When brands make chatbots too personal

Liveperson VP shares a few key lessons about how to build a chatbot interface and why personality shouldn't be your first port of call

Brand owners often talk about their brand having a personality. Some are sassy, others are authoritative, and a few are cheeky.

But when it comes to bringing the brand to life through a chatbot interface, focusing in on the personality might be the last thing you want to do.

As executive vice-president for enterprise business group at LivePerson, Manlio Carrelli has spent much of the last two years working with brands to set up their online chat services.

“The biggest mistake that I see marketers making is over-indexing on brands and the personality side, and basically making a toy that doesn’t do much,” he tells CMO. “As marketers, we all want to think about the personality of our brand and how it interacts with the customer. And this is an amazing opportunity to do that.

“What I was seeing is an overweighting towards those activities, and underweighting towards the actual jobs the bot would do, and the integration of the other areas of the company necessary to do those jobs.”

Those finding success are the ones focusing in on the customers and what they are trying to achieve.

“And then they start to integrate their whole organisation behind the development of this bot,” he says.

Carrelli concedes he has first-hand experience with chatbot personality disorder, having hired a group of Hollywood script writers 18 months ago to help LivePerson’s clients set up its bots.

“I thought the CMOs that we work with were going to love tapping into the creative energy of people who wrote some great Hollywood movies,” Carrelli says. “These two folks that I hired literally lasted 90 days.”

As it turns out, the saviours for chatbot projects tend to come from a far less glamorous location – their organisation’s contact centre.

“No one talks to customers more than the people on the contact centres,” Carrelli says. “What we very quickly realised was the need to harness the energy and creativity of the people in the contact centre to make something that actually resonates with consumers and gets the job done - not a toy, something that works.”

Now the groundwork has been completed, Carrelli says he is witnessing clients connect their chatbots into broader business functions.

“These are very, very powerful tools when you connect them in to the broader business,” he says. “People have done the experiments, and now they are thinking about how they connect this into their lead flow in a bigger way. When customers interact in this conversational interface they generally convert two-times or higher than a traditional website, but the experience has got to be great.”

That figure comes from research conducted by LivePerson with several large retail clients, verified against situations when the bots weren’t engaged.

“This is a project that needs to be integrated into the fabric of the company, but when it is the sky’s the limit as far as additional sales,” Carrelli says. “The other area where it gets interesting is where we start to think about these new stores, the potential to open them on Facebook or Instagram and places where we traditionally haven’t had a store front. There is a lot of incremental sales opportunity there as well.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu   

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