What is a default answer?

A default answer is a block in your chatbot like any other: You can add text, images, plugins, etc. to it. However, it's when the default answer is sent to users that makes it unique. When activated, the default answer will be sent any time your Messenger chatbot doesn't understand a user's reply.

It typically says something like Sorry, I didn't understand that., then offers navigation options to help the user find what they need in another way. Think of it like a 404 error on a website. It's a fallback response for when a user types out and sends a message your chatbot isn't set up to have an answer for.

What's the purpose of a default answer?

The main reason is so that users are never hit with a "dead end," or silence from your bot. The default answer tells the user that the bot didn't understand their last message. That way, they know to try again another way (by typing in another message, returning to the main menu, selecting an available button or quick reply, etc.).

The default answer can help keep the conversation going even after a misunderstanding. If there's no default answer and the chatbot simply doesn't respond to a user's message, the user may get frustrated, confused, or not know what to do next. As a result, they might abandon the chat.

What kind of chatbots need a default answer?

Most every type of Messenger chatbot can benefit from having a default answer set up. Here are two specific, common cases where it's especially useful:

Bots that offer pre-set response options 🔢

You may think that a default answer isn't necessary for a Messenger chatbot that offers buttons, quick replies, or other response options for users at every step of the conversation. However, a default answer is still a good idea, just in case.

Some users (especially those who are new to chatbots) may still try and type in their own response, even if you tell them to respond by selecting the options you've set up. The default answer will help them learn to communicate with your bot, and can prevent the conversation from ending abruptly.

Bots equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) 🧠

If you've built an AI chatbot, a default answer is still a good backup to have. AI will help your bot make sense of custom replies users may send. But since AI isn't perfect, there may still be times when the bot doesn't understand a user response.

In that case, the bot can deploy the default answer to ask the user to try rephrasing their query, or encourage them to navigate elsewhere in the bot from a menu option that appears. Again, the default answer can help prevent the user from getting frustrated and the conversation from ending abruptly.

How to set up a default answer

Your Messenger chatbot won't send a default answer automatically until you set it up. It's an easy process, because the default answer takes the form of a block like any other. To activate it, simply add content to it:

  1. Navigate to the Automate tab in Chatfuel.
  2. Click Default Answer in the left-hand panel.
  3. Edit the text and add any other elements as needed in the workspace on the right.

What makes a great default answer

Setting up a default answer that simply says Sorry, I didn't understand that won't be very helpful for your users, because it doesn't give them a next step. Instead, a helpful default answer has three elements:

  1. It tells the user what's happening. Sorry, I didn't understand that takes care of this part. A phrase like this acknowledges that the Messenger chatbot can't respond.
  2. It manages the user's expectations. After that, it's often helpful to remind the user that they're chatting with a bot, not a human. Something like I'm just a robot can work.
  3. It gives the user options. Finally, your default answer should give the user a way to continue the conversation. If your chatbot is equipped with AI, its default answer might tell the user to ask their question again, but in a different way. If your chatbot doesn't have AI, its default answer might come with buttons or quick replies as options for where they can navigate to next.

Other customizations for the default answer

If you want to take your default answer to the next level, you have a few options in Chatfuel:

  • AI rules. If you want your Messenger chatbot to send a specific message (other than the default answer) when it receives certain keywords, you can do this in the Set Up AI tab. For example, if someone types in a message that says question, I have a question, help, ask a question, etc., you can set a relevant message (like a link to your FAQ block) to be sent in response.
  • Randomization. If a user triggers your default answer multiple times, you may want them to receive different versions of it for variety. Here's how to set up randomized default answers.
  • Sending after time has elapsed. If the user abandons the chat and you want to bring them back with the default answer, you can set it to send later, after a certain amount of time has passed. You can do this by setting up the default answer as a sequence.
  • Sending only once. You may want the default answer to be sent only once, even if the user continues to send messages the bot can't understand. Find instructions, here.

How to deactivate the default answer

One common reason to remove the default answer altogether is if you or your team plan to personally intervene in the conversation to resolve a user's issue. In this case, the default answer would be unnecessary, and would get in the way as you and the user are trying to chat directly.

To deactivate the default answer, simply navigate to the default answer block in the left panel of the Automate tab, and remove all its content.

Did this answer your question?