Yes. It should.

Published on August 16th 2021

Author: Esha Metiary

Conversation designer at Crossphase

Hello i m nik n1ccr z VG68 unsplash

Why small talk?

Small talk plays a crucial part in creating a social connection. Within a chatbot, the option for casual conversation creates engagement, which will then ideally turn into customer loyalty.

Also, there’s the argument that you should no longer view your chatbot as a binary piece of software to improve automation rate, but rather as a vital employee and brand ambassador of your company. Small talk that’s on point is a key element to creating that brand ambassadorship with the bot. Smart bots create trust.

The all knowing bot

Now, the majority of your users will probably use your bot for its supported use cases to solve a problem. However, there will also be a significant group that will test the capabilities of the bot.

A bot answering simple questions like ‘How’s the weather’ or ‘What’s your name’ with ‘I don’t understand’ simply won’t cut it anymore. There are a bunch of data sets and API’s available that provide your bot with that little bit of extra depth and give your users a lot of extra joy. Basically, there’s no excuse not to include small talk.

The data sets and API’s only give factual answers, which of course can be fun, but sometimes your users will desire a more opinionated answer.They will ask your bot what their stance on X or Y is. Nowadays it’s almost required for your brand to be socially responsible and engaged, which means that your bot should be too.

Photo 1582571352032 448f7928eca3

Should I?

A couple conditions apply when creating this kind of small talk.

  1. If your brand does not engage in public debate at all, and never has, it’s safe for the bot to drop the question. Please refrain from ‘I don’t understand’ though, but opt for something neutral like ‘I can’t help with that.’.
  2. If your brand engages in public debate in whatever way, the same standard should be applied to your bot.
  3. If the condition above applies, your conversation designer should still be very wary about what subjects to discuss, and which not. You can’t go all out on BLM, but not have any answers to gender debate-related questions
Stationery 2 2x

But how?

Not to worry, I’ll provide you with a couple of guidelines before you venture in the magical world of small talk.

  1. It’s okay to educate. That’s what debate is for. The basis of a debate, however, is that both parties are receptive to what the other has to say, which is almost never the case in an online disagreement. Try to educate without being condescending or making it a personal attack. Whatever the person does with it then, is up to them.
  2. Chatbot + human ≠ fair debate. So every once in a while, it’s okay to throw in a clincher. Discussion over and the bot has made clear that it doesn’t agree with whatever nonsense the user is uttering.
  3. Cobbler, stick to your last! If your company has no religious or political ties whatsoever, don’t engage on that level. Dodge it. When asked what religion is best, or favorite, the reply should be: ‘I am devoted to all things sports’, or whatever field your bot operates in. And political questions? ‘Don’t be silly, bots can’t vote. Yet 😉’.
  4. Whatever your bot says, stick to your brand voice and ensure that that tone of voice is reflected in the way your bot speaks.
  5. Keep it short and sweet.

And this is the most important one: absolutely no personal attacks. Be the better bot.

You’re kidding

I’m actually not.

Will you lose a part of your public with this kind of small talk? Absolutely. But ask yourself: do I want quantity over quality? Or do I prefer loyal, engaged customers and a strong brand? Because that’s your result. That’s what you’ll get. Also: data is and will always be your biggest consideration, and in case of politically and socially sensitive small talk, it is never in your favour. However, there is a certain power that we as conversation designers can and should exercise for the good of this world. Even though the payoff doesn’t seem substantial at first, it certainly is.

I’ll happily dive into the considerations deeper, but let’s do that next time. For now, remember: no growth without pain.

Get in touch!

The form has successfully been submitted
Sorry, there was an error submitting the form. Please try again or send an email to
Bas 1
Bas Booster
Account manager

Discover what we can do for your organisation

We use cookies
We use cookies to offer you the best experience on our website. Learn more about which cookies we use and adjust them under settings.
Privacy overview
This website uses cookies so that we can offer you the best experience. Cookie information is stored in your browser. For example, we can see which parts of the site you find most interesting and useful and whether we reach people with our advertisements.
Essential Cookies
We place essential cookies and analytical cookies to ensure that basic functions of our website work properly, to be able to record your cookie settings and to be able to analyze anonymous data about the use of our website.
Enabled Disabled
Marketing cookies
This website uses the following cookies: LinkedIn Insights Tag, Facebook Pixel
Enabled Disabled