A chatbot is not personal? Think again!

Alexander Wijninga

Alexander Wijninga

| 6 min

Do you believe a chatbot is not a good addition to personal customer service? This is one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to chatbots. Automation of customer service is actually a great solution for personal customer experience. A chatbot is a machine by definition, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be personal like a lot of people might think. He or she, yes in our believe chatbots have a gender, can actually have a complete personality. This personality is a creation of the knowledge and information you provide, so make it your own!

'I want something and I want it now’

To explain why a chatbot can actually be personal it is important to look at the bigger picture first. The first chatbot called ELIZA was designed in 1966. This is more than 25 years before the first website went live! So you can imagine the wonder and impact of ELIZA. Before people could search for information on websites they could have human-like conversations with a machine. ELIZA was the first chatbot programme capable of attempting the Turning Test. This is a test in which an evaluator would have a conversation with two partners. One of these partners is a machine, the other a real person. When testing ELIZA the evaluator couldn’t reliably tell the machine from the human. Thus ELIZA was the first to pass the Turning test.

It took a while before chatbots had a real breakthrough. ELIZA has already passed the age of 50 and now chatbots are finally getting more popular. This didn’t really start till the time Instant Gratification started. Instant Gratification is a trend involved around the expectations and needs of people. We all want our needs fulfilled in an instant. Netflix and Spotify are great examples of fulfilling the instant needs of people.

So right now you might wonder ‘What does that have to do with a chatbot being personal?’. Well, basically everything! Our expectations and needs have an effect on deciding what is and what isn’t personal. And more importantly, whether we really need it to be personal. After ordering new shoes you are wondering, ‘When will my shoes arrive at my doorstep?’. So you turn to the customer service of the webshop. Rather than waiting for a response on the phone or a reply on an e-mail we want the answer instantly. Think about it, letting a customer wait for an answer is the most impersonal thing you could do. An immediate answer puts a mind at ease and improves a customer’s experience.

Information through conversations

The most natural way of gathering information for us humans is through conversations. You ask or say something and the other party responds to that. Searching for information online usually starts with a conversation-like-quest. After googling your question you will receive an answer. An answer in the shape of a list of links you could choose from. All these options help you with gathering more information. Once you click one of the links you arrive on a website and this puts a halt to the two-way-communication. What is left is only the website sending you information.

An Artificial Intelligence chatbot is based on conversational design. The name says it all, but let's dive into it a bit further. Conversational design is a design language based on human conversation. A conversation is a way of communication. In your daily life it is how you would talk to your friends, your colleagues or the barista at Starbucks. This could be in real life, through a phone call or through a messenger app like WhatsApp. The base is about a two sided way of communication where you reply to one another. This is exactly the way you would communicate with a chatbot. The chatbot will give you an answer to the questions you might have. Even more so, a chatbot could ask a question back if further details are needed. Gathering information becomes more natural and human-like. In a way this is actually the most natural way of gathering information. Without having to talk to a real life person a chatbot can have that real human touch.

Personalized service experience

Over time chatbots evolved and they will keep advancing. The Artificial Intelligence, which make the chatbot work, will also improve further. Due to improvements over the past couple of years chatbots became even smarter. Simple questions like ‘What are your opening hours?’ Are no trouble for a chatbot. With today’s technology chatbots are also starting to understand more complex questions. But even now they can already give customers a personalized service experience. Eventually they will become a personal digital assistant to everyone.

“One thing we firmly believe in is that the ultimate form of AI is a digital assistant.”

This is what Harry Shum, EVP of AI and research, said when talking about a new book and future predictions of Artificial intelligence. All the smartphones already have a personal assistant who provide you personalized information. This might seem quite futuristic, but this is exactly what Siri and Alexa are. In the future they will become even more and more personalized.

Besides a personalized service a chatbot can become a real ambassador for a brand. With the right tone-of-voice, look and feel they can become the perfect addition to your team. When creating a chatbot for a younger clientele the brand could choose to add more jokes or gifs (also known as moving an animation for my older readers). A chatbot for a more elderly target group would needs to be more user friendly with a formal tone-of-voice. It might be even best to create a chatbot with a lot of buttons to guide the users to the right answers. Other ways to personalise a chatbot is giving your chatbot a name. Is it going to be a he or a she? What is he or she going to look like? With these things the chatbot can become a real ambassador and give a more personal feeling to the users.

There is always a possibility the chatbot doesn’t understand some questions. It is still a machine and for some questions there is a human needed to really understand what is being asked. When this happens it could handoff the question to a real human service employee, this is called a hybrid model. The chatbot already handled the repetitive questions. This will leave the customer service employees extra time for more complicated questions. So instead of ‘wasting’ their very precious time, they are able to provide an excellent personal service.

Some are afraid that chatbots will replace the customer service department. Combined with a great fear of losing their jobs. But that isn’t entirely true. A chatbot doesn’t need to replace a human colleague. By optimising and automating certain processes there will be more time left. This time can be spent on customers who really yearn a personal approach. Just instead of having a fear for technology, try to change your view. This is a new way of collaboration where machine and humans are working hand-in-hand.

The effects of a chatbot

Some companies might think they do not need a chatbot. They do not get asked that many questions about their products or services. But that doesn’t mean there are no uncertainties. For some consumers, calling or emailing is quite a big step. Talking to a chatbot can lower the step, making it more accessible. Eventually users will actually turn to the chatbot more often. Such is the belief of 70% of the people who already use a chatbot as way of gathering information.

For customer service employees frequently asked questions can become boring and repetitive. A chatbot can handle these questions and always stay positive. The chatbot never grows tired of the same questions. Every one of the users get the same high quality of response. This will improve the experience of customers.

Contradicting the misconception

Automating with a chatbot can be the right solution and a great addition to a customer service team. Even though a lot of people think a chatbot is not a great addition to a personal customer service. We all want answers to our questions and we want them as soon as possible and 24/7. Waiting 15 minutes is annoying and we might leave the premises. A chatbot can provide the right information in the most human-like way. You can have a real conversation because of the Artificial Intelligence and the conversational design. Conversations aren’t only something humans can do anymore. Real conversations can be held with a chatbot. When passing the Turning test, a customer won’t even notice the difference between a chatbot and a person.

The more complicated questions can be handed off to a non digital colleague. This also counts for the moments there needs to be a human involved. The customer service employees now have more time left for a real personal approach. And with the great branding of a chatbot he or she can become a real member of the team. Even the questions an organisation thought weren’t asked can now be answered. With all the ways of offering information you could say a chatbot is actually the most personal!

Hit the heart if you found this article helpful! How would you create a personal chatbot?

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