbot that would ease the registration process for users. We were excited about such an interesting project and the app developers did their best to bring it to life.

So, how does our chatbot work? When a user starts the first interaction with the app, the chatbot greets them and asks users first name and GMC license number. The chatbot searches for matchings in the base, and if the name and the GMC number match, the chatbot specifies, for example, Are you Dr. Watson, and then offers the user start working with the network. This kind of registration is much easier because a user can avoid annoying typing of email addresses/phone numbers and the confirmation actions too. What's more, it doesn't require synchronization with your social network accounts, so the users' private life stays separate from work. And, finally, it makes the Doctoring network secure, since no one except doctors can register there.

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Read more about our experience of development a Doctoring app in our article: Case Study: How we developed a Doctoring App

The development process of such a chatbot doesn't take more time than a standard registration feature, so you won't spend more money than you expect. But your users will definitely appreciate this brand new and interactive feature.

As you can see chatbots can be implemented in various apps and accomplish different tasks, it's all up to your imagination and desires.

What do you need to build a chatbot?

I think the first question that may occur now - if advanced chatbots need AI arent they too difficult to create? Well, of course not! Nowadays, many and many services provide help in chatbot development. Moreover, a lot of services allow creating a chatbot even if you know nothing about chatbot programming.

Services for developers

Telegram Bots

Telegram bots are special Telegram accounts that dont require a phone number and run by algorithms.

To create a Telegram bot, you need another Telegram bot called Botfather. In few steps, Botfather helps you build your first bot. Then, you get an authorization token and are free to use the Telegram Bot API to teach your chatbot do whatever you need.

Facebook Messenger Bots

Facebook provides access to their Messenger bots, so you could expand your business to their messaging platform and reach out to its almost one billion audience.

Facebook Messenger employs the wit.ai Bot Engine for Natural Language Processing, so the bots could facilitate complex conversations and you could adjust them to your business needs.

wit.ai

Wit.ai is an open platform focused on natural language processing. The platform is continuously updating its algorithms from every human-bot interaction. Wit is currently free since the service welcomes as many users as possible to train their algorithms, but the pricing model is very likely to change in the future.

Botkit

Botkit from howdy.ai provides open source chatbot tools to create chatbots for Facebook Messenger, Slack and other popular messengers. Botkit is free and has an active GitHub community that continuously works on making the platform better.

Pandorabots

Pandorabots is a free web service for building and deploying bots for messaging platforms and any other chatbot app. The service provides two platforms: 1) Pandorabots Playground, an integrated environment for chatbots development, and 2) Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS) which provides developers with API access to the bot hosting platform and SDKs, which make bot integration with apps much easier.

No-coding services

For people who dont know how to program a chatbot, but, nonetheless, want to build their own simple chatbots, there are few services that provide chatbot creation tools that require no coding but may require your money instead.

Chatfuel

Chatfuel allows everyone build chatbots for Facebook Messenger and Telegram without any coding. You just set goals for user-bot conversation and add content letting the services algorithms do the rest. The service is free up until you hit more than 100,000 user-bot conversations a month.

Botsify

Botsify provides simple no-coding chatbot integration with Facebook Messenger. However, the service is free only if you create no more than one chatbot which messages to no more than 100 users a month. Otherwise, choose one of the available pricing plans.

How to make a chatbot people will love

With all this rush around chatbots, a lot of companies has already created their own. However, only a few of them could manage to become really valuable. But, how to create a competitive chatbot?

Here are some tips that will make a chatbot absolutely fabulous:

Only active conversations

Building a chatbot you need keep in mind that, in the first place, users require short and clear answers from the chatbot, not FAQs or one-side lectures. Whats more, they expect to have an active dialogue with the bot, so it would be easier for them to find solutions. Thats why conversations with a chatbot should look like messaging rather than Google search.

To make them look more real, you need to create responses on the base of real dialogues of your representatives with the clients.

Forget your perfectionism

There are three main sources for response content: Business (articles and documents), Agents (call records and transcripts), and Clients (feedback). Many chatbot makers always try to load more of Business responses, but this is so wrong! Concentrate on Agent content and add a minimum of Business responses and your chatbot is ready for the launch. And don't forget about machine learning features. Let your chatbot learn mostly from data of bot-customer conversations. Each conversation will improve an accuracy of responses, decrease the waiting time for clients, and improve customer satisfaction.

Be adaptive

After the launch, you need to pay attention to the efficiency of your chatbot. You should identify the most frequent questions, and which dialogues have poor feedback. Then, using the information create updates and make improvements in chatbots work.

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Learn what steps should you take after the launch to make your product popular in our article: The life after release or what steps to take

Pay-For-Performance model

If you're looking for the best pricing model which will give you the fastest payback from your chatbot, then the best choice will be the Pay-For-Performance model. Since they are bound with to expected business outcomes such as qualified leads and resolved contacts, they don't include any up-front costs and payback period starts with the first chatbot dialogue.

Conclusion

To sum up, despite chatbots hasnt proved themselves yet, they still have a great potential, and IT giants confirm it.

A chatbot can be made easily even without a special knowledge in programming. But, if you dont feel like being a chatbot creator, and you still want to make a chatbot, youre welcome to contact a professional team that will do their best to help you.

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