Author: Willem Vermeulen
Conversation Designer at Crossphase
Published on 20 September 2019

Helpful but not intrusive. Self-assured, but not arrogant. Funny, but doesn’t do bad puns. Those are some character traits of the chatbot I’m working on. Her name is Sarah. And with her bright blue eyes, long blond hair and energetic voice, she’s hard to overlook. And that’s a good thing, because she’s our first point of contact for our customers. And a bit of charisma will go a long way.

Sarah could obviously also have been Hendrik, and could have had a big reddish beard. Or we could have gone for gender neutral Liselore. But no. After an extensive bot persona-session about topics such as gender, character, and backstory, we concluded that blond Sarah was best suited to the company’s tone-of-voice.

Coming up with a bot persona is only one of the many cool things you get to do as a Conversation Designer. Sometimes you’re a detective that scours through customer feedback with a sharp eye, looking for questions the chatbot should have answers for. At other times, you’re more of a psychologist trying to determine whether a bot should be dominant or subservient.

Personally, the thing I enjoy most is to let the bot’s character reflect in the things it says or does.

An example:

You’re working for a large energy provider. A customer asks the bot, ‘What’s your favorite color?’ A good answer would be “Green of course! The color of my favorite type of energy.” Make sure you don’t push it too far, though. She can be funny, but Sarah doesn’t make bad puns. After all, a chatbot’s primary task is to provide information. If you want a good laugh, you’re more likely to just watch Ricky Gervais’ latest Netflix special.

As a discipline, Conversation Design is still in its infancy. On the one hand, that’s partially due to the technology. A lot of platforms chatbots use are not (yet) advanced enough to handle complex, multi-branched transactional dialogs. Some companies also use ‘professional’ Conversation Designers who don’t know the first thing about what they are doing. Their bots use a mix of misplaced empathy and trade language that lands them in the uncanny valley, all while visitor ratings plummet further by the minute.

If you become a chatbot expert at Crossphase, you won’t run into this problem. The experts from Robocopy will train you, and you’ll know all the ins and outs of Conversation Design. Then you’ll also be having debates about whether your bot is a blonde… and whether or not they have a big, bushy beard.

You can also find a Dutch version of this article on LinkedIn.

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