Chatbot personality: should chatbots be fun or functional?

Simply having a chatbot is no longer enough to differentiate you from any other business out there. However, the way your chatbot works just might be.

The question around chatbots now needs to turn to chatbot personality.

In the pursuit of consistently great customer service, are chatbots better staying strictly practical, or is a peppy personality the way to go? Is a great experience created by fun, or function?

We evaluate whether chatbots should stay specific and limited to set tasks, or be given fun, humorous and distinctive personalities.

What is chatbot personality?

Chatbot personality: the sum of any human-like characteristics the bot is programmed to display.

A fun, consistent chatbot personality is achieved by thoughtfully designing the way your chatbot interacts with customers. Chatbot personality relies on maintaining the overall tone of voice it has from conversation start to finish.

This involves carefully choosing the words a chatbot uses. It means controlling the ways your chatbot keeps a conversation on track, or answers irrelevant or confusing queries.

Does the chatbot use colloquialisms, GIFs, or emojis? Should it? Or should a chatbot simply answer the questions it’s asked about a specific business or product, and nothing more?

Chatbot personality defines the user experience. Think Alexa or Siri, for example. Their personalities are key to the way users interact with their services. The jokes, sarcasm, and the way they handle complex conversation are all integral to their success as artificially intelligent assistants.

So, why would this personality requirement for voice-based chatbots be any different for text-based chatbots?

Robotic functionality?

Text-based chatbots tend to be functional website assistants, limited to performing set actions. They typically specialise in one area – such as taking bookings for a hotel website, or routing support requests on a help desk.

Because of these parameters, a functional chatbot doesn’t try to hide what it is. It’s not a peppy person: it’s simply a tool for customers to use to ask questions and access customer support.

The big danger of a functional chatbot is it sounding overly robotic or cold. After all, there’s not necessarily a need for a personality when handling basic FAQ.

But a chatbot can still be specialised and functional without frustrating users with inflexibility. To avoid sounding robotic, a functional chatbot simply needs to be capable of understanding questions and replying appropriately, which – if it is functional – it will.

If understanding is lost, a functional chatbot needs to prevent falling into a frustrating feedback loop. This means supplying more than one repetitive response, and having the ability to escalate the chat to a human.

So, ‘functional’ is not synonymous with ‘bad’ or ‘robotic.’

Getting the job done

Sometimes customers don’t need, or want, jokes from an over-friendly chatbot. They want the information they came for.

An overpowering chatbot personality can make a bot highly frustrating to talk to – particularly for customers that are in a rush, or an unfriendly mood.

In these instances, a human agent would be able to recognise mood and respond appropriately.

A chatbot is less intuitive, and less able to adapt its personality traits to the needs of each customer. Trying to force-feed fun to irritable customers is an instant recipe for trouble.

Yes, a chatbot conversation needs to flow naturally, but that doesn’t mean your bot should be clownish.

It’s ultimately there to assist, not to entertain.

Flaunting fun

This doesn’t mean to say that a cold, mechanical chatbot personality is the way forwards. When interacting with your business, customers expect a human touch. This is still the case, even when they’re interacting with a bot.

While a purely functional chatbot is often good at helping customers, it creates a neutral experience at best – not a fun or notable one.

Humans remember emotions, and this is where a fun chatbot personality can make that neutral experience into a great, memorable one. By giving your chatbot personality, you can create a more human connection with your customers.

This could be as simple as incorporating natural-sounding language, such as ‘Hey!’ instead of “Hello, how can I be of assistance?” Or, it could be the use of suitable GIF responses or memes in place of scripted text.

You might even train your chatbot to tell or respond to basic joke formats – such as replying, ‘Who’s there?’ if a playful customer types ‘Knock knock’.

Blending with your brand

Ultimately, a good chatbot personality is one tailored to your brand. By giving your chatbot a friendly, warm ‘voice’ with its own personality quirks, you make your chatbot unique. This can create a competitive edge against competitor chatbots – if the personality quirks are appreciated by your customers.

But remember: no matter how fun or friendly a chatbot is, if it doesn’t work well, it will always irritate customers. That’s the key to the functional vs fun debate.

A fun chatbot personality is important, but it’s best used as a seasoning to a functional chatbot that can answer the important questions.

The best chatbot experience, then, comes from blending functional with fun. When doing so, you must find the functional-fun balance that suits your brand identity. Your brand is the symbol that your customers trust, and it’s this brand consistency that will endear customers to your chatbot.

So, your chatbot might have a more formal, functional chatbot personality, or it could be peppy and humorous. The best chatbot personality is one that fits with your branding and your tone of voice. A jokey chatbot in banking may not receive the same acceptance as it would for a food delivery business, for example.

Put the ‘fun’ in ‘functional’

Function is about ensuring that your chatbot works smoothly and serves its primary purpose. Chatbot personality is the extra little best practices that turn a neutral, functional experience into a great, memorable interaction.

So, should chatbots have personality? The consensus appears to be a resounding yes.

But be sure to remember that a personality isn’t the only ingredient in a great chatbot experience. After all, ‘fun’ is the first part of ‘functional’.

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