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3 min read

4 chatbot tips from business owners 

By Justin Pot · May 7, 2021
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In college, I set up an AIM bot that automatically responded to people when I was away from my computer, using my chat logs to predict reasonable responses to anything people said to me. This was a terrible idea. 

The good news: chatbots have gotten much, much better since then. 

In fact, plenty of small businesses use chatbots to answer questions and otherwise better serve their customers. These bots aren't just a gimmick—they make it more likely that customers will work with you. And bots are easier to build than ever, thanks to a variety of no-code tools for the job. 

I asked business owners with bots for their best bot-building tips. Here's what they told me. 

Answer common questions

Alexander Rådahl Ahlsen at Vogue Interiors, a UK-based home decor retailer, set up a bot using Intercom, which offers to help customers throughout the shopping process. 

"If we see that the potential customer is spending some time at checkout, the bot takes the opportunity to ask if there is anything it can help with and also offers up a promo code to push them toward buying," Alexander told me. 

A chatbot offering a discount

The trick, he said, was to notice at what point in the shopping process people tend to get stuck—and to offer help at those exact moments. 

"Start by looking at the most common questions you get across all your communication channels, and implement a simple bot to answer those," he said. "It will really give the customer or user the feeling that you are there for them when it matters the most." 

Don't overload your bot with features

Alina Clark, co-founder of PDF editing tool CocoDoc, used the HubSpot chatbot builder to make a bot that answers the most common customer questions. The bot immediately helped reduce churn, she told me. 

Alina's advice is to keep things simple:

Avoid overloading a chatbot with features. A chatbot with a mastery of one task is better than a chatbot with ten features, haphazardly clustered together. Besides, building a chatbot to undertake one task to completion is easier than building a chatbot to complete multiple tasks.

It's tempting to try to build a bot for every possible problem, but that's a rabbit hole that can take up a lot of time. Don't dive in that deep right away. Think of the problem you want the chatbot to solve, and focus on solving that specific problem. 

Bots don't replace people—they supplement

Alejandro Uriarte of 1-800-Injured, a personal injury law firm, built a bot for their website using Juvo Leads. He told me the best bots are ones that know their limits. 

An example of a chatbot

"As helpful as AI can be, it's not quite as personal as human-to-human communication," he said. "Bots can't always offer the right solution if a problem or chat message is unrecognized by their programming flowchart."

The solution? Directing users to an actual human person when the bot doesn't have answers. "The customer will always appreciate it," he said. 

Alejandro's setup connects customers to a human in the chat interface itself. You might not be able to afford to have humans on hand to respond to chat questions, but make sure you give customers something when the bot doesn't have answers. That could be as simple as having the bot explain how to reach an actual person, whether that's by email or by calling your office. The important thing is to keep the conversation going. 

Stuck? Join a community.

Remember: you're not the first person who's trying to build a bot for their business. There are people all over the world doing the same thing. 

Rick Hoskins of Filter King, which sells custom HVAC filters, used a ManyChat bot to build their Facebook following (ManyChat makes bots for Facebook Messenger). He couldn't have done it without other business owners' help. 

"If you are DIYing this and not hiring a dedicated pro, then I strongly advise joining the ManyChat Community," said Hoskins. "You can discover immediately why an issue may have happened without spending hours researching online—I've been there." 

It's worth noting that teaching can also help you learn, so consider staying in such communities after you solve your problem. You'll get a chance to help a fellow business owner, and you'll learn more about building bots along the way. It's a win-win. 

Automate your bot

Once you've built your bot, connect it to the other apps you use for your business. That way, you can do things like adding new chat contacts to your CRM or email marketing tool and sending messages from your bot whenever there's a new event or offer. Take a look at how you can automate Intercom for more ideas, or read about how a digital agency saves 30 hours a week using ManyChat and Zapier.

Zapier lets you automatically send information from one app to another, helping you reduce manual tasks. Learn more about how Zapier works.

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Justin Pot picture

Justin Pot

Justin Pot is a staff writer at Zapier based in Hillsboro, Oregon. He loves technology, people, and nature, not necessarily in that order. You can follow Justin on Twitter: @jhpot. You don't have to. But you can.

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