Remember the Microsoft Assistant, Clippy? As bothersome and aggressive as that thing was, I'm beginning to think Clippy was ahead of their time. Enter, chatbots.

What Is A Chatbot?

I turned to expert Peter Lisoskie, disruptor and founder of Chatbot Nation to discuss everything about this tech pivot. "A chatbot is automated software designed to simulate conversation with human users using some kind of chat interface (Facebook messenger, websites, WeChat,  WhatsApp, etc.)." Messaging apps are now bigger than social media, an indicator that we are on the right track.

Over the past couple of months, he's been using chatbots and Facebook Messenger in business, and the results are astounding.

  • 85+% open rates (that's at least 4X email)

  • 25-35% click through rates (that's better than 10X email)

Even more exciting than those numbers is that Peter is finding customers are driving the conversations and interactions with the chatbots, and their attention span (or time spent with the chatbot) is multiples of the average. In business speak, that translates to massive ROI.

The Human Element That Seems to Be Missing From AI

The fault point that always comes up when we talk about bots or even AI is the missing human element, which we all crave, whether we'll admit it or not. So, in order for business to move forward and make this pivot, we will have to build a relationship experience, by humanizing our relationship with AI tech. Chatbot marketing embodies this approach.

Designing The Best Chatbot Experience

Of course, I wouldn't be me, if I didn't turn my focus to the design aspect of this conversation, and in this case, designing the right experience.

My keys to design are critical things that you have to get right in order to transcend the tech aspect and create something that is not a person and not a bot, instead, something capable of building its own significant relationship individually:

  1. Personality - Your Chatbot can't be a person  or it will fail by comparison AND it can't be a bot or it won't establish a strong or intimate enough relationship to guide, influence, and advise. Having been a producer of 1000's of podcasts, I know that an audience sticks around for edutainment - learning and fun. I also know that a great host is more influential and powerful than any marketing tactic. Your chatbot has to achieve that same level of micro-influence.

  2. Sound Effects - This is one of the most challenging parts for providing both differentiation so that not every AI sounds like Siri or a GPS nav system. Voices or sound effects that fit a non-human being might be a perfect solution. My girls can't get enough of BB8 and his quirky sounds but take a lesson here, those sounds need to have a supportive purpose and need to be expressive. Don't force it or box yourself in by creating unnecessary limitations.

  3. Color - This is a common problem with brands because too often they want to slap everything in "their color". This might be a mistake if the Chatbot is being viewed on a phone in bright sunlight or at night on a reversed screen. Color needs to be contextual and help reinforce better interaction, not your brand.

  4. WOW Surprise Paths - Obviously, you need to consider all of the possible paths a consumer might take, but you should also look for the opportunity to provide an above and beyond WOW! experience. Because Halloween just passed, I think back to when I asked Alexa what costume I should wear. Her witty reply, "I would be remiss if I did not suggest the classic ghost costume. A sheet, some scissors and boom, or should I say, Boo, you're a ghost." Preparing for wit, misuse is a must-have part of building a Chatbot capable of relationships. On a similar note, a sense of humor + wit is a dynamic duo that will lead to success if done right.

  5. Name It! - This is where personalities are made, but so too are relationship frustrations and brand failures. Naming too close to human names (without a backup option) is very difficult. We have an Alex and a Vanessa in our house and frequently Alexa responds to both those names. However, on the flip side, being too close to your brand and expecting consumers to have a proper level of trust with your brand  or company name like "Ok Google" or "Echo" can be a losing path. People don't relate to companies, they relate to personalities. If ever there were a time to be clever and thoughtful, this is it.

We've reached the next pivot point in designing and building the relationship experience by humanizing our connections with AI tech, the next inevitable curve coming our way. Will you be ahead of the curve or left behind?

Published on: Nov 1, 2017