More and more companies are applying for WhatsApp Business API. Those approved are eager to start servicing their clients using WhatsApp notifications and chatbots assistants. However, many rush into it without really thinking through their WhatsApp bot design and flow.
Since the WhatsApp UI is limited, forcing you to rely only on text-based interactions the design of the conversation has never been more important. So, if you are looking to build a functional customer assistant and want to stay away from AI solutions such as Dialogflow-WhatsApp chatbots, this is the conversational design guide for you!
Understanding & Respecting WhatsApp UX
With over 65 billion messages sent every day and hours spent using the application each week, WhatsApp is uncontested among its competitors and loved by its users.
The most popular messaging app in the world is an eagerly-awaited bypass for the frustrating, slow and inconvenient calls, online forms and email. Allowing consumers to voice their needs via a channel where they already spend most of their time sets up the ground for positive customer experiences. Speed and convenience are intrinsic to the WhatsApp experience.
Once you implement WhatsApp Enterprise Solution, your clients expect to receive fast and frictionless service, holding you to a higher standard than usual. Hence, misjudging or underestimating the challenges that come hand in hand with WhatsApp bot design can hit you hard.
So, how to design a WhatsApp bot that doesn’t hinder the usual WhatsApp UX and UI?
Since we have previously discussed the technical side of creating a chatbot for WhatsApp, as well as this WhatsApp bot tutorial will focus on designing dialog flows that respect and work around the app’s user interface limitations.
WhatsApp Bot Design: UX and UI Challenges
Bots have been around for quite a few years now, popping up from the endless corners of the web when needed.
Thanks to the limitless design possibilities of the web, the app, and website chatbots have benefited from clever UI elements such as quick replies, buttons, and auto-fill fields. These elements created a smoother UX by streamlining conversations and helping consumers achieve given goals much quicker.
However, creating a WhatsApp bot is a bit different than that of the other bots.
When it comes to WhatsApp, bot designers have to cope with the limitation of the app’s interface that doesn’t allow for the aforementioned quick replies and buttons. Unlike Facebook Messenger that offers brands even more fancy features (such as product carousels), WhatsApp UX is purely text-driven.
This might change in the future, but for the time being, you need to design WhatsApp bots relying on users’ textual inputs only. Hence, for a conversation to move forward, your bot needs to be able to handle often unstructured user messages.
Getting access to API for WhatsApp was not easy. So, don’t throw away the opportunity with a badly designed chatbot.
With WhatsApp bot design, you got to get back to basics and do your best to simplify the exchanges to eliminate mistakes and, with that, bad experiences.
1. Menu Instead of Quick Replies or Buttons
Say goodbye to buttons. WhatsApp is not built for one-click answers.
So how to start a conversation in a way that feels conversational but also sets boundaries?
The answer is simple.
Introduce a menu. The menu simply serves to explain the key capabilities of your WhatsApp chatbot. It ensures the user has realistic expectations about what he or she can achieve through this conversation.
Think of it as a UX baseline, a root from which you can branch out as necessary. Like buttons or quick replies, the menu should be straightforward.
Each option giving the user a clear idea of what it entails. The menu is either the first message or a first follow-up after receiving an HSM template notification. It outlines options the user can explore using this channel.
On WhatsApp, the menu selection can unfold in two ways. The user can either type out the full or partial option on the menu OR type the number associated with the desired option.
In order to make your WhatsApp bot UX a little easier, take advantage of leaving tips.
2. Tip Away!
When reading up on the basics of conversational design, you will see that tips are usually frowned upon.
You see, many virtuously claim that for an experience to be conversational, it needs flow naturally without “aids.”
The argument is that, in real life, you don’t have anyone following you around giving you tips to move a conversation forward (Though some people might appreciate that 😂).
However, if we everybody was such a conversational puritan, quick replies and buttons wouldn’t have seen the light of day either.
The important thing you need to ask yourself when applying non-conversational elements to your flow is: Do they make the experience more efficient?
If they do, then go for it. While a conversation is all about being natural, messaging is about speed and so, noone will ever complain about encountering a shortcut. Tips can come in all kinds of forms. Here are a few examples of effective WhatsApp chatbot tips:
3. Ask Straightforward Questions
Instead of a menu and commands/tips, you can drive the conversation forward using questions.
Indeed, if you want the conversation to sound as natural as possible and allow for a more sophisticated back and forth, questions are definitely a way to go.
You might be thinking that it’s too risky as it requires a much more sophisticated NLP solution than the menu strategy.
However, the way you ask the questions offers a reasonable amount of control over what the user may answer. Hence, you are able to significantly narrow down your NLP Specifications.
There are two main types of questions you should keep in mind?
Yes/No questions are a classic. They really don’t give users much wiggle room and are hard to get wrong.
Still, even with a Yes/No approach, you need to count a variety of answers: Yes - Yeah, Sure, Yup, Yah, OK, Okay, Ya, Fine, All right, Why not, Very well, Certainly...No - Nah, Nope, Nay, Naw, Not interested, Not really, Not now, Of course not, Nae, Not at all...
- Keyword Suggestion
Keywords driven questions are the gold! They feel like freedom but their suggestive power narrows down the pool of possible answers significantly. Think of them as a menu (or buttons) in disguise. To further increase the chances of users typing the words you want them to type is using BOLD or ITALIC to draw attention to them:
Example: Would you like to check-in or manage your booking?
4. Teach Your Bot to Admit Defeat
No matter how hard you try, there are going to be instances your bot fails to understand what the user wants, be it because of a typo or a request that is outside of its “jurisdiction.”
The way you admit your shortcomings is as important as trying to avoid having any shortcomings. You need to be careful about how you word it. There are different ways you can go about it.
For instance, if you are using the menu+tips strategy, it’s quite OK to ask the user to retype the message in the correct format.
However, when taking the more relaxed conversational approach and rely more on questions, you need to be more careful. Designing the WhatsApp bot to acknowledge both when it:
- doesn’t understand the request;
- does understand it but can’t help.
After acknowledging your imperfections you have two options:
- Redirect the user to the main menu (or turn they attention to the conversation flow that is within the bots bounds)
- Offer an option to be transferred to a human representative
5. Design Your WhatsApp Bot for Natural Human Takeover
Chatbots are incredibly powerful but they are at their best when working alongside humans.
Hence, to be truly successful, your WhatsApp bot design should be able to facilitate a seamless human agent take over when the situation calls for it.
During a bot-to-human handover, it’s important to let the user know what is happening.
Hence, your bot should have a couple of phrases up its virtual sleeve: “I am not qualified to deal with this issue. But hang on a second, I will ask one of our excellent customer support agents step in!”
To take it a step further, you can have your bot ask a few clarifying questions. This will not only help the agent assess and identify the situation quicker, but it also fills in a possible delay gap that can occur during the handover.
Alternatively, if all your agents are busy, you can offer customers an opportunity to schedule a WhatsApp to call instead of making the user wait.
To design a WhatsApp bot has its challenges as the app’s interface doesn’t offer elements found in website chatbots and on other messaging apps like Facebook Messenger. The app’s current interface forces you to work within a limited, text-focused framework in order to create a pleasant experience.
Though who knows, with all the changes going on at WhatsApp, we might see more chatbot-friendly elements soon!
Nor now, just remember, WhatsApp chatbot design is all about keeping it simple and focused. The clearer the bot’s function the easier it will be for your customers to achieve their goals and the better their experience.
If you do it right, you are in for a happy customer base as well as cost savings.
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