8 critical elements for your brand's next chatbot

  • Posted on November 21, 2018
  • Estimated reading time 7 minutes

New technologies are always exciting. They bring a wide map of opportunities to develop human-computer interactions. Conversational interfaces, also called chatbots, are a great example of this in action.

Chatbots are software applications that recreate conversations between humans and internet services. These conversational interfaces work with a set of structured and repetitive tasks to simulate a fluent conversation. They have limited mental processes and work with linear answering data. However, their functionality can be improved by implementing artificial intelligence. Using AI enables chatbots to predict human conversation, understand sentiments and recognize images and emotions in the conversation. Sounds pretty powerful, right?

There are a variety of chatbot implementations; the most popular of which are intended for e-commerce scenarios and entertainment (news, media, gaming, etc.). Psychological applications are also an interesting practice for these tools, potentially generating significant value to society.

Designing for chat 

Designing chatbots is not that different from creating other digital products. Implementing this technology requires a holistic comprehension of its functionality and a set of elements needed to develop it. Below is a list of elements to consider when you are creating your brand's next chatbot.

1. Purpose
Creating a chatbot could be an exciting project; but before you get too far ahead of yourself, think about the chatbot’s purpose. Ask yourself if this product is going to resolve a problem or a need for your customers. A chatbot is not a website nor an app substitute. It is a tool that will help you to improve communication with your customers. 

Real-life chatbot purpose case:
For example, modern consumers’ dining behaviors are changing: to eat healthfully, they spend time online searching for a good recipe. But once they find it, shopping for the necessary ingredients can be a nightmare, especially if they are at home, hungry and have no idea where to find them! Realizing this challenge, supermarket Whole Foods created a Facebook chatbot that lets customers browse healthy recipes, find ingredients, and order them from the closest store. The purpose of this chatbot is to increase customer loyalty to the brand.

2. Company values
Understanding the organization’s core values is the key to start working on this kind of project. They provide a guideline to create a chatbot that reflects what is critical to the company. In the previous example, Whole Foods’s values match with the chatbot objectives and build a new experience for customers. Here are some of Whole Food’s values:

  • “We promote the health of our stakeholders through healthy eating education.”
  • “We sell the highest quality natural and organic products available.”
  • “We satisfy, delight and nourish our customers.”

3. Personality
The chatbot is a virtual character built to represent the client brand. Its personality is an emotional characteristic and must be oriented to the audience goal and project objectives.

To shape the personality of this character, consider the following:

  • Name: It is a brand association. It creates an emotional relationship with the user.
  • Gender: Chatbots are looked at as personal assistants. You must take care choosing the chatbot gender as this could generate negative prejudices. Try to be neutral.
  • Location: Where is it based? Or where was it created?
  • Language: Choose one language as a mother tongue. The chatbots could speak different languages but it requires time to teach them how to follow the same conversation with a different language structure.
  • Activities and goals: Define its primary objectives and actions.
  • Motivations and strengths: Being efficient, objective, a problem solver, etc.
  • Other personal characteristics: Having extra personality details; such as the chatbot’s favorite color or hobbies. While not required, these hints of personality can enrich the conversation with the customer. 

4. Tone of Voice
The tone of voice is the rhythm and intonation used to express your brand voice. It directly connects with the chatbot’s personality and company values. That is why you should carefully choose words and expressions that inspire confidence and an approachable dialogue with your users. The tone of the discussion could be humorous, sarcastic, informal, formal, and other adjectives that describe your character.
To shape a tone of voice with your bot conversation and to write a chat script, consider these four areas:

  • Onboarding: what is its name and how it is going to start interacting with you.
    “Hi, there! I’m Esther’s personal bot. Are you waiting to connect with her or get your own bot that people can talk to?” 
  • Functionality: what activities will be available.
  • Feedback and error handling: Bots won’t have all the answers. You need a script that explains how to resolve an issue or provide extra support to your user.  “Sorry, I cannot help you with this. Could you try again?”
  • Close conversation: Choose a friendly conversation sign-off.
    “Ok. Always here to help. Looking forward to your next visit.”

The tone of voice can be a sensitive element since articulating conversations with a human is complex. Work with collaborative teams where you can receive support concerning the intonation needed to express the information. 

5. Conversation flows
Develop map flows where you can outline activities and situations that support user interaction. It could provide clarity and content understanding.

6. Technology
Technology is crucial to develop conversational interfaces. It determines the feasibility of complex dialogs, advances rich interactions and enables artificial intelligence that enriches the content. Rich interactions would make the conversation more engaging: using a text format, buttons, maps, cards, emojis, GIFs, and so on. Work closely with development team and ask them about technical viability.  

7. User interface design
Designing a chatbot window is similar to designing other visual products. You should focus on building modules that follow the company branding, such as typography, color and speech bubble background. Use rich interactions like buttons and cards that can help to increase the user experience interacting with the content. 

8. Test before code
Interactive prototypes are a great way to test the product interaction.  Use the conversation flows and interactive items with different scenarios and tasks to simulate a real chat with your user. This exercise will help you identify the critical interactions and fixed details before launching the technical process.

Getting started with chatbots
Chatbots can be a great tool for generating personalized user experiences. Before building a chatbot for your brand, keep in mind a solid value and purpose to bring to the user and company. These conversational interfaces won’t replace any other digital product; instead, they can help to automate activities and deliver a new way to interact with technology.

The chatbot thinking process still has limitations. Use the latest technologies as an opportunity to construct new experiences and assess new features.

Interested in learning more about the strategy and design behind conversational interfaces? Get in touch with Avanade’s experience design team today.

Petar Stoilov

Great article. Thanks for sharing these insights.

December 5, 2018

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