In this Information Age, customer satisfaction continues to rely on human interaction. Approximately 79 percent of customers prefer interacting with human beings when it comes to obtaining information or advice.¹ So to be effective, your chatbot has to offer more than just a simple user experience. It must elicit emotions from its users, like the droids in Star Wars or Samantha, the virtual assistant in the film Her. Here are three qualities your chatbot must embody in order to provide a human-centric customer experience.
Expertise: train your chatbot
Your chatbot must respond to the questions it’s asked. Obviously, this is the foundation of an efficient—and human—client relationship! A virtual assistant that doesn’t know how and when to redirect users to the appropriate support person is of no assistance at all. And a virtual guide that’s incapable of supporting users and providing them with a high-quality experience is of no guidance at all.
In order to create satisfying interactions, your bot must avail of a solid knowledge base. The actions of your conversational agent are based on the principle of “if…, then…” and the responses that are offered depend on the questions asked by the users. So, it’s up to you to configure it in anticipation of your clients’ requests. In other words, it’s up to you to train it and teach it how to do its job. The first contact with a user is fundamental: it sets the stage for the quality of the interaction.
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Of course, this expertise must be instilled in your virtual agent. That’s where the Chatbot Manager comes in. This is the person who will be responsible for modeling your bot. To tackle this job, call on the services of an adviser directly involved in customer relations. This person will know how to configure and guide your conversational agent in accordance with your actual needs. But that’s not all: the chatbot must also learn how to convey the values of your brand, while adapting to your target audience.
Increasingly human chatbots
The first generations of chatbots were weak interaction tools, only capable of offering scripted responses to a given number of inquiries. The efficiency was there, it’s true. But there was no room for sensibility or awareness of clients’ needs. Today, thanks to technological advances, avatars have become smarter and more human. Within a few years, austere, inflexible machines have been replaced by evolved virtual characters, from Robby the Robot (Forbidden Planet) to TARS (Interstellar).
As technology continues to progress, chatbots are becoming increasingly humanized. They’re smarter: small talk has become an essential component in the configuration of virtual assistants (here is an example of off-topic questions that users can ask Siri). They’re also more expressive: the creation of avatars (the bot’s visual identity), the diversification of their tone (whether formal or humorous) and the interjection of emotion (in their behavior and their voice) have all helped forge a stronger affinity with clients.
Personalization: find the right balance between efficiency and sensibility
The secret to a chatbot’s efficiency lies in the personalization of its interactions. Because it knows the person it’s addressing, it can offer personalized responses and solutions, leading to increased satisfaction. For example, on the website of a law firm, the chatbot can tailor its interventions according to the user profile, using simple language with novices and legal jargon with professionals.
This added touch of humanity, combined with growing efficiency, is what makes chatbots more relevant in the eyes of users. For Philippe Dias, Manager of Digital Marketing & Innovation at Natixis Interépargne, the quality of a digital relationship relies on a mixture of sensibility and efficiency, with the goal of fully understanding client expectations. An objective made possible by the links forged between your chatbot and your marketing tools (CRM, tracking tools, etc.). These tools allow the chatbot to draw from your database in order to better target users.
Emotion: give your chatbot a personality
To create affinities and elicit emotions, your chatbot is endowed with a personality of its own. This will condition its expressiveness, playing a crucial role in the humanization of the client relationship. Here, appearance is essential. Because when it comes to chatbots, the clothes make the man: as an ambassador of your brand, your virtual assistant adopts an appearance (man or woman, formal or casual) that corresponds to the image you want to portray. For their chatbot, for example, ES Énergies Strasbourg chose the avatar of a young woman (Elsa) as the representative of their client consultants.
Nevertheless, the quest for expressivity isn’t limited to giving the bot a human form. In Star Wars, there’s nothing human about R2-D2 or BB-8, yet this doesn’t stop them from being likeable! For their avatars, Warner Bros. Studios chose to bring two of their famous characters to life: visitors are greeted by Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.
Chatbots have found their voice
Another parameter to take into account is the voice. It’s an integral part of the emotional attributes typically associated with a person. A timbre (soprano or alto, tenor or bass) and a tone are among the elements to be expected in a humanized interaction. The voice of your chatbot must be consistent with your brand image and your target audience: a light, jovial tone for the millennials, a more professional, expert tone for an older or more demanding audience, etc.
However, be careful not to go too far in this sense. An overly human bot may create feelings of uneasiness in users. This is what roboticist Masahiro Mori theorizes in The Uncanny Valley: the more human the machine becomes, the more noticeable its subtle flaws become. As users’ expectations grow, the imperfections become less tolerable. This is why your chatbot must remain a chatbot, eliciting real emotions, but without creating any confusion in the user’s mind as a consequence.
To create a human-centric virtual experience, your chatbot needs to combine three essential qualities: expertise to respond relevantly to questions, sensibility to forge bonds with its users, and a unique personality to elicit emotions. The animated avatars created by Living Actor incorporate all three of these attributes. They adapt to the missions and projects you assign them, while forging bonds of trust with your clients for a more human relationship.
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