How to Create an Effective Chatbot

Harshani Perera, 19 February 2021

To create my own chatbot using Microsoft’s Power Virtual Agents, I’ve been interacting with bots online to see which ones were easy to use and were actually helpful. Through these interactions, I found some commonalities amongst the high performing ones that I will share with you today which can help to create a bot that your users will love to interact with.


1. Give it a Name

One of the most important things is to give your bot a name. The more unique the better as it helps the user to remember it even after the conversation has ended. The users are likely to refer to it by its name other than ‘chatbot’ or ‘the bot’ and will make it memorable. Avoid making the name too complicated that they cannot remember.

Try to avoid common names e.g., Anne or just ‘Our Virtual Assistant’ as it is less likely to be memorable. Instead, give a name that is related to the service that you provide. One of my favourites is Countdown’s chatbot called Olive. I think it’s an appropriate and a memorable name for the service they provide which is food and I always remember it as a real person called ‘Olive’.

2. Give it a Face

Display a unique character related to your business instead of using a typical image of a robot or a real person’s face. Again, your bot will be more memorable to your users and it will feel more personal.

3. Give it a Personality

How do you want your Bot to come across? Do you want them to be friendly, professional, funny etc. This would depend on your business. If your business caters to a wider audience such as a supermarket, you probably don’t want your bot to be highly professional. It would be better for the bot to have a casual and friendly nature. Whereas, if your business is a professional service such as a Law firm, then it would be better to keep your chatbot professional.

The last thing you want your bot to be is cold and unwelcoming and I have come across some bots online that was just that. Giving your bot a personality will help the users to remember it and also provide a positive experience that they will want to come back.

4. Provide a Structure and Guide the User

The main thing that separated the helpful bots from the not so helpful bots was their guidance. The helpful bots provided an initial explanation of what it can help with and provided options for the user to select from rather than asking to type in a question. Your bot may not be able to answer every question the user asks and if that happens more than 2 or 3 times, the users will abandon it.

To tackle this, you should provide a few options for the user to choose from on their first message e.g., Login, Returns, Contact Us, Store Info etc. This will guide them to get the information from the Chatbot.

5. Let Users know it’s a Virtual Agent

It’s important to let users know from the start that they are interacting with a virtual agent. I once had an interaction with a company which mentioned ‘Live Chat’ however when I clicked on the link, it directed me to a virtual agent. When I selected the option to speak to a real agent, I could still tell that it wasn’t a real person who was chatting with me. This will give a bad impression of your business and create distrust with your services and products.

People can easily tell whether they are interacting with a human or a bot so do not try to fool them. Users will be more understanding of any errors and empathetic towards the bot if they already know it’s a virtual agent. You can always provide the option for users to contact a live agent if they come across issues.

I hope these tips will help you to create a bot that will support your business and users effectively.