If you're old enough to remember AOL Instant Messenger, you might remember Smarterchild.
It was one of a number of early chatbots, designed so you could have a conversation with it as if it were a person.
Chatbots have come a long way since then.
As machine learning and AI technology have continued to grow and evolve, chatbots have become more and more sophisticated.
At this point, they're functional and capable enough that companies are incorporating them into real life business applications.
In fact, it looks like chatbots may very well be the future of customer service.
A friendly, helpful bot can answer just about any question consumers have about a product or a service. While real human support will still exist, chatbots will probably handle the vast majority of inquiries.
If your business could benefit from handling certain queries in an automated, hands-off kind of way, building or commissioning a chatbot could be a pretty smart move.
In a recent article from The Content Marketing Institute, the author outlines a simple five-step blueprint for conceptualizing, designing, and deploying a chatbot of your own.
5 steps to develop a chatbot
When you’re ready to develop a chatbot, follow these steps: journey, research, model, engineer, and deploy, as shared by Cruce.
Step 1: Map the customer journey.
Journey maps “show us the customer experience in context.” Work on your journey maps with a content strategist and business stakeholders “to understand what your content needs to be doing in its context.”
Step 2: Research what your audience wants to know.
Figure out your audience’s burning questions and the terms they use to phrase those questions.
You can do this research in various ways: gather SEO data, review session data – even get radical and talk with people. Whatever it takes to get inside prospective customers’ heads.
Step 3: Build the content model.
Create a content model that specifies the structure of each of your team’s commonly created content types. Also, specify the ways those content types relate to each other. Build your content model with a content engineer and content strategist.
Without an accurate model of your organization’s content, you can’t know what kind of technology you need or how it needs to be set up.
Step 4: Engineer the technology to support your content model.
The content engineer maps your content model to technology.
Cruce had a lot to say about content engineering that I couldn’t squish into this post even if I had understood it all. (Code snippets, anyone? Microdata, schemas, taxonomy, and clean-content APIs?)
Here’s what you need to know: Find yourself a good content engineer.
Step 5: Deploy your chatbot – when it’s ready.
Before you unleash your bot on the world, test it in development, staging, and production environments. Work out as many kinks as you can before your prospective customers make it say silly things.
Work on the voice, tone, and message targeting and interactions with a content strategist who understands interactive content.
You can learn more about how to incorporate chatbots into your marketing arsenal over at The Content Marketing Institute.
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