What comes after building your chatbot?

after-the-chatbot_huffingtonpostuk
Image courtesy Huffington Post UK

Way to go!  You’ve just finished building a chatbot for your own awesome purpose.

But what comes next?

It’s easy to think the hardest thing is just building your bot.  It’s no lie that it takes hard work and dedication.  You have to make many tough decisions about what platform you’re going to use, what you want the experience of your users to be — and that’s not even including the conversations.  After all that is worked out, though, you’re going to release it to the world-at-large.

Choose a metric and aim for success!

And this is where the really difficult work starts.

In order to help you along, here’s some tips to make sure your chatbot is received well.

Know when you’re a success

Each product has at least one measurable item which will identify its success, or lack thereof.  There are lots of metrics to choose from.  Amount of messages traded per session is a good one.  So is total amount of chats sent and received.  Two more have to do with users:  Number of unique users, and total amount of returning users.

How will you know when you’re a success?  Pick a metric or two and aim for those.

What’s your path to success?

So now you know what success looks like to you.  Now you have to create a plan to actually get there.  Success doesn’t drop into your lap.  People won’t ever find you if you don’t have a plan.  They never contact random Facebook pages in hopes there’s some neat chatbot they might be able to use.

How do you achieve victory?  You get there through the use of measurable and intentional steps.

Your target audience should form the core of your path to success.  Learn where they go, where they congregate.  Then go there yourself and spread the gospel.  You’ll know you’ve arrived when your first users begin to market your bot to their friends.  Word-of-mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools out there.

Data, Data and More Data

Delve into your data on a regular basis.  You’ve already defined how you know when you’ve crossed the threshold into “success” territory.  Start there, then take a look at any following complementary metrics.  Gather this data and graph it.  This will make it easier to spot trends.  If your metrics are slipping, ask yourself why.  The answers lie in your data:  You should be able to see if your conversation paths are presenting users with dead ends.  Perhaps there was some big event that prevented your users from using the bot.  Or maybe they’re simply bored with what content you’re offering.

At the same time, should you see your metrics heading upwards, don’t just sit on your laurels.  Ask why that is.  Replicate a winning ad campaign.  If you made a great Reddit thread, try posting again somewhere else.  Make continuous iterations on the effort that boost your metrics the most.

Periodically review chatbot conversations by hand

Remember what Arthur Ashe said:  “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”  He probably wasn’t talking about chatbots, but the saying is true for them nonetheless.

Keep your bot fresh

Once you’ve coded your chatbot, it’s tempting to move on to the Next Big Thing and forget about it.  That puts your hard work on the fast track to obscurity, though.  You need to keep adding relevant conversation paths — and make sure you use the bot’s existing voice!  That fresh content will do wonders to re-engage returning users.

It’s important to stay ahead of the curve, especially with regard to natural language processing.  Make sure your bot can discern between words found in the dictionary and those that might be typed in.  In the latter case, be sure the user is shunted to correct path.  One great way to find out which words your bot needs more training on is to review user conversations manually.  Not only will this method help with those peculiar words, but you’ll also discern other ways to improve the overall experience.  Little tweaks can go a long way.

At the same time, this method makes it easy to find rabbit holes.  Don’t get tricked into going inside.  If one user is having a particular problem, make sure other users are having the same issue.  If they aren’t, don’t waste your time on fixing it.  Your bot’s identity is not worth compromising over just one user.

Analyze It Again and Again

Review your data points and user conversations over and over.  Track everything humanly possible and look for trends.  Use that data to keep improving.  Always.  Keep doing these things for the full life cycle of your chatbot.

For you and your bot, ultimate victory might consist of having thousands of users.  It might mean you trade jillions of messages.  Regardless of which metrics you choose, there is no winning without an investment of time and a great deal of tenacity.  Hang on to your goals; keep measuring your progress so you’re ultimately successful.  Stay aware of the time as well.  No sane person is going to wait around for months, just to see if your bot does something cool.

Now quit reading and go build your chatbot!

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