Implementing Support Chatbots: What the First 30 Days Are Really Like

So you've bought into the myriad benefits of using a chatbot and have signed on the dotted line. Now what?

Whether you have a little bit of experience with chatbots or none at all, it's important you hit the ground running with your implementation to get the most from the technology and your investment. In fact, if you handle the first 30 days after implementation of a chatbot well, you can safely expect to see a 50 percent self-service rate (that is, half of customer questions are completely resolved by a chatbot). But, before you get to that, there's work to be done. Here's what to do to get this critical period of time right.

Days 1-5: Laying the Groundwork

In this first week, think through your most common issues or contact drivers and decide on the most appropriate self-service strategy for each issue type. Ask questions, including: Can the question be resolved by presenting a knowledge base article from your help center? Does it require a step-by-step workflow that walks the user through a process (e.g. troubleshooting)? Or is this a more complex issue that would be best solved by transferring the customer directly to an agent?

This is also when you should consider your strategy. Where will your bot live? Which channels do you offer? The most effective bots are where your customers are, so think through an omnichannel approach (web, mobile, Facebook Messenger, etc.). Buyers today jump from touchpoint to touchpoint, so make sure you have a bot ready at each one.>

Finally, think about your use cases and make sure they're accounted for in your plans. Also consider how many languages you need to support. All of this will help you get set up for success in the coming days and weeks.

Days 6-7: Installation

Some chatbots are difficult to install and require intensive engineering, while others require as little as one line of code and virtually no internal engineering effort. Hopefully you sought out the latter, which will make your actual installation a breeze. Sometimes, people overlook installation, but it's actually crucial and deserving of your time. In fact, quick deployment of your bot hinges on how effective your installation is.

This is also the stage in which you need to make sure your chatbot connects effectively to your CRM or ticket system (e.g. Salesforce, Zendesk, etc.), live agent chat, and other tools. Integration is a critical component of achieving success with chatbot technology since it ties together all of the systems you use every day.

Days 8-15: Training Your Next-Gen Bot

Candidly, this is the portion of the onboarding process that many people fear, and it makes sense. With legacy chatbots, this can be a time-consuming and frustrating process that can actually take weeks or even months. In many cases, you'll need to recreate your knowledge base content in the chatbot interface and continuously re-train and manage it, which is labor-intensive and redundant.

Fortunately, next-gen chatbots cut down on the training time dramatically. Once authenticated to your CRM system, intelligent chatbots will automatically crawl your content and start working right away. They don't require the same extensive setup and often come pre-loaded with triggers and responses for common use cases so you don't need nearly as much training time to start seeing results.

Next-gen chatbots also feature machine learning, so they can continuously improve, even as your help content changes.

If you have more complex issues that need to be automated (perhaps a complex troubleshooting flow that requires some input from a customer), you might need to use a workflow builder at this time to create step-by-step solutions.

Days 16-30: Monitor and Refine

After installation and training, it's important to monitor your chatbot to see how it's performing with the content that you've given it. The second two weeks after implementation can reveal a lot about how well you handled the setup and how the bot will function moving forward. High-performing chatbots will deliver accurate results right away, but you might still discover gaps in your knowledge base that can be filled to further improve performance.

Implementing a support chatbot can improve your customer experience and prove immediate ROI with as 25 percent reduction in chat volume, but it doesn't happen by magic. If you follow these steps, however, you should see immense progress within the first 30 days with your next-gen chatbot and every month after.

Justin Betteridge is co-founder and chief technology officer of Solvvy.