Custom Chatbot Development 101: How To Get Started

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Imagine telling your employees that they need to be online 24/7 on your business website to answer your customers’ questions. After all, the customer is king, right?

The next thing you know, you have a mass resignation on your hands with people waving goodbye left, right, and centre.

So, what do you do? How do you cater to your customers’ needs even when your team is offline?

The answer is simple – chatbots. And not just any old chatbot. A custom chatbot.

Chatbots are like virtual assistants that work 24/7 and never ask for a pay raise! In fact, almost 40% of internet users worldwide prefer interacting with chatbots to virtual agents.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

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Let’s dig deeper to understand what chatbots are, how they can help boost your customer service quality, and how you can develop a chatbot for your company’s website. 

Key Definitions – A Brief Intro to Chatbots

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is software used for automated interaction between humans and digital devices through voice commands or text chats on various messaging platforms. When a user asks a query, a sequence of algorithms processes the data, identifies the question’s intent, and provides an appropriate answer based on the available information. 

To respond to queries, chatbots use:

  1. Natural Language Processing (NLP) – a fancy term for machines that try to understand text and speech like humans do
  2. Machine Learning – artificial intelligence that enables software to take users’ inputs, analyse them, and predict better responses

For example, think of any e-commerce website where you recently made a purchase. Usually, a tiny little chatbot at the bottom corner of your screen pops up and asks, “Hi! I’m Dave. How can I help you today?”.

Or perhaps, “Hi! What are you looking for today?”

Quite like the real-life Dave who starts asking you what you are looking for the minute you enter a shop.

For better or worse, many businesses use chatbots these days. With more advanced designs and programming, chatbot possibilities are endless. 

And so, companies use them endlessly. 

Without results.

It has gotten to a point where customers have become immune to generic chatbots and can’t be bothered to react, much less respond to chatbot prompts. 

A recent study on customer experience trends showed that 45% of people found it annoying to deal with generic chatbots.

Here’s an example of how frustrating it can be to deal with some chatbots.

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Can you feel the frustration? How about this…

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These two are classic examples of poor programming. In the first one, the chatbot did not understand what the user wanted, even though the user was urging it to direct them to an agent. In the second one, the chatbot didn’t recognise the word ‘weekend’. 

Far from this maddening crowd of ready-to-use chatbots are custom chatbots. 

Better, more sophisticated, and smarter.

What is a custom chatbot? 

A custom chatbot is tailor-made interactive software designed specifically for your business needs. You can specify the database, tone, and interface based on your requirements. 

We’re talking complete customisation here – choose the size, colour, response time, and even your brand’s logo. 

This is why custom chatbots:

  • Are 100% unique
  • Represent your brand perfectly 
  • Stand out from their repetitive, robotic brethren 
  • Grab and hold users’ attention

Here’s an example of how an AI-powered custom chatbot does wonders for sales:

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Domino’s chatbot makes it easy for customers to place an order, and they have maintained a Facebook-esque interface to offer a familiar experience. The chatbot also employs a conversational script and has an easy, appealing tone. 

Custom chatbots have tons of capabilities. Some of their many uses include: 

  • Generating leads 
  • Answering FAQs 
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Conducting customer surveys 
  • Tracking orders 
  • Providing shopping assistance
  • Sharing order updates 
  • Managing promotions and sales 
  • Sending event reminders 

… and so on. We could continue, but you get the idea.

Differences between a generic chatbot and a custom chatbot 

There are two types of chatbots for businesses: generic and custom chatbots. 

Here are some key differences between the two:

Generic ChatbotCustom Chatbot
Basic NLP
Difficulty in answering advanced queries 
Advanced NLP
Offers better responses to queries
Limited applications 
Can only do one thing at a time (customer research OR live chat)
Wide range of applications 
Automates and solves complex tasks 
Can multitask as a shopping and customer research assistant
Works only with a website 
Does simple tasks like answering customer inquiries or providing contact information 
Works across a variety of platforms
Can handle complex automated conversations on websites, mobile apps, and social media
Limited integration capabilitiesStrong arsenal of integration capabilities
Requires less maintenance 
Similar to other chatbots used by thousands of companies
Easier to identify bugs 
Needs routine maintenance to ensure that there are no bugs and to implement new features

Now that you know just how good a custom chatbot can be, the obvious next question is, how do you build one?

What is custom chatbot development? 

Custom chatbot development is a process where software is designed to address a company’s specific needs for automated interaction with customers. 

The process doesn’t stop with design; it also covers implementation and support.

The most essential step during custom chatbot development is identifying and choosing the right type of chatbot for your business. For this, you will have to:

  • Research the kind of AI capabilities you need 
  • Find a system to take care of all current and future interactions without human interference
  • Develop a tailored and personalised operational experience for your customers.
  • Train your chatbot to manage possible situations and queries related to your business 
  • Create a user interface with some help from competitor references 

If you think this will take a lot of time, effort, and money…you are right.

But, compared with out-of-the-box solutions, custom chatbot development will provide the exact solutions you need.

Benefits of Custom Chatbot Development 

Remember that we live in a customer-centric world, and customers welcome anything that makes their experience better with open arms. Custom chatbots do just that.

Here’s how having a chatbot on your website can help.

Feature Benefit
CustomisationProvides a personal touch
Encourages one-on-one interaction and instant responses
Full controlLive chat options to offer human intervention
Complete control of the system
ScalabilityHelps you manage the conversations without the need to add more experts or any extra training
Manage thousands of discussions with reasonable costs and resources
Risk minimisationFeatures like quick customer service 24/7 and prioritisation of critical queries help retain customers on your website
Flexibility Optimal for use on any virtual platform
Multilingual capabilities for targeting a global audience

Scope for customisation 

As a custom chatbot is built only for your business, you can design it to stand out from what your competitors use. Your chatbot can be your USP.

Take the case of Duolingo, which uses AI-powered custom chatbots to help app users learn new languages without fear or embarrassment.

Custom chatbots also offer a touch of personalisation to the customers by providing one-on-one interaction and instant responses that align with the brand values and incorporate the brand language.

Full control

AI-enabled chatbots provide real-time support to your customers and instantly answer their queries, leading to customer satisfaction. 

However, there can be instances where the chatbot may not identify the question or the user’s intent. This is where human interference might be required.

Chatbots, integrated with live chat options, offer this convenience. 

With a hybrid human-chatbot model, you need not rely entirely on your chatbot, increasing your chances of retaining your leads. This way, you have complete control over the system. 

Scalability 

The top priority for any customer-centric business is the option to scale support. Here, custom chatbots can be worth their weight in gold. In cases of a traffic surge, they can help you manage conversations without the hassle of adding experts to the team or training your customer support staff. 

Think about all those seasonal sales and peak hours when the product demand has increased meteorically. In such situations, companies can deploy chatbots to handle the problem effectively. 

AI-based chatbots can manage thousands of conversations with minimal impact on costs and resources.

LEGO effectively used their chatbot — Ralph — to manage customers during their first-ever Christmas sale campaign. Take a look at how on-brand and delightful their content is!

Risk minimisation

Chatbots can completely revamp your business’s communication structure and become a centralised source of communication, as they mitigate several risks.

These might include providing 24/7 customer service and sorting high-request volumes quickly and easily. 

This reduces the risk of losing customers to long wait times or staff unavailability.

Statistics show that 37% of customers opt to use a chatbot in an emergency rather than wait 15 minutes for a human to respond. Think of this in terms of sales!

Next-level flexibility 

The driving forces of chatbot AI are incredibly versatile. From mobile phones to websites, you can literally use them on any virtual platform you want.

One major factor that makes chatbots so flexible is their multilingual capability.

The ability to speak with your clients in a language of their choice allows you to expand your target audiences globally.

AI-based custom chatbots have an ever-advancing database, fast adaptation capabilities, and auto-learning features. They can understand human interactions faster and faster, making the entire process smooth and less confusing. 

Today, many companies combine several elements into a single chatbot, such as incorporating customer support and sales communications into a single application instead of using two separate segments.

So, What’s the Catch With Custom Chatbot Development? 

Call it human nature if you will, but we know you are going to be like…

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That’s fine. Every system is bound to have drawbacks. And honestly, there is no shame in accepting your flaws, right?

The most common factors that scare businesses when it comes to custom chatbot development are:

  1. Costs
  2. Implementation
  3. Maintenance

Let’s dig in a little deeper.

Costs 

Custom chatbots can be expensive to install. Plus, the installation differs for each business.

Initially, you might eye some low-cost options, but you will probably end up needing features that’ll increase the cost.

By the time you reach the standard of service you and your customers expect from the bot, you are likely to have spent a significant amount. 

Implementation 

While implementing chatbots on your website, the first thing you need to take care of is data security.

In the wake of incidents like the Capital One Data Breach, users are wary of sharing personal data online. So, your chatbot needs to have strong data security measures and be hack-proof.

The second challenge is understanding your customers’ requirements before programming your chatbot. If the chatbot cannot recognise what your visitors want and interact with them accordingly, you might face severe backlash. 

So you’ll need to conduct deep customer research and have a clear idea of the client’s expectations. Always use factual information rather than relying on hypotheses.

Fortunately, machine learning-based chatbots are quick to learn and can eventually adapt to your customers’ tone of voice. 

Maintenance 

User demands and business goals ‌shift with time. 

So, custom chatbots need to be optimised frequently to ensure that they give the right information to your customers and represent your brand correctly.

This requires an analysis and updating of previous conversations and other data. During updates, there can be disruptions in the model. You need to know how to conduct these activities with minimal disruptions. 

Custom chatbot development might seem appealing, but ‌it can be equally risky if not done correctly. 

The best option is to collaborate with the right software development agency (*cough* that’s us *cough*) that can help you develop and maintain a high-quality custom chatbot.

How to Get Started With Custom Chatbot Development

Let’s move on to the technical part. This can be slightly annoying for non-techies but bear with us – it is essential to be aware of the entire process. 

Here is a step-by-step procedure for developing a custom chatbot for your business. 

1. Do your research 

Research is a crucial aspect of any form of software development. Here are some tips on how to do your research.

  1. Identify AI capabilities that you want for your chatbot system
  2. Study what option your competitors are using
  3. Weigh various options before making the final decision

This is a one-time task, as later, the chatbot will simply enhance its own capabilities. 

2. Identify your audience 

Next, you need to identify your target audience. 

An easy way to do so is by asking these questions:

  1. Who are you catering to? 
  2. What is your ideal customer base? 
  3. What are their everyday needs and demands?
  4. Are there current problems they are facing?
  5. What are the potential issues they could face at a later stage?
  6. How do they prefer to communicate these problems?

Answering these questions will help you design a chatbot that will perfectly cater to your customers’ needs and make the necessary tweaks to the system. 

3. Personalise your chatbot 

Your chatbot is the voice of your brand. 

So, it should sound like you. Give it a name, a face, and a personality.

Think of how your company would look like as a person and build the bot accordingly. One of our tricks is to think of a person from the industry who most closely resembles ideal brand values.

Healthcare company? Talk like Meredith Grey. Or perhaps The Good Doctor.

Software company? Think Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

Finance or Fintech? Channel your inner Warren Buffett.

On the technical side, integrate your chatbot with the website or your desired digital set-up to develop a customisable experience for your customers. You need to make sure that the structure has sufficient training to manage different ‌situations related to your business.

4. Design the user interface

Remember how we mentioned keeping an eye on your competitors? 

You should do that here as well. 

Take inspiration from their chatbot’s user interface, and make tweaks to align it to your brand’s style and requirements rather than designing a completely new and untested UI. 

5. Go live! (and have a team as backup)

Ensure that the chatbot is completely integrated into the network. 

Although chatbots are self-regulating and automated, it is still better to have a team of experts on board to monitor the chatbot’s responses, at least in the beginning. 

6. Delight your customers 

Your ultimate goal is to keep your customers happy. 

Now that you have a chatbot system in place and a team of experts monitoring the execution and the chatbot’s behaviour, it is also necessary to figure out if your customers are happy and responding well. You certainly don’t want to annoy your customers. 

And make sure that you get some feedback from the customer – if there’s something that they dislike or find unnecessary, consider making those changes while updating the system for a better customer experience

Customers love it when they are heard! 83% of customers develop loyalty toward brands that reply to feedback and solve their issues.

Don’t Go At It Alone 

Phew! Overwhelmed?

We get it – but now you have a better understanding of the entire custom chatbot development process and whether it’s viable for your business. 

And if you think that custom chatbot development is the way to go, you don’t have to do it alone. 

Get a chatbot development agency that understands your company in and out. 

Not to brag, but at Human Pixel, we bring a mature, outcome-focused and feature-rich chatbot platform to our clients. We can ensure that your company is in expert hands! 

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And don’t take just our word for it…

Human Pixel was featured in Mobile App Daily’s annual report on the Top 50 Chatbot App Development Companies Nov 2020 at #41 – the only Australian company to be on the list. We were also honoured to be Australia’s top software developers in 2022

Have questions or want to explore chatbot options? Start a conversation with us. 

Need more info about chatbots? Check out our blog!