Now that you've gotten the green light from your management to go ahead with your organization's AI chatbot or virtual assistant use case, you need to figure out how to bring it to life. In this article, we look at how to breathe life into your chatbot by giving it a voice, specifically, your brand's voice.
Introducing a chatbot means adding a new touchpoint for your customers to reach out to your business in the customer journey. Every touchpoint represents an opportunity to strengthen your brand equity by evoking your brand's tone of voice.
"They (chatbots) are ideal for multi-touch user journeys." - Preetham Venkky, director of KRDS Digital, on the Marketing Interactive
Chatbots and virtual assistants are great tools to articulate your brand's story. They can be seen as an extension of your company's customer service or sales team, depending on which function they were built to serve. As with every customer-facing initiative, the tone of voice must be carefully curated to ensure a consistent experience across all of a brand's touchpoints; a well-designed personality can truly bring a brand's story and ethos to life. Today we look at some of the best practices in creating a persona for your company's chatbot.
Give Your Bot an Identity (and a Face)
Imagine you had to introduce your chatbot to a friend. What's his/her name? How old is he? Where is he from? What's his favourite colour? What does he do for a living? How does he spend his time on the weekends? These are pretty basic questions a human would have no problems answering, a chatbot shouldn't, either.
Parkway Hospital’s chatbot, Pam, is a friendly Singaporean lady in her mid-30s
Unilever Food Solutions’ Messenger chatbot, Chef Nas, provides chefs and restaurant operators with tips and tricks in colloquial Malay and English, endearingly called ‘Manglish’
The simplest way to standardize this process is to create a profile for your bot and have your company's Corporate Communications and Public Relations department advise on the recommended answers. This will form the blueprint which dictates how the chatbot answers the rest of its questions and the brand's values will influence the chatbot's eventual persona.
Have fun while you're at it -- the best chatbots out there adapt with changing times and is human-like. Is Christmas right around the corner? Put a Santa hat on your chatbot's avatar!
Infuse Your Bot's Script with the Given Persona
After establishing the blueprint, the rest of the bot's interactions should follow it strictly as a guideline. Take, for example, a customer service chatbot in the hospitality industry, given two different brands with differing values:
Customer's question to the chatbot: "Can I request for early check-in?"
Brand A values: wild, vivacious and young
Potential response: Early check-in? Not an issue at all! Just write to our friendly Concierge to request for early check-in up to a week before your date of arrival, it will be granted as long as there is availability. We know you can't wait to get into our sheets! 😉
Brand B values: luxurious, invigorating and exclusive
Potential response: Our Customer Excellence team will do our utmost to ensure you have the best stay at our hotel, please write into or call our Customer Excellence team up to a week before your date of arrival to request for early check-in. Subject to availability, our Concierge will inform you 24-hours before your designated check-in time.
Consider using appropriate emojis and gifs to make the experience more exciting and conversational.
Do a Final Sanity Check
Pepper your bot's personality throughout its responses and the entire customer journey, but also ensure that you have somebody (preferably an experienced copywriter) to vet through every answer before you launch. A consistent tone of voice is crucial in providing an enjoyable customer experience to the end-user. The last thing you want is to have your chatbot sounding like a frenzied person with multiple clashing personalities and contradictory answers. An example of an incongruous voice would be as follows:
End-user: Hi there, can I check what are your opening hours?
Chatbot: We are open from 10 am to 10 pm daily.
End-user: Okay cool, I need to return my order to your store.
Chatbot: Feel free to drop by one of our stores and our friendly retail assistants will help you with returns and exchanges, no questions asked! 😊
End-user: Can sale items be returned?
Chatbot: No, you cannot return items purchased on sale or those with promotions and discounts.
Besides the apparent factual contradiction, the bot sounds much more enthusiastic in its second response compared to the rest of its replies. Decide on an energy level and stick with it! Being consistent in her answers is what made x.ai's Amy so popular with its enterprise end-users, allowing her to help schedule over 1 million meetings.
Involve Your Employees
One new method we came across was to run internal campaigns and competitions in naming your company's chatbot. From a brand communication perspective, this is a perfect chance to ensure internal alignment with your stakeholders. One of our customers ran a naming competition to name their virtual assistant and selected the final winning entry with a company-wide voting exercise. This was also a convenient approach to spread the word about a new digital transformation initiative to gain buy-in.
I encourage you to think of your chatbot or virtual assistant as a new employee or representative your company is sending out into the world. If your customer service staff wears a uniform and greets your customers with a smile and a jingle, your chatbot should too. Not to mention, the most significant benefit of an automated solution like an AI conversational assistant is that it never takes a break and can serve multiple (and unlimited) customers at once, without ever becoming grumpy! We discussed the ROI of bots versus call centres in another post which you can read here.
When compiling the answers to your customer's frequently asked questions and the workflows for your use case, remember to inject your company's voice and personality into your chatbot. While missing a personality isn't going to make-or-break your chatbot, it is the vital difference that sets the mediocre and outstanding ones apart.