If you’ve ever considered creating a chatbot for your company’s website, but weren’t sure where to start, you’re not alone.
Most people have questions about the best ways to approach creating a chatbot, and some people want to know how to make one from scratch so they can cut out the middleman and do it on their own.
6 tips for creating a chatbot from scratch:
- Plan for a time-consuming process
- Have coders and analytically-minded people on your team
- Give the chatbot a “real” voice
- Budget wisely, especially when using advanced features
- Prepare for limitations
- Understand AI, NLP, and software development concepts
Creating a chatbot from scratch
The use of chatbots for conducting customer service and 24/7 web-based assistance has risen rapidly in the past decade. According Mikael Yang, 80% of business to customer communication is going to be done through bot messengers within the next three to five years. So, to keep on pace with this trend, you might have considered adding a chatbot to your company’s website, but stopped yourself because you weren’t sure how to approach the challenge.
If you’re a go-getter and want to make your own chatbot, keep reading for 6 expert tips on creating a chatbot, as well as setbacks and triumphs they had during the process!
1. Plan for a time-consuming process
“It took us about 3 months to develop an MVP which was the first working version of a product. The whole development process is quite time-consuming (from learning and testing processes to the actual chatbot production). Luckily, you can create a chatbot prototype within a couple of months. The prototype is used for UI and conversational flow testing.
From a technical perspective, we needed to train our chatbot to imitate a human-to-human conversation. For this purpose, we used sequence-to-sequence modeling, which is the same that is used in Google translate. It allows us to generate a large number of conversational logs, so we used different datasets to train our chatbot to respond in a human-like manner.
When creating a chatbot, you have to consider multiple aspects. First of all, you should have a clear picture of all the tasks for your chatbot. Then, you can create a diagram and analyze how the conversation with a chatbot can flow.
Since we have extensive expertise, we didn't have to learn how to code. However, for those who are new to programming, there are various sources that can simplify the development process. If you use such sources as Dialogueflow for development of simple bots, you don't even need to code.”
- Diana Meleshkova, Marketing Specialist at iTechArt Group
2. Have coders and analytically-minded people on your team
“My company built a chatbot from scratch using Python and Google Dialog Flow. It took about 6 months to bring the product to market. Our bot, Adam, guides patients through clinical trials and is capable of answering questions, collecting data, and dynamic scheduling.
Part of the team knew how to code, and the other part (myself) was analytical and helped with building out some of the algorithms.”
- Rob Welch, MBA Candidate at Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University
3. Give the chatbot a “real” voice
“At my previous job, we developed a chatbot for Coca-Cola. One of the biggest things you must have in mind is imagining a real conversation flow. For that, you have to create a script with questions and answers related to the campaign, brand, or product.
Watch out with being ‘too robotic’ because people normally hate this kind of practice. They want to feel like they are speaking with a human, not with a chatbot. Lastly, always offer a way to chat with a real person for special requests that can’t be solved by the chatbot.”
- Juan Jose Mateo, Social Media Manager at Fierce Digital
4. Budget wisely, especially when using advanced features
“I have used 2 different software platforms to build, the first being MobileMonkey, which is a great platform for those just getting introduced to chatbots. The platform I currently use is ManyChat, which is extremely robust, and offers all of the features currently available through Facebook Messenger.
The only real roadblocks in setting up a chatbot are cost (if you’re using advanced features – both the platforms I’ve mentioned have free tiers), time, and some marketing know-how. The learning curve isn’t steep, but it is time-consuming.
As far as coding goes, you don’t really have to know how to code to make it work. I do have a background in code, so embedding my chatbot on our website wasn’t hard for me. Still, for someone who doesn’t know anything about coding, most platforms give you what code you need, and tell you exactly where to put it.”
- Tayler Christensen, SEO Strategist at Cougar Digital Marketing & Design
5. Prepare for limitations
“The time it takes to build a chatbot depends on how complex the bot is. If you are going to do a simple lead generation bot that sends the customer a resource or coupon after they submit their info, this can take less than an hour. However, if you want to do a calculator or quiz where there is a score or multiple outcomes based on your answers, it can take several days to test and make work properly.
An important function that we try to include in all of our chatbots is being able to pull the lead data and information from people who are interacting with our bots either by using native integrations built into the chatbot software or by Zapier to send the data to our database marketing software like Hubspot.
As far as limitations, there are many. You can only have so many characters on buttons. The size of your images and videos have to be a certain size.”
- Steven Page, VP of Digital Strategy at Giant Partners
6. Understand AI, NLP, and software development concepts
“Our company has built chatbots for large tech retail organizations. We have done this from scratch by building out the backend infrastructure and language models, as well as the front end user experience.
We have a background in natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI), and computer science. If one is building a chatbot from scratch, it is important to be an expert in software development concepts, as well as AI concepts of machine learning and NLP. It is also important to know about linguistics, parts of speech (nouns, verbs), and dependency parsing.”
- Rutu Mulkar, PhD, Founder at Ticary Solutions
Are you ready to take on the chatbot challenge?
Although developing a chatbot from scratch may seem challenging, it is possible to approach with the right background and a great team. If you want to go it alone, as long as you’re knowledgeable about the software, technology, and programs needed to create a chatbot by yourself, you’re already on track for success.