Some mistakes take a lot of work to undo. A publisher prints thousands of copies of a book with a major typo. A truck driver spends hours unloading a huge delivery at the wrong address. A catering chef mistakes salt for sugar in a dessert that was meant to feed hundreds. Imagining the time and effort required to fix these mistakes would make anyone cringe. 🙈But Messenger-bot builders are lucky in this sense. Most of the common chatbot mistakes we see users make are easy to avoid, easy to fix, or both.

I'm Jelena, and I've been on the User Happiness team here at Chatfuel for the past two years. I work with clients every day to help them improve their bots—so by this point, I've noticed some trends in the common mistakes bot builders tend to make. Here are the top five I see most often, plus my best tips and tricks on how to avoid them. If you can dodge all five, you'll be on track to providing the most effective Messenger chatbot experience possible!

Mistake #1: Failing to plan properly 📐

If you were building a house, you'd first choose its purpose. Will it be a playhouse for kids, a toolshed, a modern two-bedroom, or a classical three-floor mansion? Next, you'd design a blueprint. If you just started nailing boards together, you'd likely end up with a strange or even unusable structure that doesn't do what it's supposed to.

It's the same with building a chatbot. If you don't plan it out first, your flow might turn out to be confusing, and it likely won't achieve your desired goal.

To avoid this mistake, start by choosing your bot's purpose. Make sure it's something that benefits the user and your business.

💡Example: Let's say your Messenger inbox is overflowing with customer questions. Don't design a basic bot that links to your website's FAQ page just to get these users out of your hair. Instead, create an engaging chat experience to answer common questions one at a time. That way, you'll build relationships and trust with your audience as they get their questions answered. The purpose of this bot puts the customer first, but your business still benefits.

Then, use a pen and paper or a digital drawing tool to map out the general flow before you start building in Chatfuel. This process will help you:

  • identify any potential dead ends or points of confusion
  • design a bot that achieves your goal in the simplest way possible, without superfluous steps

This careful planning is a crucial task if you want to build a Messenger experience that subscribers will find useful, engaging, and easy to follow. It'll also help you make sure that your chatbot achieves what your business needs it to.

Mistake #2: Making the user work too hard 🥵

Imagine you go out to eat in a fine-dining restaurant. The waiter greets you, takes your appetizer order, and brings it out. After that, you never see him again. To get the rest of your meal, you'd have to wander around the restaurant to find him so you can ask to order your entrée. In this situation, most diners would be frustrated and simply leave.

This is exactly the type of experience you don't want to provide to your chatbot subscribers. Instead, you want your bot to be the equivalent of the super-attentive waiter who anticipates the diner's needs and guides them seamlessly through the meal. So your chatbot's flow shouldn't ever leave the user wondering what to do next. It shouldn't ever require them to figure out how to get the assistance they need. If they have to work too hard, they'll leave.

One of the most important rules for building a bot that proactively guides the user through the flow is: Don't leave dead ends. Dead ends are places in your bot's flow where there's no obvious next step for the user to take. It's like asking a friend, How are you today? and them responding, Fine. They didn't return the question or offer any additional information. So now, you're left with the awkward burden of finding another way to continue the conversation, or abandoning it. Don't put bot subscribers in this same position! To avoid this common mistake:

  • Always make the next step clear. Do this by offering quick replies, buttons, galleries, Save User Input plugins, etc. for the subscriber to use. Don't deliver any kind of content without also providing a way for the user to move forward from there. This applies even to the very last block in your flow. Consider adding a button there that takes the user to your FAQs or to the bot's main menu, just in case they need further assistance.
welcome mesage
Even though this is the final message of a flow, it still offers users possible next steps if they need something else.
  • Give instructions for newbies. The first time your bot offers options like buttons, quick replies, etc., you may want to explicitly instruct them on how to choose one. Make it clear that they don't have to type anything in themselves, and that they can select one of the pre-filled responses instead. Something simple like Tap one of the buttons below usually works. This helps those who are new to bots feel comfortable, and understand how easy it is for them to take part in the conversation.
welcome message
This Welcome Message gives a hint on how to use quick replies for users who aren't familiar with chatbots.
  • Create a menu subscribers can always come back to. If your bot opens with a helpful main menu, let users know they can type main menu at any time to come back to it. (Then create an AI rule that will allow this.) Or, set up a persistent menu at the bottom of the Messenger chat window that has "shortcuts" to different useful parts of your bot. But remember: It's still best practice to not leave any dead ends in the flow—even if you set up one of these menus.
You can set up an AI rule to bring users back to the Welcome Message when they type main menu. Or, you could add a persistent menu in the Configure tab.

Mistake #3: Monologuing 🗣

Have you ever been chatting with someone who carries on the conversation like you're not even there? Most of us have experienced it at some point. They're rambling on and on, and probably would hardly notice if you walked away. You don't feel heard or valued.

If your chatbot drones on and on like this without pausing to give the user a say, they'll feel detached, uninvolved, unimportant, and will likely leave too. In order for conversational marketing to work, there must be a proper conversation!

🔑 Key point: A conversation is a two-way dialogue, not a one-way monologue. That's why large walls of text that require no input from the subscriber won't be very effective.

Instead, your Messenger chatbot should encourage frequent user participation. Remember: Buttons and quick replies aren't just for navigation or gathering information. You can also use them to promote user interaction, and show you value their input in this dialogue.

It works even if the options are two versions of the same thing—like Let's go! and Tell me more! as a pair of quick replies. The point is to give subscribers an easy way to stay engaged, kind of like nods and Mhm, I see-type phrases in human conversations.

Chatbot monologues don't allow for user engagement, and they look unnatural and intimidating when they appear on the screen. Save bigger blocks of text for your blog or landing page. Instead, text within your bot should:

  • be concise and appear in short, digestible chunks
  • be engaging and eye-catching (consider using GIFs, images, and emoji)
  • offer plenty of options for user engagement in between chunks to keep things interesting

Make the conversation feel more like two friends texting each other than a robot returning a query. Otherwise, a chatbot conversation loses its power, and becomes nothing more than boring marketing material.

good chatbot practice
The flow on the left is a classic example of TL;DR (too long; didn't read). It's a text monologue that's intimidating and not engaging. The one on the right, however, is visually appealing, concise, and encourages regular user interaction.

Mistake #4: Not offering an easy unsubscribe option 🔒

This mistake goes against Messenger-bot best practices, yes. But it also violates Facebook's Messenger policies, so it's extra important to avoid this error. No matter how fantastic your bot is, some users will inevitably decide it's not for them. When that happens, you need to make it easy for them to unsubscribe from future messages. If you don't, the user may...

  • become frustrated or annoyed, which can forever damage their perception of your brand.
  • report your bot/page to Facebook. If this happens often, Facebook may decide to restrict (or even block, in extreme cases) your chatbot or your page.

Here's the good news: Fixing this common mistake takes 60 seconds or less! The easiest way to provide an unsubscribe option is to add it to your bot's persistent menu. Have this selection lead to a block with a confirmation message. In that block, you can set an attribute that marks the user as unsubscribed. (You can edit the persistent menu in Chatfuel's Configure tab.)

persistent menu
Edit your chatbot's persistent menu in the Configure tab in Chatfuel.

You may also want to set up AI rules that lead to that same block. That way, your bot can send users there in case they try to unsubscribe by typing things like unsubscribe, stop, cancel, etc.

Mistake #5: Treating your bot like a set-and-forget tool 👋

A chatbot is a set-and-forget tool in the sense that it can handle all kinds of tasks automatically, without human assistance. However, if you set up your bot and never check in on it, you'll be missing out on opportunities to optimize and make it even more effective.

You should aim to check in on your bot's performance once or twice a week—at least when it's newly launched, or after you've significantly changed the flow. We recommend you look out for:

user input
If you want direct feedback to check and learn from regularly, your bot can ask users for it and save their responses as attributes.

Don't let these common mistakes trip you up

If you've made any of these common chatbot mistakes, don't worry! First of all, making mistakes is a valuable part of any learning process. Second, as you now know, these common errors are generally pretty easy to fix.

If you want to learn more about building effective bots:

This article was adapted from a session of Chatfuel School: our weekly YouTube livestream with essential info for bot-builders and marketers. It happens every Wednesday at 11am PST. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and turn on notifications to get reminded when we go live!

Happy botting! 🤖

Chatfuel is committed to providing extra support to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the resources we're currently offering. 💙