Relationship building with chatbots

Over the next 10 years the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence) is going to push the concept of customer relationship building to another level. Chatbots are the early catalysts for this change, with the maturity scale expecting a transition from step-by-step interactions into more complex case management.

When you consider the rapid development of voice-activated assistants such as Alexa, it is not hard to imagine the world depicted in the 2013 movie Her – where the lead actor develops a romantic relationship with Samantha, his computer’s operating system. Before we jump to this extreme, there are some more appropriate ways that you can build a relationship with your customers using chatbots.

chatbot relationship

Ease, Efficiency and Emotion

Today, most businesses have CX (Customer Experience) outcomes focussed on the functional Ease and Efficiency of interacting with their customers. This is an important foundation when building a chatbot, however, to create a customer relationship that leads to loyalty and advocacy, you also need to build Emotion into your CX.

The challenge, of course, is that emotional connections are hard for a business to create. This requires a commitment to not only what you do, but how you do it – with your brand DNA acting as the anchor.


View your chatbot as an employee

Your brand is far more than its logo and identity. Its DNA should represent your values and vision. It should be felt as part of your employee culture and ultimately filter into your processes, products and customer service.

Businesses that have a clearly defined and articulated brand find that they are deeply understood by employees and often heavily defended by customers. A strong brand dictates an employee’s tone of voice with their customers, suppliers and each other, guiding their behaviours and their reactions. The ‘brand’ way is often taught as part of inductions, embedded in procedures and used as a key performance indicator.

By thinking of your chatbot as an employee, it encourages you to consider how its personality should be brought to life in a way that is consistent with your brand. In the future, AI chatbots will need to learn just as an employee does. They will need to understand your industry and the unique language that is used, the expectations of your customers and the category. How your internal processes work, how to deal with customer emotions and how to correct their own mistakes.


Personality design

Whether it is a complex AI chatbot or a simple rules-based chatbot, you will need to spend time defining its personality (i.e. how it does things, not just what it does).

If your brand is already well defined using brand archetypes and with clear guidelines, start there. If not, your first step should be to personify your brand. Explore the question “If your brand was a person – who would it be?” It could be someone famous or a current employee who embodies your values. Consider the following…

  • How would they behave when put in certain situations?
  • What vocabulary would they use? Professional, formal, funny, slang, emoji’s?
  • What would their speed of response and interaction be? Sometimes a thoughtful check provides assurance vs an instant response.
  • How personal/intimate would they be? Do they comment on context, use your personal data, or use image recognition?
  • How would they cross-sell or up-sell?
  • How do they deal with different customer emotions?
  • What do they do when something goes wrong?

Role play is a great way to pressure test scenarios and to define what are acceptable behaviours and responses in-line with your brand. Use a messenger app to role-play a live-chat. This allows you to capture a record of the conversational pathways and interactions – in effect creating a rapid prototype for your developers.


Customer love

In the future, your chatbot could become more important than your current front-line employees. It could be the thing that makes or breaks your customer relationships. And if designed well with a personality that embodies your brand values, it could lead to customer advocacy, loyalty and ultimately love.


Want to learn how to take your first steps into chatbots? Read my blog post Baby-steps with Bots.