When it Comes to a Bot, Persona is King
Posted on November 12, 2019 by Julie Rohloff

Meet Mary, EDCi's event bot - when it comes to a bot persona is king

Meet Marty! Marty joined EDCi in October 2019. He is a virtual assistant built on the IBM Watson platform. The EDCi team created him to assist our event attendees with common questions about our events (and to entertain them). Our goal with Marty was to be able to address conference questions without having to answer dozens of phone calls and emails and also to establish a fun and inviting culture for our conference.

So, how do you create an inviting culture and a bot people actually want to interact with? You need to give it personality! At this point Marty is a raw bot. He has had very little training, he is just an infant. When we introduced him at our Envision event in October of 2019 he had only had about 200 conversations but his personality was beginning to come through in the way he phrased his answers in a lite and casual style. We are continuing to develop and train Marty so we can use him at all of our conferences and events. With time, and a little love, he will display the same fun personality that our staff does.

Our first bot, Eddie, was created one year prior to Marty. Eddie has a male caricature image and persona.  He is a help desk bot and is very conversational, smart and sassy – traits which proved to be refreshing when using a bot for lackluster tasks such as creating users, reporting an IT issue or fetching the status of help desk tickets. When users interact with a help desk, they are often frustrated and looking for assistance. If you’re going to use a bot to assist your help desk team, it needs to be able to handle emotion while also offering a transition to a live person if requested.  A bot should never emit negative emotions, it should seek to invoke positive feelings and emotions throughout conversations in order to provide the best customer experience.

After learning from Eddie, we decided to spend more time on the character development and the bot persona of Marty. We wanted Marty’s personality to be representative of our company and align with how we want people to feel when they interact with EDCi. Here are a  few of our key learnings when it came to developing Marty’s bot persona:

  • You are developing a bot, never pretend to be human. Be transparent and offer to transition users to a human when negative emotion is detected or when requested.
  • Don’t ramble! Use short and to-the-point statements, especially when presenting links or buttons. Users tend to click links and buttons without reading the text. You don’t want to send the user to the wrong place or give them the feeling that your bot is exhausting to use by requiring too much effort.
  • The face is important when developing a bot persona, it should appear welcoming and joyful. Remember, it is a user’s first impression of your bot.
  • Seek to maintain harmony throughout all conversations. When presented with negative emotion be tactful, avoid arguments, and continue to demonstrate a level of charisma that is appropriate while accepting accountability for the emotion.
  • Give positive feedback to users when positive emotion is detected or the user has engaged in a way that is appropriate for a reward.

The success of a bot’s character is highly dependent on the alignment of three areas:

  • Your marketing department – they own the bot’s brand representation.
  • Your designer – they own the conversational modeling.
  • Your trainer – they run analytics and coordinate with marketing and design to decide how to add or change the bot’s conversational content and behavior.

Marty is still a work in progress as are all bots. It’s easy to go overboard and overwhelm a user with too much personality. Take your time developing your bot persona and let it emerge naturally. There is a balance and you will find it (as we are) through training, training, and more training!

See a video of Marty in action!