19 Jan 2023 By: Michael Kansky

If you are in the process of implementing or re-designing an existing SMS Chatbot, this article is for you. Here, we review all of the basic principles of SMS Chatbots and their best applications. We discuss the major differences between SMS Chatbot and a traditional web chatbot. We also go over some examples of successful SMS Chatbot implementations to help you build an effective conversation flow that does not frustrate customers.

A Typical Chatbot Evolution Story

Once upon a time, there was a store and it had customers. Those customers had questions that needed answers. So the business hired associates to answer customers’ questions. Then, people invented the internet. The business built a website, added live chat, and asked associates to answer customers’ questions that come in not only from in-store customers and phone calls but also via the website live chat. Then people invented SMS, so the business asked its associates to answer questions that come in via customer texts, too. There were so many questions coming that the business needed to hire more associates which depleted the store’s profits.

Then people invented Chatbots. So the business thought that was the saving grace and decided to let all associates go and replaced them with a chatbot thinking it will now handle all customers’ questions. But it did not work. Customers grew more frustrated with the chatbot as it was not able to answer all customers’ questions accurately. Business’ profits depleted even more as it started to lose customers.

The moral of the story is that there is no silver bullet that solves all of your customer support challenges. Chatbot technology is definitely not ready to replace human customer support staff completely. However, if built properly, it can help in decreasing customer service inquiry volume that must be answered by a human while reducing operating costs for your business.

Chatbot that is designed for the web differs from the one intended for SMS. Let’s review the main differences between the two and go over some examples of properly built SMS chatbots.

Main differences between SMS and In-Browser Chatbots

Although an SMS chatbot is closely related to a web/browser-based chatbot, it has some major limitations.

  • SMS chatbots must refrain from sending long messages (160 characters max)
  • Refrain from asking customers to provide complicated or long answers. 
  • SMS Chatbots lose most if not all interactivity and versatility web chatbots provide (interactive form fill, in-line input validation, inline JavaScript execution, interactive cards, and more)
  • And a BIG one! SMS Chatbots are NOT PCI or HIPAA-compliant, so you cannot exchange private information via SMS.

SMS Chatbot best practices

When asking for a response from a customer, supply all of the possible answers to your questions. Structure your question so the required response is clear and leaves no room for mistakes

Here are some examples of effective question-answer structures:

Respond with YES if you are 21 years of age or older. Otherwise please respond with NO.

Do you agree/disagree that global warming is real?
1: Agree
2: Disagree

Please select a topping
Reply ‘1’ for mushrooms
Reply ‘2’ for sausage
Reply ‘3’ or spinach

We got all of the information we needed. Please reply ‘submit’ or ‘s’ to submit the information and enter the sweepstakes

How would you rate the experience with Eddie’s bikes?
‘A’ for excellent
‘B’ for average
‘C’ for poor

Make sure your SMS Bot provides an unforced, easy-to-understand value for the user

Your SMS Chatbot must provide value. Clearly state what customers will gain before commencing an SMS conversation.

We will ask 7 questions to be able to approve you for credit. Are you ready? Reply with ‘yes’ or ‘y’ to begin.

You are just in time to register for our BETA. Congratulations! All we need is your name and email to have your spot reserved. Please reply with ‘Go’ to get started

Make it fun!

Use emojis and animated gifs.

You are almost there, just 2 questions left! Put that champagne on ice 🥂

You are a real hero!

Use playful language.

My brother Howdy asked me to see sunrise with him this morning. There is no sunrise so beautiful that it is worth waking me up to see it 😏

Enrich messages with customers’ personal information.

By the way, happy belated birthday, Laurie! They say that birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest.

Make customers’ phones work in your favor. Trigger automatic suggestions by using properly formulated questions.

“What is your name”, “What is your email address?”, “What is your zip code?”, “What is your phone number?”

The above questions will all auto-suggest a response for customers if the required information is stored on their phone.
SMS auto-suggest

Choose the right Bot platform

Make sure the Bot platform you are using allows building one Bot flow that may be used across all platforms (Web, SMS, Facebook, etc.) It should also be intelligent enough to offer SMS medium to customer launching chat in a web browser initially.

Best SMS Chatbot Development Software

There are currently not many out-of-the-box SMS Chatbot development tools available on the market. In fact, we are only aware of one, the one we use here to develop SMS Bots for our clients at HelpSquad. LiveHelpNow chatbot platform allows to build one Bot flow and apply it to both web and SMS chats. Moreover, LiveHelpNow team develops the initial Bot flow free of charge and then helps users in every step of improving, optimizing and enriching the Bot experience. LiveHelpNow Bot can communicate and pull data from any external API which allows for facilitating truly valuable and helpful interactions.

The majority of companies currently develop SMS Bots by hiring developers and building on top of Twilio or Bandwidth platforms which are great options if you have the budget and time available. On average it takes about a $50,000 investment and three months of development and testing before your Bot is ready for prime time. We can do the same in 14 days and with less than a $1k investment in the LiveHelpNow platform.

Examples of Awesome SMS Chatbots

The following examples show well-implemented SMS Chatbots that provide value. They serve as a starting point to give you ideas on what your SMS Chatbot could look like and to benefit your business. We organized examples by industry to help you navigate the samples.

Hospitality


Hello David, your room is ready! Please head to the 5th floor room #12345. Elevators are on the right hand side from the reception.
Would you like a restaurant reservation for this evening? Reply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’

Yes

You are in the heart of the town so we have many choices for you!
Reply “1” for “American Ale House”, traditional American cuisine
Reply “2” for “French Threesome”, traditional French cuisine
Reply “3” for “Italian Mama”, traditional Italian cuisine

3

Excellent choice, David. Please confirm by replying ‘Yes’ if reservation is for 2 people?

yes

Italian Mama has 2 dinner slots open for 2 for tonight.
Please reply ‘1’ for 6:30PM
Please reply ‘2’ for 8:00PM

1

Your reservation with Italian Mama for 6:30 PM for 2 people is now confirmed. It is a full bar casual dining restaurant. We know you will enjoy it!


E-Commerce


Hello is my order shipped?

Hello there, happy to find out for you!

What is your email address please?

wizmo@wizmo.com

Thank you! And what is the shipping zip code?

12345

I got all I need, just a minute, checking…

Ok

Yippy-dippy-do, your order #2343 is shipped yesterday and is arriving tomorrow by 5PM!

That’s great, thank you!

My absolute pleasure! And for being a loyal customer and, might I say, a very pleasant to chat with, here’s 10% off coupon code off your next order #44445544. Enjoy!

Healthcare


Hello need to refill my prescription.

Happy to help! What is your last name please?

Smith

And your date of birth mm/dd/yyyy?

2/4/1975

Thank you! I see two prescriptions in my records for, you Mr. Smith. Would you like to refill both of them? Please reply “y” for Yes or “n” for No.

n

Got it. No problem. Please choose the prescription you would like to refill.
Enter ‘1’ for prescription that starts with “S”
Enter ‘2’ for prescription that starts with “G”

G

Got it! I submitted your refill request to the pharmacy on file for you. It should be ready for pickup this afternoon. Is there anything I can help with today?

No. And OMG was it awesome! Thank you!

Human Resources


Hello, I have an emergency and have to take off 3 days. How many PTO days do I have left?

Hello, so sorry to hear it! I will be able to help with your question.

Can you please provide your last name?

Black

Thank you, Mr. Black and what is your date of birth? (mm/dd/yyyy)

09/02/1980

Got it! You got 10 PTO days left.

Excellent thank you!

My pleasure, I hope everything is alright!

Insurance


Hello, I need to get a copy of Certificate of insurance on my home.

Hello there, absolutely. I will need to some information first.

Please provide your first name

John

Please provide your last name

Benson

Please provide last 4 digits of your social security number

1232

Finally please provide your email.

john.benson@email.com

Got it. I do see two policies for you.
Please reply with ‘1’ for property located at 1212 Bre… St
Please reply with ‘2’ for property located at 5656 Gla… Ln

2

Got it John, thank you! Your COI was emailed to john.benson@email.com.

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The Use of SMS Chatbot

Approach SMS Chatbot development the same way you would facilitate the development of a product, an MVP(most viable product) first. Make sure to identify the clear value the Bot provides to your customers with no gimmicks. Remember to think like a customer, analyze previous live interactions to identify the most asked questions, and develop an SMS Bot to handle low-hanging fruit first. Then move to the next branch to eventually make a Chatbot that rocks your customers’ world and incites them to share their experiences with family and friends.

If you have more questions or looking for guidance with your chatbot project please consider scheduling a meeting with HelpSquad chatbot consulting specialist.

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