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Developing Chatbot Personality: How to Guide 2021

Barbora Jassova
Editorial Manager, Landbot
Illustrator: Jana Pérez
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In this article, we are covering the human part of automated conversational technology: chatbot personality

If you are building a bot for your businesses, regardless of the use case, you are probably wondering whether your assistant should have a personality. Is it even necessary? Do users actually care? Are you capable of creating a believable personality?

Well, without further ado, let us help you answer those questions!

What’s the Hype about Chatbot Personality?

As chatbot technology is becoming ever more nuanced and prolific, its purpose and importance in the conversion funnel are shifting. 

Bots evolved from being mare curiosities to being authentic extensions of your brands’ values and mission. Whether providing product recommendations, answering queries, qualifying leads, or just offering a bit of entertainment, the chatbots of today are considered brand ambassadors.

While positive chatbot interactions can catapult you into the spotlight, bad experiences can severely hurt your business and its reputation. Yielding such influence, brands need to put the interactions chatbots have with their potential and existing customers under scrutiny. 

A well-crafted personality can be a turning point in customer experience, one of the most critical growth and success factors of the 21st century:


According to a research paper by Tuva Lunde Smestad and Frode Volden that investigated the effects of chatbot personality or lack thereof, personality has a strong positive impact on the overall user experience

So, the hype around chatbot personality is not entirely unfounded. It has its place and purpose in your conversational strategy planning.

The question you need to ask yourself is: Is personality more important than performance?

Performance vs. Personality: What’s More Important?

Now, the opinions in this area vary. Though, at Landbot, we quite strongly advocate for performance over quality. 

After all, results are what counts in the end if you create a bot to carry out a specific task, getting that task done matters most.

According to Business Insider, 48% of consumers care more about a bot being able to solve the issue at hand over it having a personality. According to another study by Ubisend, 69% of consumers would happily speak to a chatbot to get quick answers, but only 15% would chat with it for the fun of it. 

I know, the information seems somewhat contradictory. 

First, chatbot personality improves the experience. Second, most people say they care about bots being more practical than pleasant and entertaining.

Hmm…

Don’t worry. The act of asking what’s more important, performance or personality, serves mainly to remind you not to allow the latter to harm the former. In other words, personality is crucial but only as far as it doesn’t hinder performance. 

If done well, bot personality should enhance performance, not harm it. If the case is the latter, it is, in fact, better to have no personality at all than allow it to hurt bot performance. 

If your bot’s goal is to entertain (e.g., as a fun quiz), then, by all means, place the personality on the pedestal it deserves. 

However (in most cases), before anything else, think of your chatbot's true goal. Make sure that goal is achieved as smoothly as possible. 

Then and only then, worry about everything else. 

Persona, Personality & Visual Identity

When creating an automated version of a human experience such as conversation, it’s essential to take a human-centric approach to the task. 

Like writing a script or a novel, there are many factors to consider when designing your chatbot character. 

You need to ask and answer questions such as:

  • What persona will the bot assume? (Persona: a set of attributes that are on the surface, presented to the rest of us; It includes person’s societal role such as job, interests, hobbies, how they want to be perceived by others, etc.).
  • What personality will tit portray? (Personality: a unique combination of intrinsic emotional and behavioral motivators that become visible in the way people act in different contexts).
  • What will be its avatar? (Avatar: a visual representation of chatbot persona & personality)

Building a convincing character is often underestimated and often downgraded to a meager list of characteristics. 

However, when we talk to a human, we perceive them not only as a set of their social roles, hobbies, job, and passions, etc. but also as the whole of their actions and reactions in different situations. These factors need to be incorporated into your chatbot in order to maximize engagement. 

1. Define Chatbot Persona

Defining your chatbot’s persona allows you to gain a strong understanding of its character. Also, it's much easier to define as it consists of assigning your bot attributes visible to the society such as a job, the interests and beliefs. It might seem a bit excessive, however, it does help to solidify and complete the user chatbot experience.

Like human employees, your virtual assistant should be able to go “off-script” and reflect its persona.

Why?

When speaking to a bot, humans are likely to succumb to the temptation to test its capacity by asking questions that are not always relevant to the bot’s purpose like "Who are you?" or "What do you like to do"

If the bot has a well-defined persona tailored to that audience, the bot’s answers to the non-related questions are bound to entertain and incite emotional connection. It’s always more attractive than having to fall on error loops. 

On the other hand, defining a persona will help you create distinct personality traits that will fit with your brand identity as well as make the conversational flow sound more natural. 

chatbot persona diagram

Hence - as first mentioned by chatbots magazine - when creating a chatbot persona, you should aim to balance these three aspects: 

Your Users/Customers

Ask and answer: 

  • What are your lead/customer segments?
  • Which of these segments will interact with a chatbot? 
  • What are their interests, passions, hobbies, and other values? 

While every customer is unique, it’s crucial that the bot’s persona resonates with the majority of the segment. For example, if your target group includes teenagers primarily, you will want to avoid sounding and having the preferences of a parent, teacher, or another authority figure.

Your Brand Identity

Ask and answer: 

  • What does your brand represent? 
  • If your brand was a human, who would he/she be? 
  • What would he/she like and enjoy doing? 

The answers to these questions should not be much different from those in the previous section. There should be an overlap and perhaps an extra perk (something your audience is not likely to have as a hobby, but it is considered desirable). Alternatively, you might want to avoid promoting certain activities that might be popular but also harmful in excess (e.g., drinking, smoking, etc).

The Purpose of Your Bot

Ask and answer: 

  • Why does your bot exist? 
  • What purpose is it supposed to fulfill?
  • Does the persona characteristic enable the fulfillment of this purpose?

Human employees, regardless of his or her hobbies, interests, and other social roles, adjust their behavior to the purpose for which they have been hired. The same way a bot’s persona should be present but not overtake the purpose-fulfillment. The goal needs to be reflected in the communication as much as any other trait. 

2. Define Chatbot Personality

Often people confuse persona and personality, making a mess of things. 

You see, while persona is what we present to the world, how the society defines us (parent, marketer, youngster, footballer, etc.), personality is behind it all visible through actions and reaction in daily life.

Why does it matter? 

Because humans use the same areas of their brains to interact with bots as they do other humans

So, how exactly do you go about developing a chatbot personality that stems from the previously defined persona your bot presents to the world?

The best way to do it is, actually, going into full academic gear, choosing to adopt one of the two most popular personality models:

  • Myers & Briggs' Personality Model
  • Five-factor Personality Model

Myers & Briggs' Personality Indicator (MBTI)

MBTI is  popular way to assess human personality and can be pretty helpful when building your bots. 

This theory is based on trait balance of four key personality preferences: 

  • Extraversion vs. Introversion: What energizes you? Extroverts gain energy from people and the ambiance around them. Introverts recharge during alone time and periods of peace and quiet. 
  • Thinking vs. Feeling: How do you make decisions? Feelers base their decisions on their emotions and values, while thinkers base them on logic and facts. 
  • Sensing vs. Intuition: How do you gather information? Sensors rely on their senses, things they can see, feel, and hear. Intuitives, on the other hand, consider overall context and look for patterns, meaning, and connections.
  • Judging vs. Perceiving: How do you organize things around you? Judgers prefer structure and regulation, while perceivers like to keep things open and flexible and have trouble committing themselves. 

Based on the four personality preferences, Myers & Briggs outlines 16 personality types. Every personality type has a designated four-letter code, with each letter representing one of the personality preferences:

myers and briggs personalities

Myers & Briggs’s theory is helpful if psychology is really not your forte as it provides you with “ready-made” personality types, one of which is likely to fit your needs. 

Five-Factor Personality Model (FFM)

This model defines human personality by different degrees in which people express five distinct character traits:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Combining variations and degrees of expression of these character traits will create a unique human.

five factor personality model

List the emotional states of your bot (normal, angry, happy, discontent, annoyed, etc.), and using the FFM, map out which traits surface in each of these states. 

For example, answer: How does your bot react when it is in a neutral mood?

  • Is it introverted?
  • Is it outgoing?
  • Is it friendly?

Start by defining the personality traits in neutral situations and expand them based on the interactions the bot is likely to encounter.

For example, if your bot is most likely to interact with people who are sick or not feeling well, how will this situation affect its personality? Will the behavior be more compassionate? How does that compassion translate into the conversation and phrases the bot will use?

You can use one of these types as a starting point and apply tweaks as necessary. 

If you are not sure which type is closest to your brand or target group, you can take one of the free MBTI online tests on behalf of your brand (answering as your brand would if it were a person) and find out!

3. Design the Avatar

Many companies underestimate the importance of developing a compelling avatar. 

Though when it comes to design, this is not an uncommon occurrence. 

However, if you put so much effort into developing your chatbot personality, persona, tone of voice, and conversation flow, why drop the ball with design?

Avatar is one more opportunity to showcase your brand values and image in the most human format available within the realm of digital automation. 

Here are few tips to get you started:

  • Consider the target demographic and audience. Your bot will interact with your customer, therefore determining its design should start with them. For example, a bot dealing with emergency customer service situations or serving as a medical or research assistant should have a more conservative or serious design. A bot servicing gamers or younger audiences can have more fun or futuristic feel.
  • Make your avatar an extension of your branding. The most successful chatbot avatars not only create a positive impression on your users but are also consistent with your brand. The mere sight of your avatar should evoke your brand. 
  • Pick a gender (or not!). Assigning your avatar a gender identity can be a powerful move. However, if having a gender is not innate to your brand or does not mainly signify in terms of your audience, you might be better off with an avatar who doesn’t identify with either. It frees you from gender expectations and/or cultural limitations that might be associated with it.
  • Test multiple designs (from multiple designers?). The best designs are usually not born in a day. Give it time, try out different designs, and test them with your employees or even a selected customer group. Also, by involving several different designers, you can also test the strength and suggestiveness of your chatbot personality and brand image.
  • Design for mobile. Remember, most chatting happens on mobile. Hence, make sure your avatar is mobile-friendly or, in other words, it’s simple enough that it shows well when small. 
  • Name your avatar. There is nothing more human than having a name. If you gave your bot a personality as well as visual identity, put the cherry on top and name your chatbot. Chatbot with a name is easier to connect with and talk about and mention to your friends or on social media. 

4. Test and Adjust

This is the section where we will remind you of the obvious, of the official mantra of digital marketing: You won’t get it right the first time.

So, test, test, test, and adjust as if your life depends on it. 

Why?

Because while your life might not actually depend on it, the success of your bot most surely does. 

Test as much as you can before you release it into the wild. Though once you do, the testing is not over. Once it’s out, that’s the time to really learn about the ups and downs of your bot and its personality. 

Arrange for daily, weekly, or monthly performance reviews, conduct surveys, and gather feedback that lets you revisit and check on the performance of your bot personality. 

Does the personality delight users or frustrates them? Is there anything you can do or change to increase its effectiveness?

To offer the best bot experience, you need to keep your eye on the ball. 

Give Space to Your Bot's Personality (Without Affecting Performance)

Chatbot personality is likely to permeate the entire conversational flow.

However, there are specific, "performace-safe" instances you can make it genuinely take center stage and steal the spotlight without affecting performance and goal completion: 

The Welcome Message — Welcome message is the intro to the chatbot’s capabilities and skills. However, it’s also a great place to set the tone of the conversation and give the users the first sneak peek into the bot’s personality. How does the bot greet the customers? Does it say the proper “Good morning,” or does it jump right into “What’s up?”… Does it reference pop culture or latest events in the industry? 

Chit-Chat & Small Talk — If given space and opportunity, users will mess around with your bot. Hence, giving it a few personable retorts is a way to make the user experience memorable. Just think about all the social media mentions of Siri’s witty answers to philosophical questions, math problems, or joke demands. From personal experience, I can tell you that no matter what the purpose of your bot, users will likely ask it about the weather... don't know why but it's a more common occurrence one would assume. Have retort ready for that!

The (Error) Fall-Back Message — No matter how perfect your conversational design, your NLP bot is bound to get things wrong sometimes. Instead of programming the bot to say something generic like “Sorry, can you please rephrase that? I don’t understand.” grasp the opportunity to spice things up. Given the personality you chose for your avatar, how would they genuinely react if it made a mistake? Would the bot be funny, sarcastic, teasing, or serious and apologetic?

The Goodbye Message — Similarly to the Welcome message, the chatbot’s way of saying goodbye is another chance of making the experience different, making it resonate. After all, the last interaction with the bot is the one the user is likely to keep in mind the longest. So, don’t miss the opportunity to make an impression. For instance, Landbot's Goodbye message block, besides closing the conversation with share buttons, allows for a personalized message you can make quite memorable.

In these instances, your bot can make joke, pop-culture reference to reflect interests or commiserate about a pain-point it has in common with your target group.

Conclusion

Your chatbot, if done right, has the capacity to become one of the strongest brand ambassadors. 

Once you are sure your bot is capable of fulfilling its primary purpose, dive deep into developing its personality - the kind your leads and customers will fall in love with.  

The easiest way to get started is to look at your target audience and your brand first. Those are the two foundations that won’t let you stray from the path. 

A well-designed, personable assistant is powerful. The effort is truly worth it!

Start building your brand ambassador today!


Posted on
June 3, 2021
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