Even though Siri and Alexa are chatbots that many people now believe they can’t live without, it was the SmarterChild chatbot that lived on many people's buddy lists in 2000, and that gave humans their first widespread exposure to chatbots. The thing that SmarterChild, Siri and Alexa have, along with other successful chatbots (computer programmes designed to mimic human conversation), is personality.
Personality is important, but performance takes priority
Robert Hoffer, the creator of SmarterChild, explained their goal was to create a bot people would actually use and to achieve that objective, “we had to make the best friend on the Internet.” They succeeded in creating a bot who could respond with funny, sad, and sarcastic comments—ultimately more human-like than a robot. And, back in 2000, it spoke to 250,000 humans each day, which was extraordinary for the time, so there’s no debate that it was used!
Not every bot should be programmed with snark. In fact, some bots require brevity and direct responses, and chit-chat would be unwelcome. If people are using a chatbot to complete a task, the primary objective for them is to get that task done. In fact, recent research shows that 69 percent of consumers would use a chatbot to get an instant answer; only 15 percent would use it just for fun. Therefore, you can’t sacrifice the performance of the bot for its personality.
Once you ensure the performance of the bot, chatbots have the potential to become a key brand ambassador for your organisation. And the bot’s personality can be a vital component of that.
How do you determine the personality for your chatbot? There are several things to consider when you are developing a personality for your chatbot.
1. What will the chatbot be used for?
You can imagine that a chatbot built to respond to a person in an emergency such as Rescue should be efficient and straightforward with questions and responses while not wasting time trying to be clever. Similarly, you likely don’t want your financial institution’s chatbot to “joke” with you about a negative account balance or razz you about a meagre savings account. When considering the appropriate personality for a chatbot, it begins with understanding the chatbot’s primary use.
2. check your brand guidelines
If your company developed guidelines to inform the design and content for your marketing materials and company brand, then your chatbot should align with those guidelines. Other resources that are also handy would be social media strategies, buyer personas, and company style guides.
3. Who is your ideal customer?
Your chatbot should mirror the persona of your target market. If your ideal customer is a millennial male who loves tech gadgets, the personality of your bot shouldn't mimic the demographics of that millennial male's mom. When your bot uses the language, pop culture references and speaks to the life experiences of your primary demographic, it will more likely connect with your target market.
4. Develop your bot’s personality traits
Some organisations will consider how the bot would react by using the five-factor model of personality. The five factors include openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Other organisations might not be so formal and just consider common personality traits such as if their bot should be friendly, funny, witty, sarcastic, helpful, polite and more to build out the personality traits of their bot.
Opportunities to leverage a chatbot’s personality
Today, your chatbot’s personality is a competitive differentiator. There are some key interaction points that must be considered when building out a chatbot to infuse personality and to take advantage of improving the experience for your consumer.
1. The greeting or opening of the conversation
Most experts agree that it’s good practise to let customers know they are speaking to a machine rather than trying to pass off the interaction—and risk losing the trust of the person—as if it’s with a human. In addition, the way you greet the consumer is an important way of conveying personality. Will your bot say, “Yo” or “Hello” or “Greetings?” All connote a different personality. It’s also useful to share some common tasks the bot can help the person with.
2. Expect unrelated questions
When a human asks a bot a random question, it gives an opportunity for a connexion with that person. Determine how your bot will build that connexion even when asked random questions that have nothing to do with your product or service.
3. The right response at the right time
The attribution of human feelings and beliefs to inanimate things is called anthropomorphism. It is important to keep this principle in mind and make use of it when creating responses that resonate with people. Consumers will become frustrated with a bot similar to how they would with a human if their queries don’t produce a helpful response. They always want to receive the right response at the right time. Anything less than that will lead to frustration.
4. Avoid repetitive responses
It's important that your bot can clarify questions when they don't understand, and it can give the consumer a way out of the interaction. There's nothing more frustrating—in a human or bot interaction—when all you get in response is the same circuitous replies.
5. Humour and wit
Use humour and wit thoughtfully during interactions. It can help deliver your brand experience, but if used inappropriately it can backfire.
6. Your bot should have manners too!
Don’t forget to give your bot manners as well. Ultimately, it’s an important extension of your brand and how you deliver stellar customer service.
7. Signing off
Another opportunity to insert personality into an interaction is in the way the bot closes out conversation.
There’s more than the technology to consider when building out a chatbot. Be intentional about your bot’s personality so that it can produce the best results for your company.
Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.