Editor's Note: This is an installment of our series called Things Every Alexa Skill Should Do, which highlights the important features and lessons that every skill builder can use to make their skills more engaging for customers. Follow the series to learn, get inspired, and build engaging Alexa skills.
Sometimes an Alexa skill needs to present the customer with choices. When you’re building this response into your skill, it’s important to think about what you are asking your customer for, and how they might respond.
Here’s an example using the Dev Tips skill. A customer asks the skill for more information about Alexa Developer Rewards. Once the skill has provided the answer, we want to keep the conversation going by giving the customer another opportunity to ask a question. It is very common to provide prompts like:
“Is there something else I can help you with?”
“Do you have another question?”
“Would you like to know something else?”
The hope with those prompts is that the customer will ask another question. However, you can quickly realize that these are all yes/no questions. If the customer responds with “yes,” Alexa now has to ask again, in a different way, about what their question is. If the customer responds “no,” what is the expected action the skill should take? Should the skill quit? Should the skill prompt the user with things they could ask the skill? As you can see, it leads to confusing interactions. Instead, the skill should ask more specific questions like:
“What else would you like to know about?”
“What can I help you with?”
“What topic can I assist you with?”
Each of these prompts directs the customer to ask their next question, and doesn’t leave any ambiguity about what the skill is expecting from them.
You can also use this type of prompting when providing actual choices, like in a skill for ordering food.
“Which would you like? Pizza, pasta or a salad?”
“Do you want a pizza, pasta, or salad?”
In these two examples, the customer might actually want more than one of the options. You might have the ability to handle this with some well-crafted slots and utterances, but what about when they respond with “yes?” By making your phrasing more specific, you give customers more confidence in their answers, and also get the kinds of responses you want.
“We have pizza, pasta, and salads. For your first item, what would you like?”
By indicating that we’re just talking about the first item, the customer will know that they’ll have an opportunity later to order the pasta, and can just order the pizza on this turn. In this response, we have also front-loaded the possible answers for the customer before asking the question. This reduces the cognitive load on a customer by giving them a list of options first and then asking them which one they want.
Learn more about how you can provide prompts with guidance for customers in the Amazon Alexa Voice Design Guide.
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