How to Create a WhatsApp Bot
About Conversational AI

Designing a WhatsApp Bot: What to Keep in Mind

Ever imagined what it’d be like if your customers could reach out to you on WhatsApp

They wouldn’t have to undergo the boring, painstaking process of calling you on your customer care helpline, writing to you via your website or directly emailing you at contact@abcd.com. With the WhatsApp Business Solution, your customers are only a WhatsApp message away from getting the help and support they need from you.

Given that WhatsApp occupies a large portion of an individual’s time with their mobile device, it is critical that companies acknowledge this behavior and design initiatives to fully leverage these growing trends.

Once you implement the WhatsApp Business Solution, your customers need not go through a long IVR process, only to realize that they have to wait for another 20 minutes to get hold of a customer executive. They can simply send their concerns to the company using WhatsApp and the query will be addressed within seconds by an AI-powered WhatsApp Bot.

Now you may be thinking, “Great! I definitely need a WhatsApp bot. But how do I get started with building one?”

Well, when it comes to creating a WhatsApp bot, the first and foremost consideration is design. There are a lot of UX considerations to keep in mind while designing an automated experience for WhatsApp.

We have already discussed the process of developing chatbots and designing an intuitive UX, in our guide to designing smart chatbots. In this article, we will draw upon our experience with creating WhatsApp bots at Haptik to provide a step-by-step guide that should be a good starting point for anyone trying to design a WhatsApp bot.

Would you like to try out a conversational experience on WhatsApp?

UX Considerations/Limitations to Keep In Mind for a WhatsApp Bot

A WhatsApp Bot is fairly different from most other kinds of chatbots you might be familiar with. Typically, UI elements such as buttons and quick replies are a key aspect in streamlining a chatbot experience. UI elements not only help to propel the conversation forward but also help the user to achieve their end goal in the quickest way possible.

But that is not the case with WhatsApp bots.

While designing a WhatsApp bot, one has to operate within certain UI limitations and build an experience sans quick replies, buttons, and carousels. 

Normal Bot Menu vs. WhatsApp Bot Menu
Left: Menu on a typical chatbot, with buttons; Right: Menu on a WhatsApp bot, without buttons

As of today, WhatsApp only supports text. Therefore, any WhatsApp experience needs to be designed based on textual inputs from the user. This means the bot flow will be user-driven (Users typing and asking questions) and not bot-driven (The bot suggesting intuitive quick replies and buttons).

This also implies that the WhatsApp bot should handle diverse unstructured inputs by users since that is the only way to move a conversation forward.

It is also important to first build simple use-cases that do not require a lot of back and forth between the user and the bot. The more the number of interactions, the higher the risk of bot errors, which might lead to a bitter first-time experience.

So how does one create conversational flows in WhatsApp?

While designing conversational flows in WhatsApp, there are primarily four aspects to keep in mind.

  1. Menu
  2. Questions
  3. Tips
  4. Bot Errors

We will examine each of these in turn.

1. Menu

At the start of the conversation, the user should be shown a concise menu. The menu should contain the top functionalities of the bot. Like any chatbot experience, this menu is no different. 

Each item listed on the menu should be clear and easy to understand.

The menu selection can happen in two ways.

1. The user needs to either type the menu item. For eg. Benefits of WhatsApp. Since a user is required to type, the menu item should be concise so that it is easy for a user to type.

2. The user can simply type the item number to move forward, like in an IVR system. (Users are habituated to use numbers to proceed).

WhatsApp Bot Menu
Menu of a WhatsApp Bot

The menu serves as the first message that will be seen by the user. Therefore, sharing a useful tip right at the beginning is a great opportunity to educate the user.

An informative tip like ‘Type main menu’ to go back at any point in the conversation will come in handy for the user.

2. Questions

Questions are a great way to steer the conversation in the right direction. The questions need to be relatable and intuitive. Forcing the question just to move the conversation forward might lead to a substandard conversational experience.

In fact, questions or commands are the only way to keep the conversation going on WhatsApp.

Let’s take a look at the Types of Questions:

a. Yes/No Questions

Questions that trigger a yes/no response are an easy way to engage the user and push the conversation forward. 

Example: Would you like to learn more about Chatbots?

The answer to this question might seem straightforward. But that is not entirely true. A user can say Yes and No in so many different ways.

Yes: Ya, yup, yeah, yah, ok, sure, alright

No: Nope, nah, not really, not interested

Tip: The bot should be trained to understand agreement vs dissent. There are some obvious cases which might fail with this approach — for e.g.  ‘Why not’.

b. Suggestive Questions

Suggestive Questions are a perfect replacement for buttons. It is ideal to present options and let the user define the next course of action.

Example: Are you interested in chatbots or voice bots?

A good way to emphasize the selection is by using bold.

Good news: You can use * bold * text on WhatsApp.

Example: Are you interested in chatbots or voice bots?

Suggestive Questions

You can easily observe the substantial improvement in readability.

3. Tips

Providing tips throughout the conversation is a must. A seamless two-way interaction on WhatsApp is only possible if the user is aware of how to use it.

Let us now consider the Types of Tips:

a. Menu

Type ‘go back’ to see the main menu.

                              OR                    

You can simply type ‘Menu’ to select any other option.

b. Question Tips

Tip: You can also ask me questions like ‘example’

4. Bot Errors

The bot break aka error messages should be carefully worded. It should first acknowledge that the bot cannot help with the query. It should then focus on redirecting the user back into the conversation. Either redirect the user to the main menu or into another conversational flow.

The possibility of Bot breaks or errors will be slightly higher in WhatsApp Bots due to the potential of unstructured flows.

WhatsApp Bot Break Messages
Bot break messages on WhatsApp
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To sum up…

Keeping in mind the framework we’ve discussed, we must remember to keep the design of the WhatsApp bot as simple and as easy to understand as possible. The simpler the design, the more intuitive it’ll be for your customers, thereby resulting in a better overall experience for them. And let us not forget that the successful implementation of a WhatsApp bot solution will result in significant cost savings for your business!

Even for an experienced bot-builder, creating a WhatsApp bot for the first time can be a challenging experience. There are limitations in terms of the specific subject matter, and one has to constantly operate within a narrow framework in order to achieve the best possible results. It’ll be interesting to see the elements/features that WhatsApp decides to support in the near future. We’re hopeful that they’ll make it easier for developers to build bots compatible with their ubiquitous platform.

If there is one aspect of this entire process we’re 100% sure about, it’s that WhatsApp bots are here to stay!

This article has been penned by Nameer Khan, Program Manager at Haptik.

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