30 years ago, it was the stuff of science fiction. These days, we take the idea of talking to chatbots fairly calmly. But we often forget to think about them in terms of documentation.
What are chatbots?
Chatbots are interactive applications that can hold some sort of conversation with a human. They can answer basic – and sometimes quite complex – questions about a company, product, or service.
Where do people use chatbots?
Social media and websites are the main places you’ll see chatbots hanging out. Some companies use them as ‘Live Help’. Others add them to Facebook pages and Twitter DMs so that customers can find help on social media platforms at any time of day.
Why combine them with documentation?
Online documentation and chatbots are a natural pairing. Chatbots figure out what the user (probably) wants to know; documentation answers questions in detail. Here’s how a standard interaction might look:
Bot: Hi! Welcome to Whereversville. How can we help you?
Customer: I can’t work out how to use my Widget 5000XE.
Bot: You’re having trouble getting the Widget 5000XE set up? That sucks. Try this article on setting up Widget 5000 models: http://example.com/help/get-started-with-widget-5000xx.
You could think of the chatbot as a smart search engine. It parses the user’s request to work out what the user is really asking, and points them to a useful piece of documentation. If the user had run a search on the Whereversville website, they might have needed to trawl through dozens of articles before spotting the one they wanted.
How do we get a chatbot?
There are quite a few chatbot services available. You sign up, put together conversations – usually in flowchart form – then connect the completed chatbot with your website or social media account. Maruti Techlabs have listed some great platforms in this article: 14 Most Powerful Platforms to Build a Chatbot.