Automation is your friend when it comes to having the time to really think, create, pivot and perfect. But when it comes to AI-based chat bots, there's a bit of a dilemma. Customers want personality, naturalness, the sense they're not talking to a machine. And to give them that, you're going to have to think well outside your typical programmer, according to Rurik Bradbury, Global Head of Conversational Strategy at LivePerson.

An interface transition

Bradbury explains that, because of customer expectation and demand, businesses have to move away from traditional interfaces and into conversational ones. Whereas the former type of interface could rely on engineering skills, conversational interfaces need language skills like psychology, linguistics and communications. Subsequently, getting a truly effective chat bot that can "connect" with customers requires companies to diversify their development teams, think beyond the traditional programmer/coder and hire individuals from other backgrounds.

Which people should you look for?

As examples, development teams could hire

  • Creative writers to give the bot a personality and voice distinct to the brand
  • Marketers/Branders to coach and teach the bot how to respond to different scenarios and correct mistakes
  • Customer service professionals to review bot performance and flag bots for additional training
  • Business analysts to ensure companies are using bots properly in the right scenarios and are positioned to perform well and add value to the business

"On our conversational design team, we have English majors, religious studies majors and Broadway and Hollywood script writers--very different people than the stereotypical tech-type associated with apps and websites," says Bradbury. "And as conversation takes over as the main computing interface, I actually believe we will see this tech stereotype flip and no longer be the dominant one in technology."

So why hasn't this happened before?

As for what's driving the shift to bot team diversification and more conversational interfaces, Bradbury identifies two major points.

"A few things have happened recently. First, since messaging on smartphones become the dominant way that people connect with each other, it now makes sense for businesses to adopt the same channel, and to use messaging to connect with consumers. And if businesses use messaging, it makes overwhelming economic sense to use bots for simple tasks--it's a huge productivity gain. Second, with the runaway success of Amazon Alexa and the wide availability of voice interaction through Siri, Google and others, the importance of bots is now very clear. And if you're developing a bot for one channel, it makes sense to extend that same bot across multiple channels--the more conversational channels are in use, the more compelling the economics behind developing bots that run across all of them."

Bradbury also predicts that, as personal bots get better in the way they converse, companies will use more of them to automate rote tasks and tedious workflows, which in turn will have a huge influence on the general nature of office work.

But companies are still feeling out AI, too.

"[...] Most companies are still early in the journey with AI," Bradbury asserts. "Unlike with websites or apps, there's no widely understood process for making and launching bots, so it sometimes takes us a while to navigate the different decision makers and stakeholders as we move these bots into production."

The big takeaway? Great technology that supports a great customer experience and company longevity doesn't need just one type of person anymore, and it can't rely on a single set of skills. Technology that stands in for individuals needs everybody. Bots are only the latest example of this playing out. Look at what you want to do from every angle, and if those on your team come from every possible background, you're probably doing it right.