September 22, 2017Justin Jeffress
When developing an Alexa skill, it may be tempting to hardcode your welcome message and call it day. But when you think about natural conversations, you don't need to explain the same thing over and over to someone each time you interact with them. For example, the first time you go to a restaurant, your server may ask, "Have you dined with us before?" and if you answer, “No,“ they will go on to explain their system and pitch their chef's specials.
Now imagine how annoying it would be if you had to sit through that long explanation every single time you went to that restaurant. Like the annoying waiter, a long welcome prompt from your skill can cause engagement with your skill to decline.
When building your skill, think about how your interactions with your customers will change over time based on skill usage. Focus on making the interaction personal. A voice user interface is entirely based on conversation, which is a personal connection.
You can even spice up the welcome message based on the frequency that the user interacts with your skill. If it's been a few days, you could say something like, "Welcome back! It's been a few days since we last spoke." Or if the customer uses the skill daily, you may greet the user with a familiar greeting, like: "Hey! Just who I wanted to see!" or, “Helping you is the best part of my day!”
At this point, you're probably thinking, "I get why, but HOW do I do that?" You can use Amazon DynamoDB to keep track of how often the user is using your skill, then updated your message accordingly. You can even take it one step further to create arrays of relevant phrases that you randomly select pieces from and stitch together into a cohesive sentence. For example, "array a" contains relevant responses for "intent a,” and "array b" contains relevant responses for "intent b.” If "intent b" is revoked, you can randomly select a phrase from "array b" to add variety to the response.
For an example of how to build a welcome message that changes as your user interacts with your skill, please take a look at the cookbook entry, Break up the Monotony; Vary Your Responses. For an example on changing your welcome message based on when your skill was last used, check out the last-use sample code.
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