The Benefits Of Humanizing Online Conversations With Chatbots
By Chris Greenough, CMO, Everise
As more people turn to online interactions with service providers, it has become critically important to create a ‘sticky’ customer experience. While many organizations have embraced chatbots as the means to engage with end-users at scale and inject a sense of self-service into their offerings, there is still a clear distinction between human agents and machine-driven ones that result in a less immersive environment.
Research has highlighted that 74% of consumers say they use conversational assistants for researching or buying products and services and other functions. With voice, 68% of consumers say that it allows for multi-tasking and accomplishing tasks hands-free. With chat, 59% say that it keeps improving personalization over time. But less than 30% of companies have integrated a form of conversational interface.
At its most basic, a conversational interface is a chatbot experience that naturally processes language as if the person were texting or speaking with another human being. If products can be personalized, it stands to reason that so can online conversations with chatbots. This speaks directly to modern customer expectations for fast, easy, accurate, and tailored services.
People have come to rely on the virtual assistants on their mobile devices that they now talk to, to perform basic searches and services. Over the years, these assistants have become better at understanding language and have evolved beyond only fulfilling basic tasks. It has almost reached the stage where the person can have a conversation with their phone just as they would with a human assistant to get things done.
The importance of a conversation
Cynics might argue the merits of employing conversational interfaces. However, these interfaces have already woven themselves into people’s digital lives and serve as the foundation for brands to build a strong relationship with their customers.
Personifying the brand helps build empathy with the user, something essential when there is a negative situation to contend with. This behavior becomes an extension of a company. And it can transform the voice of the virtual assistant into an asset, such as a mascot for the organization. Conversational interfaces anthropomorphize the engagement, so people start identifying human-like characteristics in these chatbots and their conversations with them. In this way, the company can also better control the personality traits that are embedded into the system. By relying on a traditional chatbot, users themselves assign attributes to the interface which might not necessarily be complimentary.
The ‘perfect assistant’ comes down to who is doing the assisting. It should act more as the connection point in a world that becomes increasingly integrated through systems. But the chatbot should not be about mimicking a person. It should instead focus on empowering the customer by informing, supporting, and advising where needed. Therefore, the chatbot’s personality should be based on the users who are going to use it and the brand that the chatbot represents. In turn, this will see the company identify techniques from character development to create a compelling copy that fits the chatbot’s personality.
However, an organization must remain clear on the difference between the roles and responsibilities of the human agent and the chatbot. This distinction helps create a better understanding internally of the different job scopes at play.
Of course, good copywriting will be the cornerstone of putting in place an effective conversational interface. This can include introducing small talk that adds nuances to the AI assistant’s personality. The look and feel of the chat interface also become important in this regard. Companies must consider the design and animated reactions of the avatar and how these compliments the brand and strengthen the personality of the AI assistant.
It all begins by defining the brand’s personality type. The 12 Jungian Archetypes provide great direction in this regard. The business must also identify its brand mission, goals, and values while considering the user’s profile, segments, and needs. In this way, the AI assistant can optimize its engagements on an individual level. As mentioned, it is also critical to define the job role and responsibilities of the AI assistant to ensure the human agents do not overlap and can remain focused on dealing with more complex queries.
Organizations must understand that a vital storytelling component is needed to humanize the chatbot and make experiences relatable. It is not just scriptwriting but creating a personality for the AI assistant.
We have found that it is best to create an AI assistant entity rather than a gendered being. When bots have more female or feminine characteristics, the chances are high for inappropriate user comments or sexualized interactions.
Additionally, keeping ethnicity in mind can be critical in specific geographies. For instance, creating a bot that overemphasizes a regional accent can inadvertently promote exclusion for customers from other areas, potentially reducing user engagement rates.
People are also more forgiving towards an entity. It is easy to distinguish an entity from a human in a hybrid AI-human model by ensuring the name is neutral and objective. In this way, the business can manage expectations from the onset. However, if a user asks if they are speaking to a bot or human, the business must refine the persona and ensure that the expectations are clear.
It is also important to consider giving the AI assistant a name. People have a strong tendency to anthropomorphize. This is why cars, boats, buildings, and many other inanimate objects have been given names by the people who ‘use’ them. Names have meaning and are powerful indicators of personality, character, and identity. This can be spun into an advantage for the business.
The increasing connectedness of the world means the advantages of employing conversational interfaces to bring business value and a more immersive customer experience cannot be ignored. Organizations must embrace this sooner rather than later or risk becoming irrelevant to a more sophisticated (and demanding) customer base.