Your bot’s really an employee with superhuman responsibilities

Your bot’s really an employee with superhuman responsibilities 1456 816 Ben McCulloch

Consider this scenario.

The company you work for wants to employ someone incredible. That employee will speak to every single customer you have (even if you have hundreds of millions). They might also be the first employee that customers speak to, so they must make a great first impression – every single time.

And that’s not all! This new employee will also go from nobody to brand ambassador in months.

That’s quite a challenge, don’t you think? It sounds more like the storyline to a Netflix sitcom than real life.

And yet, that’s exactly what most AI assistants do. They get designed and built within months, and then they become the front line between customer and brand.

So, who should they be, and what characteristics should they have?

Luckily, Esha Metiary, Conversation Designer at bol.com has some insightful views on this that’ll help all conversation designers consider how to approach their assistant’s persona.

Let’s talk about persona, again

Persona is one aspect of conversation design that seems to get designers riled up. Some have great rationale why we shouldn’t fuss over the details too much, but there are many others who relish the chance to design a character that can be spoken to. You could say that some designers work on bots that would fail if they didn’t have a personality, because those bots aim to provide companionship.

Let’s re-open the topic of persona design from a different angle to understand it better. Esha’s thoughts are brilliant for this, because she poses a simple question:

What does your brand stand for?

As Esha says, “As a conversation designer, you want to prevent your customers from attributing characteristics to your chatbot. You want to be in charge of that narrative as much as you can. So don’t let the customer decide the bot’s persona. [You should] clearly document the persona, let it work for you. And this will work for your brand, and propagating your brand.

Think about it this way. Perhaps the brand you work for made a stand for BLM. That’s a commendable choice. It’s the brand saying ‘we have these values and we’re going to tell everyone about them, even if they don’t agree, and decide to leave us.’ That’s gutsy, because they’re prepared to prioritise their values over the bottom line.

So let’s consider our incredible new employee who will speak to every single customer that stuck with that brand, including the times when it’s been a vocal support for BLM. Shouldn’t their AI assistant represent those values too? Consider the position it’s in – on the frontline – representing the brand to everyone.

That’s quite a question. It also requires the cooperation of conversation designers with the wider organisation to ensure the brand’s values are both defined and represented.

Wait, we thought it was just a bot

You could say that in order to design the persona of your AI assistant, your brand needs to know for sure what it stands for. If you’re not sure, then perhaps the start of the research and design process is the best time to audit the brand’s values and how it communicates them?

If it were a person you were employing, you’d want to make sure they’re briefed on what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable, wouldn’t you? While AI assistants aren’t humans, they do some jobs that humans do, and they do it in a manner that feels humanised. For the customers, there’s not much difference between talking to a human or AI – they both exist to service their needs.

So when you design your AI assistant, don’t think of it as a small cog in the chain. Really, you’re creating a superhuman employee – one that knows the brand’s values and can talk about them, and do that at the same time as it ensures the customer’s needs are met.

Whatever your brand stands for is clearly important to you. When you’re installing someone in the frontline between you and your customers, you want them to be aligned with your values.

Thanks so much to Esha for her insights in the interview! You can listen to the full episode of her podcast on Youtube, Apple Music and Spotify and sign up to the VUX World newsletter to get insights like this pinged to your inbox when they drop!

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