5 Best Practices for Using a Support Chatbot

Customer experience experts have been building up sky-high expectations on the "Age of Artificial Intelligence" for years, and chatbots are now becoming less “robotic" and highly coveted in customer service.

At Userlike, we believe that no AI will ever match the power of a personal interaction. People are just better than bots at most of the customer service essentials, like detecting emotions, understanding context, or knowing when to tweak a given protocol.

Though there are still many challenges human agents face in support — repetitive questions, angry, impatient customers and a constant stream of calls and emails.

That’s where we think bots could become game changers for the customer service industry. Instead of worrying about whether chatbots will replace people working in support altogether, we see it as a division of labor opportunity that allows humans to focus on complex and interesting work only.

Before discussing how this setup could look, let’s first explore what bots can and cannot do in customer service.

What chatbots do best

  1. Reply instantly. Speed strongly affects customer satisfaction. That’s why the first response time is considered one of the most crucial metrics in support. With bots, there are no waiting lines, so your visitor receives an immediate response that someone’s on the issue.
  2. Offer 24/7 support. Bots don’t mind working night shifts. This is interesting if you’re looking to increase your service hours, for example, when you have a small team but want to offer support in markets operating in different time zones.
  3. Automate frequently asked questions. Most requests people in support get are routine tier-1 tasks. Outsource these kinds of requests to a bot, so your human agents can focus on the more challenging ones. This not only reduces your costs but also keeps your agents’ motivation up as having to deal with repetitive questions is one of the biggest challenges in support.
  4. Increase customer engagement. Building an advanced conversational bot can be quite difficult. But even the most basic bots can be an asset. Take the contact form that shows up on your website outside of your service hours. Bots can make it more engaging by proactively encouraging your visitors to leave their question.
  5. Handle large chat amounts. Us humans can only do so many things at one time (yup, multitasking is a myth ). In live chat, that means limiting your amount of parallel chats to a maximum of three to four so they’re able to answer everyone’s chat in a timely manner. A bot, on the other hand, can deal with unlimited customers at the same time without negatively affecting its service quality.

What chatbots can’t do (yet)

  1. Get to the point quickly. It’s a common misconception that bots are faster than humans. While it’s true in some cases, such as the first response time or answering frequently asked questions, bots can talk your ear off to get you to the point that actually interests you.
  2. Bend the rules. Bots are loyal servants that only follow what you programmed them to do. Which is fine most of the time. The reason that businesses have clear policies is so they don't need to reinvent the wheel for each individual case. But sometimes, you might have to stray from the given path a bit to make your customer happy. If necessary, a human support agent should be able to deviate from your no-refunds policy, for example, while this would be non-negotiable for the bot.
  3. Have all the answers. A good support agent knows how to handle even the trickiest situations in support and has the answer to exceptional circumstances. This is hard for chatbots to replicate, which is why they are only good at covering common questions and situations.
  4. Understand your questions. When dealing with chatbots, you need to know exactly what you want to ask and phrase it in the correct way. If you don’t know the right term, chances are the bot won’t get it. At Userlike, for example, we have a “Widget Secret” and a “Widget Code” – two different things which look almost identical and are thus often mixed up. A chatbot wouldn’t notice when a customer is confusing these terms, giving them the wrong information.
  5. Create an interaction that feels natural. Like all machines, bots force you to interact with them in a way they understand. Mostly, that means having to click through a bunch of path dependencies to express your interests. Instead of a natural dialogue, it feels more like an interrogative question-answer situation. While it’s nice that a bot replies instantly, it can feel uncanny when it reacts inhumanly fast with large chunks of text.

Chatbots and humans – a perfect match

If chatbots and human support agents both have their unique capabilities and limits, why not get the best out of both worlds? Here are our tips for successfully using chatbots in support.

  1. Only use a chatbot if it makes sense
  2. Make your humans stand out
  3. Divide the workload efficiently
  4. Connect your chatbot with your live chat software
  5. Follow chat etiquette

Only use a chatbot if it makes sense

The golden rule for chatbot service. Sounds like a no-brainer at first but with all the buzz around chatbots, many businesses don’t question their necessity.

chatbot cartoon

You get a lot of repetitive questions? Then a chatbot could be beneficial to your business. You have a complex product that requires personal support? A chatbot probably isn’t the right fit.

In our chatbot consumer perceptions study, we learned that when it comes to chatbot acceptance, age matters. Respondents 45 and older had never spoken with a chatbot, though most were open to businesses using chatbots as part of their support. Note, however, that openness doesn’t equal actual use. If your business caters to an older audience, they might appreciate talking to “a machine” less than younger people who might have more realistic expectations of chatbots’ capabilities.

Analyze your business and ask yourself crucial questions like these: What’s my goal for implementing the chatbot? Which operational processes would a chatbot optimize? How would my users react to a chatbot? Getting started with chatbot service just because everyone’s talking about chatbots doesn’t suffice as an answer.

Make your humans stand out

While your customers appreciate receiving quick answers, bad service experiences can prevent them from ever buying from you again. That’s why it’s important to have a support team that stands out from chatbot support. Gaining that all-star status requires constant training as well as making sure your customer support is an integral part of your organization.

Image of a meeting

Another important point is that your customers should never be left wondering whether they’re talking to a bot or a human. In our study, 54% of respondents want chatbots to make it clear that it’s a bot. To avoid confusion, we recommend using real photos instead of avatars for your humans while giving your bot a name and image that clearly shows its robotic identity.

Divide the workload efficiently

With Userlike, you can choose between four different bot behavior modes. If you set your bot to be active outside of your service hours, like during the weekend or at night, you can easily offer basic support in markets you would otherwise not be able to reach.

Or you can use your bot to qualify your incoming chats before a human agent receives them. That way, your bot functions as a filter, dealing with simple, redundant inquiries, and only forwarding chats it can’t answer to its human colleagues. This saves them time that they can invest in their other responsibilities. It also keeps agents motivated since dealing with the same questions over and over again every day can be challenging.

Creating a chatbot setup that fits your business’ objectives is also cost-effective. That’s money you can invest in building a great customer service team that stands out.

Connect your chatbot with your live chat software

Thanks to the rise of customer messaging, there is now a demand for instant, convenient support options. At Userlike, we've made it easy to integrate a chatbot into your existing setup. By using our chatbot infrastructure, you create a bridge between the bot and your human agents. If the bot doesn’t have an answer to the customer’s request, it can simply forward the conversation to an available agent.

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Userlike offers two chatbot integration options: our chatbot API and the Logic Bot. These allow you to either connect your existing pre-built chatbot or create rule-based bot flows written in the Userlike Bot Language. More on that later.

Once you’ve integrated your bot with Userlike, it has access to your chat commands like a normal agent. That way, it can collect and store data from your site visitors, send them to dedicated parts of your website, forward the current chat session to a human colleague, and more.

While we welcome automation for many tasks, it’s still important to monitor your robo-buddy. You can check your chatbot's activity in the transcripts, just like with any human agent.

Follow chat etiquette

So you have a killer support crew that knows how to deal with customers inside and out. While a bot won’t be able to reach their level, you should still aim to get as close as possible with the service it delivers. Bad customer service can hurt your business’ reputation – and a clumsy chatbot can put it at risk.

That’s why the chat etiquette tips you’ve set for your human service reps need to be followed by your bots as well. One obvious step involves training your bot to know the right answers, or connecting it to your knowledge base. Its script is also overlooked — bad bots use complex language, send overly long messages and sound unnatural.

What’s more, users want bots to be “polite, caring, intelligent and funny.” Besides following your support principles, make your bot likable by considering its persona and adding elements of surprise in its script, like the occasional humorous quip.

Check out our guide to chatbots in business for more design inspiration.

Example #1: Offline bot - The Logic Bot

Userlike’s rule-based Logic Bot is connected to our live chat for an all-in-one service solution. Your chatbot is managed like a human agent, and you can control it directly from your dashboard.

It can:

  1. Proactively greet site visitors
  2. Display button options and carousels for easy navigation
  3. Answer FAQs and perform simple tasks
  4. Forward chats to an available agent
  5. Create tickets if no agent is available
Product image of Userlike's Logic Bot

You can customize your chatbot’s behavior according to your specific needs. For example, if you want to use your chatbot to answer questions outside of business hours and collect email addresses, you can set these parameters just as you would for your agents.

Example #2: Firewall bot - Fissler

As described above, we believe that human agents and bots should work together in support. Chatbots are great for answering frequently asked questions – which make up the majority of questions in live chat – while human agents can focus on the more complex, individual cases.

Fissler, German premium cookware manufacturer, uses this setup to support its customers. If you open the chat on their website, you’ll be greeted by “Cooky.” It’s online 24/7 and answers simple, recurring questions.

Within Fissler’s service times, there are also human service agents available, so Cooky can hand the chat over to them easily when it can’t answer the customer’s request. Outside Fissler’s service times, or when no agents are available, customers can leave their email address to receive a reply.

Screenshot of Cooky

That way, Fissler empowers its visitors to make the decision themselves whether they’re fine speaking with the bot or would prefer to be contacted by a human agent at a later time. This helps decrease the risk of customer frustration.

How to use a support chatbot with Userlike

At Userlike, we offer two chatbot integration options. That way, you don’t need to use any external software to monitor your bot and it’s managed like a member of your team.

First is our Logic Bot, which is based on the Userlike Bot Language (UBL). It’s a rule-based chatbot, which means it works on a decision tree “if/then” logic. It’s often used by our customers as a FAQ or knowledge base chatbot, and to perform simple tasks such as creating tickets and scheduling calls.

product image of Userlike's Logic Bot handling chats

If you already have a chatbot, we also offer the option to connect your chatbot via API to our software.

Your chatbot will have access to all of your chat commands to collect and store data from your visitors, just like your agents. It can also send them to special parts of your website like your pricing page, or forward the current chat session to a human colleague.

Does this sound like the chatbot support you need at your business? Perhaps you’d like to learn more. Feel free to start a chat on our chatbots page to talk to a member of our team or sign up for a consultation with our chatbot expert.