How to Give Your Chatbot a Personality

As we’ve mentioned, it’s not about the bot, it’s about the conversation. But as with human conversation, it’s crucial that your chatbot has a distinct personality. After all, you’re designing your bot to chat with humans, not with other bots. Personality is what makes conversing with a bot impactful, relevant, and engaging enough to forge a lasting connection between brand and customer. Without a defined personality, your conversation is bound to be static, forgetful, and, in essence, DOA (dead on arrival).

But while it’s important to give your bot personality, it’s also essential not to overwhelm your customer or make the conversation too convoluted. Instead, chat conversations should be clear, simple, topical, and easy to follow. They should guide the customer through the conversation with intention and ease. That’s why it’s important to consider your user’s experience primarily when building a chatbot conversation.

Humans tend to attribute human characteristics or qualities to everything from natural elements to inanimate objects. Consider this example from Denis Johnson’s short story Work: “The wind crying through my earring.” Or TS Elliot’s opening to The Wasteland: “April is the cruelest month.” Even if you don’t actively create a personality for your bot, the user will assign them one anyway. By designing your bot with a specific personality in mind, you control the narrative, while also ensuring your conversation resonates with your customer.

Here are 5 ways to imbue your chatbot with a personality and make your conversations relevant, engaging, and meaningful:

1) Start the conversation off right.

Your greeting, as the first piece of content your customer encounters, is crucial to the success of your bot. It’s important your bot introduces itself right away, but also explains how it can help the user. Tonally, this greeting should strike a balance between being friendly and authoritative.

A good greeting might sound something like this: “Hi {username}, I’m Botty, Brand X’s neighborhood friendly bot. I can help you by recommending products, helping you place an order, and tracking that order.” Starting the conversation by telling the customer exactly what your bot can help with is going to generate far better results than offering a nebulous “How can I help you?” This is in part because it’s better for your bot to have preset answers than open-ended questions. It’s also because a greeting like the one above guides the customer into your conversation with purpose, while still being friendly and engaging.

2) Make the conversation dynamic.

The beauty of chat platforms like Facebook Messenger is they support rich media like images, gifs, and videos really seamlessly and beautifully. These dynamic elements go a long way towards imbuing your bot with personality. They make the conversation more enjoyable, more immersive, and more visually engaging. Emojis are another way to add personality in a fun and evocative way.

3) Keep it simple.

A well-designed chatbot should be exquisitely simple. Simplicity makes the bot easier to understand and interact with, and it makes the user experience as clear as possible. The key to simplicity is not attempting too much at once. Walk the customer through one thing at a time. Offer one type of help before attempting another. And don’t move onto a new topic until you’ve wrapped up the first. Keep your conversation moving, but do so in a focused way.

The other key to simplicity is writing your script in a way that will be easy for your customer to understand. The basis of all good writing, both on the sentence level and on the larger narrative level, is meaning, sense, and clarity. The same is true of a chat script. Ask yourself: do my sentences mean what they say at the literal level? Do they make sense? Are they clear? Keeping it simple also entails being brief. Strunk and White recommend not using ten words where five will do. Keep that in mind when writing your script.

4) Strike the right tone.

Coming up with the right tone of voice for your bot is essential to creating a personality. Think about the tone of your brand’s voice: is it cheeky? Witty? Educational? Consider using the same tone for your bot. Your tone is going to determine how the interactions between the brand and the customer might look. For example, if you’re sending someone a payment confirmation for a secure transaction, you’ll want to convey trust and seriousness, not levity. But if your bot is helping someone book a hotel or order groceries, you have more room for humor and fun.

5) Consider personality more broadly.

Of course, you don’t want to imbue your bot with only one personality trait. Human personalities are multifaceted, and you want your bot to be the same. Think about how these traits might translate to offline personalities. If your bot is going to perform customer support tasks, you want them to be empathetic and patient. If you want them to sell to your customers, they should be convincing and assertive, like real-life salespeople. If they’re going to act as an engagement tool, they should be chatty and extroverted. If they’re going to perform a combination of these tasks, their personality should reflect those different facets.

It might be helpful to base your bot’s personality on set personality types, like the Myers-Briggs personality types or the HEXACO personality inventory. Or it might be helpful to give your bot a backstory, like fiction writers do. Either way, bots should be fun and challenging to build. When you’re having fun and putting thought into your bot’s scripts and interactions, your customer will be more engaged and more inclined to keep connecting with your brand.

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