yeti logo icon
Close Icon
contact us
Yeti postage stamp
We'll reply within 24 hours.
Thank you! Your message has been received!
A yeti hand giving a thumb's up
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

How to Design a Chatbot Your Customers Actually Want to Talk To

Tony Scherba
December 29, 2017

Creating a chatbot isn't just about designing something; it's also about designing someone. That's why startup hired Harvard grad Anna Kelsey, whose education centered around folklore mythology and theater. Kelsey's experience with characters and how they react and respond to one another helps her createchatbots with personality, which keep conversations feeling fresh and unscripted.

The other side of the chatbot design coin is one that UX designers should be more familiar with. By mapping user flows, UX designers help chatbots provide suggestions and prompts to better understand and address users' needs.

Still, mapping dialogue isn't the same as stringing together webpages or app screens. For one, chatbot design involves learning a new suite of tools.Twine,MindNode, and Motion AI all help designers prototype dialogue and show how response options should map together.

Even for experienced product designers, building a personable chatbot is a big undertaking. Take these four steps to design one that your customers truly want to talk to:

1.Start with the most important question.

Think long and hard about your chatbot's first prompt. Remember that it's the foundation for every interaction that follows.

If you’re a retailer and anyone can visit your site, you might use a general question like “What can I help you with today?” Customers could be browsing your selection, inquiring about a return policy, or looking for the nearest store. A multiline insurance agency that’s built a chatbot for its customers might start with a different line, such as “Hello! What type of insurance do you have with us?”

Your question should guideandengage users. People will be interacting with your bot to get information or answer a question, but they won't want to spend time conversing with a chatbot that feels more like a tool than a friend or advocate.

2.Think about the user’s agenda.

The chatbot we built for San Francisco's procurement department, PAIGE, was successful not merely because of the AI technology behind it, but also because of the time and effort we put into its workflows. As a result, PAIGE recognizes “buckets” of questions — about commodity purchasing, for instance — and then walks the user through the process with a decision tree.

We obviously weren’t new to the idea of workflows, but constructing PAIGE underscored to us the importance of robust workflows in a technology product. Any conversation has two agendas, one for each speaker. The chatbot's agenda must be built around the user's expected goal or need. Building a series of questions that will guide users to their desired outcome is vital.

3. Consider your brand’s voice.

What does your brand sound like? If you’re running a chain of tattoo parlors, it might be irreverent and rebellious. A university chatbot could be scholarly with lots of school spirit. Using the right language when writing your copy is key to drawing users into the experience. Users should feel like they're interacting with your organization, not a robot.

Coca-Cola has been around for well over a century, but in that time, it's only had one real voice. The Coca-Cola brand is designed to evoke happiness, whether that's spending time with friends or enjoying the holiday season. From messaging on billboards to advertisements featuring happy, Coke-drinking polar bears, the brand has stayed true to its voice throughout the years. A Coca-Cola chatbot would need to carry this brand voice by evoking these themes as well.

4. Be conversational.

Interacting with a chatbot shouldn't feel like reading a textbook. Think about how the personality you're constructing would actually respond to certain questions. Maintaining the flow of conversation is important, and letting an awkwardly proper sentence sneak in is the surest way to kill the illusion of humanity.

If you follow Taco Bell on Twitter, you've seen how it uses creative and funny retweets, delivers clever comebacks to insults and jabs, and even offers life advice. In spite of the fact that Taco Bell is a corporate giant with 7,000 restaurants and almost $2 billion in revenue, its Twitter feels decidedly less corporate — which is why users interact with it.

Chatbots have come a long way from their humble roots (remember the SmarterChild of AIM)? They can answer the good majority of customer questions, freeing up time for customer service staff to focus on more complex issues. Or they can take a more active role by recommending products to customers based on their needs.

Whatever you have in mind for your chatbot, focus on personality and user flows. Do that, and you'll build a bot that's exactly who your customers are looking for.

Tony Scherba is a CEO + Founding Partner at Yeti. Tony has been developing software since high school and has worked on digital products for global brands such as Google, MIT, Qualcomm, Hershey’s, Britney Spears and Harmon/Kardon. Tony’s writing about innovation and technology has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and Inc. At Yeti, Tony works on strategy, product design and day to day operations, hopping in and working with the development teams when needed. Follow Tony on Twitter.

You Might also like...

The Hidden Costs of Rushing to Market: Navigating Tech Debt

In the fast-paced world of technology, time is of the essence. Teams often rush to launch their products, believing that being first to market is key to success. But does being first always mean being best? In reality, the race to be first often leads to compromises in best practices and shortcuts, resulting in technical debt - a serious threat to the future of your product.

Section 174Section 174 is Killing Innovation: A Taxing Tale for R&D

Amidst the labyrinth of tax legislation, a formidable obstacle looms large for American innovation: the notorious Section 174. Join us as we explore its impact on the R&D landscape, and the steps you can take to reverse this challenge to innovation.

hands holding sparklersA Year of Innovation: Highlights from 2023

This past year we've been lucky enough to work on an enormous range of projects - including setting a Guinness World Record! Join us as we take a look back on everything we've built in 2023.

Browse all Blog Articles

Ready for your new product adventure?

Let's Get Started