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How to Manage the Growing Pains of Your New Chatbot

Phong Ly
6 min read
Feb 23, 2018
Chat bot pains allegory photo

If there is any evidence we’re living in the future, the rise of chatbots is about as clear as it gets.

While it might seem like this phenomenon has only been around for a couple short years, chatbots have actually been around since 1966! However, it wasn’t until 2016 when bots for Facebook Messenger came along and changed everything. Nowadays, businesses are using these types of automated channels to provide instantaneous customer support, answer questions, and even make sales!

Although every single case will come with its own set of challenges, there are several improvement strategies that are more or less universal. Here are some approaches to tackle the growing pains of your new chatbot.

Incorporate data-backed empathy

Data-backed empathy is aptly described by Gigaom Founder Om Malik, who in his blog says that “data without a soul is meaningless.”

Data-driven companies have access to boundless customer data and they need to use it for offering enhanced emotional experience and not the other way round.

It’s all about filling the void by rethinking data before using it in the chatbots.

Fortunately, when creating a chatbot, emulating a common business-to-customer conversation design is not overly complex. The key is knowing how to introduce your customer journey in a conversational tone. One of the better examples comes from eBay’s shopbot.

Live Chat chat bot conversation example class=

eBay has designed the bot to be conversational and slowly push the customer down the sales funnel. For today’s tech and ecommerce-based businesses, this means knowing exactly how to mine your offline data and use it to influence both online and physical touchpoints.

For example, your customer data from the point of sale can be a very valuable source of insight, to identify common queries, predict sales trends, and adhere to customer profiles. Based on this information, you can formulate accurate exchanges with templates designed to match empathetic queues that get the best reactions. Chatbot tools like ChatBot are designed to customize this process and make it DIY for businesses. It allows you to incorporate rapport-building small talk into your bot’s programming.

Chat Bot website signup

The concept of “data-backed empathy” might sound a little confusing, but it’s quite simple. Data-backed empathy mostly deals with managing your customers' expectations. A chatbot can help a business gather more data about their customers' needs and preferences. Based on this data, the business can improve their products and provide better customer service.

All it takes is some skill in reading between the lines, to anticipate the expectations that your customers have from your business.

Keep up with colloquial language

Colloquial language involves certain words or expressions used in everyday back-and-forth by common people.

If you want your chatbot to relate to humans, it’s got to, well, talk like humans.

In many cases, chatbots are becoming the first point of contact that many consumers have with businesses. That being said, bots should not only know how to communicate like human beings, but do so the in a way that conveys your company culture in the most positive light. It needs to be designed with lingo and social graces that people can instantly relate to. In essence, even though the customer probably knows they’re speaking to a bot, it should seem as if they are speaking with a human.

Funny coversation with chatbot screen

Here is a fantastic example from publishing company HarperCollins:

Keeping up with colloquial language is going to be a constant growing pain for chatbots. Social media monitoring is a fantastic resource for this purpose.

Tools like Brandwatch allow you keep up with customer sentiment and identify how potential customers talk. A case in point is Ben and Jerry’s. The ice cream makers used the tool to gather insights about their customers with respect to the brand. For example, they can stay on top of mentions of their brand over time, segmented by authors, topics, and other categories:

Ben&jerrys brandwatch analysis

Likewise, by tracking your brand, industry, keywords, etc. you can see how people are interacting on the web and the types of conversational words they are using. With your findings, you can design your chatbots to speak accordingly.

Keep in mind, it’s the people within your company that represent the culture your chatbot needs to convey. This can be a major growing pain when implementing an automated system. For this to work properly, it all starts with the team you bring onboard.

If you want your bot to project a certain aura, the people behind the scenes should fall in line with what that entails. AI-powered tools like Harver are great for accomplishing this. During the hiring process, the system administers specialized assessments to gauge personality traits, situational judgement, adaptability, and problem solving skills, all of which can play a significant role in how your bot is developed.

Think of your chatbot as another employee. The ones who program it should have values and conversational skills that align with the culture you want your business to convey.

Let the bot’s personality evolve

Human personalities evolve. Your chatbot’s personality should follow suit.

Chatbot technology is still very much in the infancy stages, for two reasons. One, chatbots still (mostly) interact using a list of predefined statements and options. Two, they are used primarily for customer service, but are not as effective for pre-sales or managing interactions at all touchpoints. This limits their conversational abilities.

But with so much going on in the tech world, knowing how to use chatbot capabilities in a growing business is going to be a significant challenge for many. The key is having both short and long term plans for your business’ progression and how chatbots will play a role. First, answer the following questions:

As time goes on, and bots become capable of handling more responsibilities, there will certainly be growing pains attached to evolving the bot’s personality around an increasingly AI-dependent company.

Just as with humans, different roles require different personalities. Salespeople require certain traits; as do customer support agents, marketing specialists, etc. As chatbots begin to fill new roles, their personalities must fit the part.

For example, Sephora has been doing a great job in giving their chatbots a personality for the purpose of collecting customer preferences:

Chatbot sephora example

While it’s nearly impossible to know what the chatbot framework will look like in the future, the best thing you can do is stay on top of trending news and examine ways they can be used in your unique situation. A chatbot’s personality will need to evolve concurrently with your business model.

Calling It A Day

Chatbots are here for the long haul – there is no question about it.

If a business can use them correctly, the possibilities are practically endless. As with any new form of technology, growing pains are inevitable. One of the biggest observations of AI, in general, is that there is an everlasting push to make machines more humanlike.

This has wide-ranging implications in business. A Gartner study found that 85% of brands will manage their customer relationships without human interaction by 2020! Chatbots will naturally be at the forefront of the customer service revolution.