Chatbots: From Customer Support, Advisor to Concierge or Sexbot – Set the Right Tone!

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Whatever your chatbot, just because its a robot, doesn’t mean it has to be robotic. Bots need a personality to engage customers and a tone of voice that resonates with the audience. From the voice of reason to a cheeky marketing character, getting the mix and tone right is essential to successful outcomes and keeping people coming back.

For all the advances in technology, most businesses are built on a series of traditions. Some within their market, within their location and others dictated by perceived best practices or because that’s ‘how things have always been done’.

Therefore, the receptionist tone has passed on to passive call centre agents, while FAQs for all businesses have mostly stuck to the tone that writers have seen in bland enterprise documents and so on.

Back in 2018, only 20% of enterprise bots had a tone of voice, a figure that will grow fast as AI bots and avatars take over more customer interactions. Bots might be mostly text-based now, but video and digital screen emoji-based avatars are growing fast in popularity.

Chatbots allow a business to think again about how they can talk to customers, and allow the marketing or social media team to get creative, but just how far can personality and tone of voice go? In the age of conversational marketing (LINK TO Chatbot Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business in 2020) and marketing automation, the opportunity is there to change the game.

Bood/bad examples and changing voices

Any bot needs to get the basics right, to understand context of what people are asking or saying, and they need to avoid appearing tone deaf. They need to do their job too, with minimal intrusiveness. But, that final layer of personality, be it in the intro and leaving phases of the chat, or a fully-fledged chatterbox can make all the difference to the user, especially for bots trying to be helpful.

Last year provided a few cases in point, with plenty of pros and cons. Notoriously a financial services bot Cleo who’s developers decided it would be “fun” to chat about sexual assault and to abuse people (if they choose to enable her ‘savage mode’) when they spend sizeable amounts of money. Microsoft Tay’s personality was supposed to grow based on input from users, so it didn’t take long for the bot to start displaying hateful political views.

Yes, brands who don’t want to look like boring enterprises can jolly up their bots with a dash of spicy chat, as long as it remains in line with their overall brand persona to avoid confusion. But, every nuance has to be considered just as much as a Super Bowl advert that will hit a massive audience.

Another potential issue is that many chatbots are adding translation services to cater for a global audience, and many salutations or conversation pieces in English might not translate well or be recognised as intended by those on the receiving end.

The right tone for the right result

Whatever your bot, hitting the right tone is key to winning over users. Banking bots need to respond instantly to customer requests for balances or overdraught extensions, but should always be on hand with extra suggestions. Some of that tone can be found in the design alone, without the need for extra words.

HDFC’s Eva bot might not be the most conversational bot, but by design, she looks cheery and useful, and highlights new features among a comprehensive list. She has answered more than 5 million queries from around a million customers with over 85% accuracy, she keeps up with her customers appearing on new platforms like WhatsApp.

The growing market for concierge bots creates a different set of needs. The traditional hotel concierge knows how to get tickets to sold-out events, get a reliable taxi to anywhere, deliver that special gift and much more. The digital concierge isn’t perhaps as magic, but like Rose at The Cosmpolitan, she winning plaudits and fans for her English accent, can-do attitude and ability to deliver more than just reservations. 

A charity or health chatbot needs that sense of compassion and interest in the subject under discussion/ Bots like MyHealthyDay aim to guide people to a better lifestyle through getting to know the user and polite persuasion, a better approach than Cleo’s abuse!

As part of marketing automation, the more you know about the customer the better, and bots that ask questions can drive engagement and add value through the knowledge base they build up. As that relationship turns to the bot giving advice or information, it is better positioned to deliver and act with nuance to make the discussion feel personal.

Which brings us to the dreaded sexbot. The old adage, the sex industry is the earliest of adopters for technology has seen plenty of sexy bots with varying degrees of tease or domination. While not advocating them, they do create lessons for anyone else building a bot and teach some valuable insights for people.

Any business can start out with a basic bot that does what every other bot offers. But, for the business to really stand out with its digital offering, a bit of personality can go a long way to making experiences better, more rewarding and to capture user attention and their loyalty in the long term.

As bots move to voice and video avatars, those options grow, but it is the tone of conversation that will decide if people want to engage or fall back to more traditional methods, so picking the right tone or attitude for a bot is vital.

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