Making Chatbots Talk

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, NOT ARTIFICIAL COMMUNICATION.

Since the early days of artificial intelligence inventions, it was made clear that humans have a desire to communicate with technology in the same manner that we communicate with each other. So finally, we are beginning to attain what we wanted from computers all along: we are beginning to talk with them. Technological advancements in A.I. first warmed the society up in the form of smart phone virtual assistants and more recently, chatbots. This has brought us back to an interface that doesn’t require us to click or swipe; the conversational interface.
As brands jump on the chatbot bandwagon, where the possibilities it presents for the customer service experience seem nearly unlimited, these handy little chatbots are being used to do everything from ordering pizza, finding the right spare parts to your washing machine, figuring out why your internet isn’t working and even changing your flight bookings.

As most brands are more concerned with how things are running on the backend, the actual dialogue becomes an afterthought. I personally think this is where WORDS become the new UI/UX. Indeed, the same effort and attention to detail that once poured over every piece of visual will now have to be applied to each word of a chatbot interaction. The obstacle lies when we believe ourselves to be experts at conversations. After all, we have been talking since we were toddlers, so we must know a thing or two about it. Right?

Sure, we are often quite proficient at telling engaging stories to friends but not necessarily so skilled at coherently communicating a technical process or relevant information to a stranger. A degree of planning and finesse is required to grab and hold the attention of someone who is not worried about hurting your feelings by exiting in the middle of your conversation.

So how should we write believable and compelling chatbot dialogues that will hook users and solve their problems or educate them with relevant information? Here are some suggestions.

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1. Give your chatbot a personality.
You should not trick users into thinking your bot is a human. Rather, give it human-like qualities. Chatbots will work best this way. A personality encourages that kind of natural back-and-forth conversation. You wouldn’t talk to your toaster the way you talk to your friend — unless your toaster had a great sense of humor.

2. Conversation trees with top-level points.
A good rule of thumb is to write down the important points you want to make in each topic of conversation. Be mindful of the order of these points, and the conversation should flow logically. Put the most important points up front; don’t assume the user will make it all the way through every time. If you hook users early, you get to educate them later.

3. Make your scripts as simple as possible.
Your audience could come from a huge cross-section of society, so don’t make your scripts difficult to understand. I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule of what level of readability you’d want to write in, but in general, the simpler the better.

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4. Use emojis wisely.
It’s amazing how quickly people can form an emotional connection with an A.I. when emojis are used in positive responses. However, you may want to introduce emojis later in the conversation when a user has been on-boarded to the chatbot.

5. Limit the length of messages.
Generally, people don’t like reading long paragraphs of text. Engagement will drop. Do keep information concise or break up the text with a question to let users “catch their breath”. They need to be invested in the answers and we don’t want to cause information overload.

6. Continuously review and improve scripts.
The great thing is that there is easy to use simple online marketing techniques like A/B testing and analytics to test and improve your scripts as you go. It’ll take more than a few revisions to go from a technical first draft to a message that also sounds like “plain English”.

Want to find out more on how Chatbots can work for you and your brand? Get in touch at societyscoop@mbww.com

zoe

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