How to Build an Addictive Dialogue Flow for Your Chatbot
It may not sound like it at first, but building your chatbot’s dialogue flow can actually be a pretty fun, creative process.
It’s a bit like writing a play, really, with protagonists, a plot, and dialogue that’s written according to a certain tone and style for each character. Let’s take a look at what’s involved in building a natural-sounding, captivating dialogue for your chatbot.
- Pre-writing stage
- Understanding the elements of your chatbot dialogue
- Writing your chatbot dialogue: 14 Things to keep in mind
Before even getting started on writing the dialogue, the chatbot scriptwriter (I’m guessing that’s you if you’re reading this article) should sit down and pen a detailed personality guide for a single user, rather than a value target group.
At ultimate.ai, we have noticed that a clear bot personality/identity seems to positively affect customer satisfaction.
Inventing a person that represents your target group -- together with their name, age, nationality, and preferences -- allows you to give that person an identity and all the individual character traits that come with it. It’s much more difficult -- if not impossible -- to give a personality to a group of people.
It’s important to also have a think about the goals of your conversational UI. Remember, the dialogue in a good play does two things: it advances the plot, and it gives us a feel for the characters’ personalities.
In the same way, your chatbot’s dialogue should be focussed on moving your users towards their goals and your goals (sales and sign-ups), while also telling them about your brand.
💡Tip: Check for any technical chat platform restrictions before designing your conversation flows. For example, are dialogue buttons allowed? What’s the maximum message length? Knowing these rules before you start writing will save you from having to rewrite later.
Your chatbot dialogue can be divided up into conversation starters, small talk fragments, extra options or information, objective-related fragments, and conversation finishers. It’s a good idea to write each of these segments separately. Once that’s done, you can then add them to your conversation flow.
You’ll see that it’s possible to string them together in countless ways to create all kinds of dialogue paths. Your users can only travel through one dialogue path at a time. As such, you’ll want to review each individual dialogue path on its own -- in its entirety -- to ensure it all makes sense in a logical, comprehensive way.
Another thing to keep in mind: the main purpose of your dialogue is to cover the process of a particular topic as a whole. Don’t make the mistake of writing only the most common process for a particular topic. Include any deviations from the norm -- no matter how uncommon.
Finally, remember that your chatbot dialogue should be realistic, and actually solve a problem in practice (not just on paper).
It’s important to have fun and be creative with your chatbot dialogue, but there are also some basic rules and tips to keep in mind as you work your way through the process. Here are the most important ones:
1) Sentence length variation
Keep in mind that natural dialogue consists of short, long, and medium-length sentences. It’s important to vary your sentence lengths, but also try to keep your sentences short and punchy. If a chatbot response is particularly wordy, try breaking it up into two or three response bubbles for a more natural-feeling exchange, which has the added effect of emphasising the negative space in the chat.
2) Time investment
Consider and respect your user’s time investment into the chat. If a question can be answered in a few different ways, select the least complex and shortest one and go with that.
Another thing to consider with time investment is that the more time and energy a user has invested into a solution, the greater the pain of having to start over. Your agent hand-offs should be seamless and ensure that the information from a conversation between a user and chatbot is conveyed to the human agent when the issue is escalated.
Like any conversation, it’s easy for the dialogue between a chatbot and a user to run astray. When you’re writing your chatbot dialogue, ensure that it stays focused on the user’s intent. This means that every single chatbot response should guide the user towards their end goal, which of course, is resolving their question or issue.
Beyond their time investment, a user is also far more likely to be drawn into a conversation that’s simple and concise over a conversation that’s complex and wordy. A good rule to go by: your bot’s responses shouldn’t be longer than three lines of text on a mobile device.
5) Be spontaneous
Don’t let your dialogue be dry and boring -- it’s important to spice it up once in a while with some spontaneity! Unexpected use of non-offensive slang here, a compliment there, can make the conversation more fun for the user to engage with.
6) Connect emotionally
Good writing draws the reader in by playing with his or her emotions. Use emotion to your advantage when creating your chatbot dialogue. Word choice is important here -- some words are known to evoke emotion. Examples include: instantly, most important, remarkable, results, trustworthy, discount, extra, and freebie.
7) Appeal to the user’s ideal self-image
Your user character has an ideal version of themselves who they strive to be. Appeal to their better self -- literally -- and write chatbot dialogue that assumes they are already that person.
8) Be clever (with caution)
Prepare some clever responses for when users broach any unsupported topics. But, be careful with this, however. Going down this road risks an endless content management task that could interfere with the actual supported topics.
9) Give the user an escape
Keep an eye out for dialogue loops. This is when your user gets stuck in a repetitive dialogue. For example: Can I have your email address, please?” – “I’m sorry, this does not look like a valid email address. Can you try again, please?” Make sure that the user has an intuitive escape from such a loop.
10) Pay attention to your final message
Your last message is extremely important, as it is what your user will remember the most clearly. Be creative and witty, while also being friendly and professional.
11) Polish your writing
Read every single sentence in all of your dialogue flows after you’ve written them -- aloud. Reading aloud allows you to not only catch any grammatical and spelling errors, but it also helps you know where you can make improvements: if you stumble on a sentence, you could probably rewrite it so it flows better.
12) Improve your chatbot dialogue
Keep a close eye on your data analytics, and notice what’s working and what isn’t. Look for chat drop-off points, run A/B tests, and find the flaws. Focus your time and energy on improving these flaws, until you have your chatbot dialogue as close to perfect as possible.
One can design a killer dialogue, but the proof is in the actual usage of that dialogue. Focus on usability, and also expanding the dialogue to cover more relevant items under a given topic.
13) Remember your brand DNA
Anyone can write a chatbot dialogue. But composing the dialogue in a way that’s congruent with and accents your brand’s DNA -- tone, style, and unique personality -- is where the real challenge lies.
For those times when your customers may become frustrated because they are speaking to a bot, remember that customer satisfaction is likely to be greater when the dialogue messages are personalised. Reply customisation can be achieved using dynamic integrated dialogue flows where custom information is fetched from the back-end systems. This way, the chatbot can give relevant replies based on the user's status.
From inventing characters and giving your bot a personality, to writing engaging dialogue and throwing in spontaneous comments, writing your chatbot dialogue can be a really enjoyable activity. Like any type of writing, there are important elements to pay attention to, such as your brand DNA, connecting emotionally, maintaining focus, and varying sentence length, but once you write a few flows, you should be able to start working through them quickly. Before you know it, you’ll have a chatbot with a sparkling personality, ready and waiting to provide helpful answers to your users -- and potential customers -- any time, day or night.
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