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Can Your Chatbot Convey Empathy? Marry Emotion and AI Through Emotional Bot
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Can Your Chatbot Convey Empathy? Marry Emotion and AI Through Emotional Bot

Illustrator: Adan Augusto
emotional chatbot

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology can transform your business by automating processes, notifying you when stock gets low, and providing customer assistance. It’s not just businesses that value AI tools, but consumers too, with 71% gladly using a bot if it improves their customer experience. Chatbots, especially, has brought AI technology to a range of industries to answer customer questions and resolve issues along with offering support.

More recently, the discussion has centered around making chatbots more empathetic to better perform their roles and improve customer relationships. However, this can sound like an idea bordering on sci-fi. Isn’t empathy a human emotion that can’t be replicated by AI? We’re going to look at the benefits of chatbots and the potential they have for emotional intelligence. 

Explaining Empathy

At its core, empathy is about understanding the emotions and feelings of other people. This forms a part of our emotional intelligence, a tool we use to choose appropriate responses and show resilience in difficult situations. Having emotional intelligence can help us to improve the lives of those around us and connect with them, using empathy to see the situation from someone else’s perspective. 

Typically, the ability for high-level emotional intelligence is what sets humans apart from AI and robots, being able to identify the different emotions of others and the appropriate responses to them. In cognitive science, the Turing test draws on this, identifying AI due to the answers given differing from those that a human would give, as AI doesn’t have the same capacity for thinking and feeling. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that chatbots can’t have some level of empathy. 

emotional chatbot turing test
Source: TeachTarget

Conveying empathy can be tricky even for humans to do, often misreading situations or lacking the context to exercise it correctly. For chatbots, this is somewhat impossible, as they cannot interact with people in the same way. Instead, AI shows empathy by recognizing patterns and selecting the relevant response. This makes the AI interface appear less robotic by coding tone and language to create a more friendly persona. 

Unfortunately, empathy isn’t always the appropriate response for a business and does have some limits to where it should be applied. In situations where offensive or hurtful comments are left on social media or your website, it’s better to efficiently remove them completely rather than try to engage with them. In this case, rather than taking an empathetic approach, your business may choose to use automation tools to disable comments or filter malicious content. 

What Is an Emotional Chatbot?

When you start including features of empathy in your chatbot, building its emotional intelligence, you can better connect with your customers and build relationships. This creates an emotional chatbot, not just answering questions or directing customers to your web pages, but providing a personality and responding to customer feelings. For customers, this shows more care and attention from your business, improving their experience on your ecommerce website.

There is a balance required with the amount of emotional intelligence you give your chatbots. Depending on the purpose and character of your chatbot, being overly empathetic may be out of place. For example, in customer support for a contract signing software, where your chatbots’ roles are purely providing information or specification details, there’s less demand for emotional intelligence. Alternatively, in customer support managing complaints, a chatbot could benefit from showing some empathy to clients.

emotional chatbot intelligence

The emotional capacity of your chatbot comes down to your communication strategy and how your AI is programmed. If you put effort into developing a wide range of responses, helping the conversation to focus on the needs of the customer, your chatbot will come across as more empathetic. Emotional chatbots can be used across many industries, from retail and eCommerce to hospitality and healthcare, using test metrics to assure it functions well.  

Increasing Your Chatbot’s Empathy

You may already have a chatbot function on your website, interacting with customers and directing them to other pages and answers as part of your direct to consumer marketing strategy. Introducing an emotional chatbot doesn’t mean you have to undo your previous work here. Instead, you can adapt and improve your existing chatbot to make its communication more empathetic and benefit your business’s customer relationships. 

Understand Your User

Using the demographics and customer metrics from your target audience, recognize what their needs are and why they would use a chatbot. Knowing who your users are and understanding their motivations can help you to make the chatbot useful to them. Even where your chatbot appears can show empathy and acknowledge stages in the customer journey that need additional support.

Likewise, the support your chatbot offers can show your understanding of the user. This could be by suggesting other related products, providing your international phone number, answering FAQs, or directing users around your website. Your chatbot can anticipate the needs of your customers, being proactive in their shopping experience to give them the additional information they need. For users, this comes across as empathetic to their customer experience.

Source: Gruum

Pick the Right Tone

Depending on your eCommerce website and overall brand image, your chatbot is likely to adopt a different tone through its messages. A formal law firm chatbot should come across differently compared to an independent coffee brand, or an online therapy chatbot. You can somewhat gauge the tone your chatbot should adopt by reflecting the tone of message your users are sending.

Once you have identified your tone, all the messages your chatbot sends need to fit with it. Your chatbot also forms a part of your brand voice, so reviewing your existing content and marketing can also provide a good indicator of the tone of voice you should use. This can make your chatbot more conversational and make customers feel more comfortable using it, improving their experience. 

Reply to Questions

Website chatbots only have a limited number of responses to customer questions or complaints. On occasion, the response they give doesn’t align with what the customer has said, making it apparent to the user that they are using a programmed tool. The more your chatbot responds directly to what was asked, the more empathetic it will come across as and better the customer experience.

Identify the most common questions your chatbot is asked and ensure your bot has suitable and relevant responses to these. It’s impossible to anticipate every query from customers, so program your bot with a standard response directing users to your FAQs for less common questions. Alternatively, set up your chatbot so that customers input using preselected responses, meaning your bot always replies appropriately.

chatbot empathy
Source: By Rotation

Be Transparent

Although chatbots replicate and replace customers’ conversations with real employees, they can’t pretend to be them. However well-programmed a chatbot is, it’s best to be upfront with customers that they are interacting with a bot. Being honest can prevent issues later on in the conversation, making them aware that there may be limitations to what the chatbot can do and reducing miscommunication.

As the chatbot is opened or appears in the user's browser, it’s worth programming it to introduce itself and explain that it is a chatbot. This prevents any misunderstanding that the responses users are getting are coming from a customer service employee. Although this may not appear to improve the empathy of the chatbot, it does portray your online business as transparent in what they do, building trust with your customers.

Personalize

Within eCommerce, personalization is a hugely attractive feature of a proposal for website development or business. Applying this to your chatbot can make it more empathetic and customers feel like they are being individually addressed. By analyzing data from their website visits or log-in profile, along with asking for information, your chatbot can create a highly personalized experience for customers. 

Something as simple as addressing customers by their name or recommending similar products to those they’ve looked at can give your chatbot a personal touch. Using this at relevant points in the customer journey makes your chatbot more empathetic. Even so when programming, be wary of overusing this data too -  not every chatbot response needs to refer to the user by name or list every page they’ve visited. 

chatbot empathy

Are you Using an Emotional Chatbot?

Providing great customer service is always a concern of businesses and integrating AI technology into your website can assist in this. Emotional chatbots are likely to become more popular and increasingly empathetic with further research and development, continuing to aid customers when they use websites. Using one for your eCommerce business can further communicate your brand image whilst providing support to users automatically.

Whether you’re considering installing an emotional chatbot on your web pages or you’ve been using one for a while, there are always adjustments you can make to improve customer experiences. This is how to become a great affiliate marketer, gain customer loyalty, and increase purchases. By adding features or improving the responses of your chatbot, you reduce the workload of support staff and tailor it to the needs of your customers.

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