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Create and manage Chatbot flows and the Question Bank

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What is Chatbot?

LibChat's Chatbot functionality allows you to create your own Flows to serve as the first point of contact and guide end-users toward the answers and resources they're looking for before they even officially chat with one of your chat operators via LibChat. The flows you create connect directly to your existing LibChat Widgets allowing you to deploy Chatbot quickly and easily to the pages where you are already communicating with your patrons via LibChat. Depending on the flows you set up, Chatbot can route patron questions to specific chat departments, prompt them to create a new LibAnswers ticket, execute a LibGuides or LibAnswers search, direct them to a LibCal resource or LibWizard form, and much more.

Example chatbot flow

Each Chatbot flow is rule-based, not AI-based, which means that you will have the opportunity to control the entire user experience for your patrons. And your patrons will have the opportunity to engage or not engage with the Chatbot at their discretion. Additionally, each flow's availability will be tied to the online status of the chat widget it is assigned to—choosing to have the Chatbot activate when "The Chat Widget Loads", "Chat is Online", or "Chat is Offline"—so that you can control exactly when Chatbot will be made available to your patrons.

Don't use LibChat?

While Chatbot can start the conversation and then pass it off to a live chat operator, it doesn't have to. Chatbot can act as a self-contained system and provide an opportunity to connect patrons directly to a librarian for follow-up via email or a LibAnswers Queue. You will still need to set up chat widgets to deploy Chatbot, but there is no need to monitor LibChat if that doesn't fit with your workflow for communicating with your patrons. Create your Chatbot flow, set it so that it activates when the chat widgets loads, assign it to a chat widget, and add that chat widget to the pages where you want to allow your patrons to chat with Chatbot.

Who can create Chatbot flows?

Any LibAnswers user with access to LibChat can create and embed customized chat widgets. Admins with LibChat active have the ability to edit and delete any flow in the system. Regular users with LibChat active, on the other hand, can only edit and delete their own widgets. However, any user can copy or embed any flow they'd like. That way, if you have a heavily customized flow, they can simply reuse it instead of starting from scratch.

Who is this Springboard for?

This Springboard is for anyone who is helping to create and manage your Chatbot flows. There is a lot involved, particularly with the planning and setup stages. When possible, bouncing ideas off of your colleagues—plus divvying up the work!—is highly recommended as you consider how to plan your flows, create the questions for the Question Bank, and hopefully discover more efficient ones, based on the available features. As your needs evolve, tweaking things later is likely inevitable, but early conversations and planning upfront can be super helpful for a successful start. 

Step 1. Plan your Chatbot flow

Before creating a Chatbot flow, whether it's your first or fiftieth, you should take time to plan out what you what to accomplish with the flow (or rather what you want your patrons to accomplish), and what content you expect to have in the flow. Because you will be crafting the rules on your own, ensuring that your flow is well thought out initially will save you significant time during the creation process as you chain together actions.

Consider sketching your ideas out on paper first, or write up a flow chart that lays out the different actions your flow will have, including any possible If/Then rules, you want to include in your Chatbot flow. Then all you have to do is add them to LibAnswers.

To get started, decide first what kind of Chatbot flows you would like to create. Chatbot flows can range from a simple collection of login data to a fully automated process to answer questions with FAQs, LibCal Links, or LibGuides Guides or Databases.  

Example Chatbot flows to consider  
  • Collecting user details for routing: Set up actions to collect a user’s name, email, and ask custom questions to determine where the user should be routed (i.e. the department their chat should be sent to or the queue a ticket should be submitted to).
  • Provide FAQs for commonly asked questions: Allow users to choose from a selection of topics with predetermined FAQs associated with each. This is especially useful for basic questions like: “What are your hours?” or “How do I renew items online?”.
  • Route users to events, Equipment and Spaces bookings, LibGuides, databases, or Appointments: Provide users the opportunity to ask questions and get provided with resources from across the spectrum of your Springshare products.
  • Offer “out of hours” assistance: Allow users to still ask questions, submit tickets, and get resource recommendations even when your chat widgets are offline.

Don’t worry about trying to cover every possible scenario a patron may have for interacting with Chatbot. A good starting point is to just focus on the most frequently asked questions, such as basic information on hours, guidance on looking for resources, etc.

A good way to map out Chatbot flows is to picture how a conversation with patrons would go for your most common scenarios. This will help ensure you are building your Chatbot flow, the actions within the flow, and the If/Then rules within the actions in a way that feels natural for the user interacting with it. It also helps ensure you aren’t forgetting any important info, like asking for the patron’s email!

Familiarize yourself with the available actions

The Actions that are available in each Chatbot flow allow you to guide end-users toward the answers and resources they're looking for before they talk to a chat operator (or without talking to an operator at all). And by utilizing the If/Then rules that certain action types support, you can configure multiple branches that a patron can take through the flow—getting them to the resources (or chat operator) they need more efficiently.

For example, you might ask a question about the patron's affiliation with your institution initially. If they respond that they are a staff member, you could set up a rule with the action that routes them to submit a ticket to your staff-only priority ticketing queue in LibAnswers. If they respond that they're a non-affiliated community member, you could configure a rule that points them to your LibAnswers FAQ for acquiring a community member library card. And if they're a student in need of research help, they could be routed directly to the LibChat department monitored by your Reference staff.

Available Actions
  • Send Message: Allows you to display additional messages to the patron to provide additional context/information to them—without requiring the patron to provide additional information. Multiple messages can be set up in a single action that will be displayed to the patron every 2 seconds. 
  • Ask Question: Allows you to ask free response or multiple-choice questions to your patrons—requiring them to respond before the flow can continue. These questions can be reused from existing questions in the Question Bank or created directly from the Chatbot Flow Builder. Questions created from within the builder can then be added to the Question Bank (to be kept for your private reuse or to be used system-wide) or set to be only used one time with the action being built.

    The Ask Question action supports the creation of If/Then Rules, which allows you to create branches in your flow to direct a patron to specific follow-up actions based on the response that they give to the question being asked.
  • Request Patron Info: Allows you to prompt the patron for their name and contact information (email and/or institutional ID) when interacting with the Chatbot. The responses the patron provides will be sent on to the chat operator if the Chatbot results in sending the patron to chat with an operator in the Name and Contact Info fields for the chat. They'll also be used for the contact information for a ticket if the Chatbot results in the patron submitting a ticket.

    Additionally, if you choose to request the patron's email address and/or institutional ID with the action you can (optionally) configure an If/Then rule for one or the other. For example, you could set up a rule to send patrons to a particular ticket queue based on their email domain. Or you could set up a rule to allow the patron to search a particular FAQ group based on a substring in their ID. 
  • Show FAQs: Allows you to present the patron with content pulled from the FAQ groups of your LibAnswers site. You can choose to display an individual FAQ, allow the patron to search in one of your public FAQ groups (or all of your public FAQs), or show the results of a search for FAQs based on a search of your choosing.

    Additionally, each Show FAQs action type supports If/Then rules allowing you to configure a rule to display follow-up actions if the patron was, or was not, satisfied with the results presented to them.
  • Send to Chat: Allows you to direct your patrons to chat with one of your chat operators—sending them to chat directly with a specific user or to a chat department. Operators that claim a chat originating from your Chatbot will be provided with the patron's full transcript of their interaction with the Chatbot up to the Send to Chat action. And if the selected operator or department isn't available when a patron is interacting with your Chatbot you can continue the flow to allow them to search within a relevant FAQ group, submit a ticket, or direct them elsewhere.

    This action can be used after you've collected sufficient information about what the patron is looking to achieve to direct them to a live chat operator that can address their needs most effectively. For example, your flow might include an Ask Question action where the patron has asked about renewing their borrowed materials with an If/Then rule in place to have them search your borrowing/circulation FAQs based on that response. And if they're unable to find the information they need there you can send them to chat with your Circulation LibChat department—while providing the chat operators within that department with the full transcript of what the Chatbot provided them previously.
  • Submit Ticket: Allows you to prompt the patron to submit a ticket to a queue of your choosing from your LibAnswers site. Similar to the Send to Chat action, this action can be used to provide an opportunity for your patrons to have their question(s) answered if the preceding actions in the flow were unable to answer them.

    You might consider adding this action to your flow after using the Request Patron Info action to route patrons to the correct queue for their user population (based on their email address domain or institutional ID), or after using Ask Question actions to learn more about what information they're interested in and send them to the correct queue for having their question answered—like sending them to your Archives queue if they've asked about your Special Collections and Archives department.
  • LibGuides Search: Allows you to present the patron with content pulled from your LibGuides site (subscription to LibGuides required). You can choose to display an individual LibGuides (showing its title with a link to the full guide), a link to one of your A-Z Database assets, allow the patron to search LibGuides site, allow the patron to search your A-Z Database list, or share a link to a non-LibGuide page in your site (i.e, your blog, your A-Z Database list, etc.). 

    Additionally, each LibGuides action type supports If/Then rules allowing you to configure a rule to display follow-up actions if the patron was, or was not, satisfied with the results presented to them.
  • Send to LibCal: Allows you to present the patron with content pulled from your LibCal site (subscription to LibCal required). You can choose to display a link to a Spaces booking location, a link to an Equipment booking location, a link to an Appointments booking location, or allow the patron to search for events from your LibCal Events Calendar—choosing to search for events from a specific public calendar or all public calendars.

    Additionally, each LibCal action type supports If/Then rules allowing you to configure a rule to display follow-up actions if the patron was, or was not, satisfied with the results presented to them.
  • Website Link: Allows you to share a URL of your choosing within your flow. This action might be best used as a follow-up action via an If/Then rule to provide the patron with access to a link based on their response to an Ask Question action (or any of the other actions that support If/Then rules).

    Additionally, this action type supports If/Then rules allowing you to configure a rule to display follow-up actions if the patron was, or was not, satisfied with the link presented to them.
  • Show LibWizard Item: Allows you to present the patron with forms, surveys, quizzes, ad pulled from your LibWizard site (subscription to LibWizard required). You can choose to display a link to any form, survey, quiz, or standalone tutorial that you have created in LibWizard.

    Additionally, each action type supports If/Then rules allowing you to configure a rule to display follow-up actions if the patron was, or was not, satisfied with the results presented to them.
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Step 2. Set up the content for your flow including the Question Bank

After you have determined what you want to achieve with your Chatbot flow, you should spend some time ensuring that the content you need for the actions in the flow is ready to be included. This would include creating questions for the Question Bank, determining the questions that you want to ask that should not be included in the bank, and confirming that any other LibAnswers, LibGuides, LibWizard, LibCal, and external web links are ready and available for use. 

Questions for your flow and the Question Bank

The Question Bank is where you store questions that can be reused across your Chatbot flows via the Ask Question action—with an option to keep a question private for your use only or to be used system-wide. 

When creating questions (new questions can be created from the Question Bank or when setting up a new Ask Question action in the builder) for the bank, think about the most common questions you’ll need to ask your patrons to gather information. This includes things like:

  • The relevant department/affiliation/status/membership, etc., the patron has.
  • The kind of assistance the patron will need/request—circulation questions, reference inquiries, etc.
  • ID numbers for library cards, student IDs, etc.
  • Relevant information relating to their university or public library consortium.  

Setting up your frequently used questions will help you in making sure the Chatbot can lead your patrons down the right set of actions via if/then rule branches that you've set up and/or to ensure that your chat operators have all of the necessary information when picking up a chat with the patron.  

Flow-specific questions

If there are questions that you wish to include in a Chatbot flow, but the question is not one that you wish to make available for re-use, you can create flow-specific questions when setting up an Ask Question action in the Chatbot Flow Builder. These questions will be included in your Chatbot transcripts and statistics, but cannot be reused by yourself or any other users.

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Ensure that your other resources are in place

Each flow that you create can also provide your patrons with an opportunity to view resources from LibAnswers and the other Springshare products you subscribe to. From viewing FAQs, LibGuides resources (guides, A-Z databases, and other pages), LibCal bookings (Spaces, Equipment, and Appointments), or LibWizard items to searching your FAQ groups, LibGuides, or LibCal events.

If you expect to include resources from elsewhere in LibAnswers and your other Springshare products, take the time to make sure that those resources are up-to-date and ready for sharing before including them in your flow.

Plan out your If/Then rules

The If/Then Rules that most action types support are essential in making sure that you are directing your patrons to the resources they are looking for while interacting with your Chatbot. These rules allow you to create specific follow-up actions based on how the patron responds to an action presented to them. For example, a simple if/then rule would display a link to your library's hours if the patron's response to an Ask Question action included a mention of "hours"—with you creating a keyword association rule that was triggered when "hours" was included in the response.

If/Then rules will allow you to send a patron down a path of your design and place content relevant to their needs in front of them. And if it ends up that they were unable to accomplish their goals, you can always set up rules that will bring them back to the main flow, directing them to submit a ticket or chat with one of your chat operators.

These rules, in combination with the questions you create, are central to creating a well-structured flow, so be sure that you take the time to plan and sketch out how your rules will be laid out in the flow.

Learn more
  • See the If/Then Rules section of the Create and manage Chatbot flows FAQ.

Step 3. Create your Chatbot flow

After you've developed a solid plan for what you, and your patrons, want to accomplish with a Chatbot flow you're ready to start building it out! The process for building out your flow centers on you selecting an action to add to the flow, configuring the specific options for that action, and then selecting the next action to place in the flow.

While it's recommended to set up the flow's actions sequentially as your patron would encounter them when interacting with the chatbot, you can always add new actions and change their order at any point should the need to re-order the flow's actions arise.

Example of the Chatbot flow builder
Example of the Chatbot flow builder

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Step 4. Add your flow to a chat widget

With your Chatbot flow complete, you can assign it to the chat widget(s) of your choosing. A single flow can be assigned to any number of chat widgets—allowing you to provide your patrons with access to the same Chatbot across all of your widgets.

Reminder: Chatbot visibility depends on the behavior you choose for when your Chatbot flow will be active—loading when the widget loads, when the chat widget is online, or when the chat widget is offline.

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Manage existing flows, Chatbot transcripts, and statistics

After you have your Chatbot flows up and running, and your patrons have been interacting and engaging with the Chatbot, you can start to gather the details of how to assess your patrons' Chatbot sessions. Chatbot offers full transcripts and statistics for you to view the path that your patrons take through the available actions within each flow, a breakdown of how each session ended (successful, incomplete, send to chat, or submitting a ticket), and the most popular responses to the questions asked to the patrons across your flows.

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