Chatbots have been a source of significant buzz over the last year or so. Driven forward by the developments in AI, chatbots are changing the messaging experience completely – but they’re not exactly a “brand new” technology. Innovators have been experimenting with machine learning back since the 1950s. The only difference is that now, there’s a growing number of affordable platforms that allow smaller businesses to explore the opportunities of chatbots for the first time.

Several significant brands, from the Guardian to Domino’s Pizza, have explored chatbot services for themselves, but not all of them have done it right. Just take a look at Tay, for instance – the chatbot launched by Microsoft in 2016. After just a few hours, Twitter had transformed Tay into a racist, and misogynist.

It’s clear that we’re just at the beginning of chatbot technology. There’s still a lot to do in terms of best-practice fine-tuning, and with that in mind, here are a few guidelines on how you should proceed with the chatbot revolution.

Set Goals, and Stay with Them

There’s no single one-size-fits-all approach to chatbots. You should be designing based on the needs of your business, and the purposes you want to fulfil. Remember, your chatbot should offer real, tangible benefits to your company and users. Keep in mind that setting up the development criteria is only one part of the puzzle too. You’ll also need to make your bot discoverable so that people are compelled to visit your app or website and explore the experience.

Be flexible to the needs of your users, but don’t overload your tech with more functions than it can reasonably cope with. The more you try to do, the longer your deployment will take, and the more you’ll risk a potential breakdown.

Use Conversational Language

One of the most important factors in improving a user’s chatbot experience is making sure that you use the right language. The dialogue used by a chatbot should be human, welcoming, and clear enough for users to understand. Avoid giving your user too much information by reducing messages to less than 100 characters, and make the most out of features that might give your bot a more conversational tone.

Manage User Expectations

Once you’ve got your bot up and running, it’s important that your user knows what the purpose of that bot is. Remember, consumers don’t have a lot of patience, and they’ll quickly become disengaged if your chatbot capabilities and their expectations don’t match up.

Make sure your users know what they should expect, and remind them throughout their experience. At the same time, remember to ensure that your users know that they’re talking to a bot – don’t try to convince them they’re having a human interaction, or you’ll end up losing their trust.

Try a Little Humour

Chatbots are an exciting and novel concept to customers. You should take advantage of this if you want to make your business stand out from the crowd. Give your bots some personality and ensure that they’re ready to represent your brand’s voice. The more you show off your personality, the more your customers will appreciate what you have to offer.

Remember, a chatbot that interacts like a machine, and meets robot stereotypes will leave customers feeling unhappy and disengaged. Try a few cheesy jokes and emojis from time to time to spice things up.

Guide your Users Through the Experience

Today’s fast-paced world has left us all a little impatient. Most of the time, users will give up and abandon conversations if they don’t know what the next step is supposed to be. Guide your users through the experience so that they can get all the information they need quickly and easily. The more seamless your interactions are, the better.

Experts believe that chatbots will be an everyday experience within five years. In fact, Gartner thinks that intelligent automation will be managing about 85% of customer interactions by 2020. With so many changes coming closer, it’s important to make sure you get it right.