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Chat bots

Chatbots are an emerging technology for companies to engage with consumers. They provide pre-programmed engagement which means you can continue working as the software looks after the customer’s needs. HOUSING looks into what you need to consider before implementing chatbots on your company website.
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Chatbots – or bots, as they are more commonly referred to – are becoming increasingly popular across websites as a more flexible way to engage with customers. 

But what are bots? A bot is an artificial intelligence software program that simulates conversations with users. The purpose of a bot is to interact with these users to provide help without the need for a human employee’s assistance.

Kate Veteri

Publications officer

Types of bots

There are two types of bots: rule-based bots and artificial intelligence (AI) bots.

A rule-based bot is one that has been developed with coding rules and work within a defined set of questions or communication ques. Because of this they are restricted in the questions they can respond to. They are, however, generally faster to train and easier to set-up. 

Alternatively, AI bots use machine learning to respond to questions posed. They develop and generate answers through self-learned interactions. While this means that they can grow on their own, they often require more data space and are more expensive.

One thing to remember is chatbots are still a relatively new technology, so there is likely to be further developments in the space. There are hopes to develop the AI bots to understand and use natural, everyday language – giving the customer a more life-like experience with the bot. 

Tip: When setting up your bot make sure it can save customer details that have been input. This will save customers the inconvenience of having to repeat details if they choose to re-engage with your bot in the future. 

AI bots develop and generate answers through self-learned interactions

Social bot

You can also create a rule-based chatbot that functions through social media accounts rather than a company website. A great example of this is the ABC News Facebook Messenger bot. It initiates conversation by sending a morning alert to you with a recent news article that the algorithm thinks may be of interest to you. It then offers three response choices: give me the news; maybe later; and stop morning alerts – it is simple yet effective. 

Flexibility and customer support

While chatbots can do a variety of things, such as complete purchases for a buyer or offer product recommendations, one of its core roles is providing customer support.

When setting up your chatbot you need to remember that it should act as an additional employee. It is there to provide the same service but in a way that is more flexible to the customer’s lifestyle. They help to offer quick answers to simple questions, or if they can’t answer the question, at least they can help to point the customer in the right direction. 

Think of it the same way you would a mobile phone – you can make a call on if you are on the move or if the other person isn’t available, you can text. Bots are the same. They are the text messaging service of your website.

Visual design

In the online world visual appeal is everything. You need a website design that will capture the attention of potential customers and your bot should do the same. 

When designing a chatbot, remember to align it with the overall style of your website. But it should still embody simplicity and minimalism. Small things, such as using the same colour for the bot as the top banner or keeping the icon design consistent with the menu icons, are all you need to tie everything together.

In terms of the visual appeal of the pop-up icon that opens the chat function, there is a lot to consider. It can be a pop-up that automatically opens straight to the chat; a small banner with a CTA, such as start talking here; or just a simple speech bubble icon. 

The unspoken rule for bots is they must always sit at the bottom right hand corner. Over time people have become conditioned to look for certain things in certain places – often without realising they are doing it. Bots now fall into this category and the bottom right hand side of the computer screen is where users have been conditioned to look. As they say ‘location, location, location’. 

If you don’t have a website developer to build a chatbot function from scratch, there are Chatbot applications that install pre-built chatbot software to your website for varying costs. 

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