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The importance of a chatbot tone of voice


Niamh Isobel Reed
Photo by Denisse Leon on Unsplash

A clear, consistent tone of voice is an essential element of any brand. For a brand’s bot, however, voice and tone become make-or-break factors.

The textual interface presented by a chatbot is all the customer has to go by. Words — and how those words are strung together — are how the customer measures their interaction with your brand. So, your chatbot tone of voice needs to be brand aligned, brand appropriate and brand ambassadorial.

Here’s a closer look at chatbot tone of voice and its importance.

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A chatbot tone of voice is your chatbot’s personality. It dictates the persona your customers equate with your brand’s customer service.

It’s made up of not what your chatbot says, but how it says it.

Consider these:

  • ‘Hi Kathy! My name is Polo, how can I help?’
  • ‘Hello Kathy. My name is Polo. How may I be of assistance?’

Both messages serve the same goal: greeting the customer and getting the session started. They say the same thing, but they’re very different in tone. The first is informal and peppy. The second is formal and precise.

So, why is establishing a chatbot tone of voice so important?

Your chatbot tone of voice dictates the customer experience that your chatbot creates. It’s responsible for minimising the robotic effect from your chatbot’s responses. And, in the age of the customer, that’s worth paying attention to.

Whether you intend to or not, every voice — every message — has a tone and persona attached to it. By deliberately designing your chatbot tone of voice, you ensure that those messages are consistent. That is, they complement your brand, and fit with each other. As a result, you create a smoother, less jarring conversational experience for the customer.

Chatbot tone of voice also differentiates your bot from those of your competitors. With an effective chatbot personality, you make a memorable and enjoyable experience for your chatbot users.

The thing is, creating an effective chatbot tone of voice isn’t as easy as you might think. Errors happen, and without constant tuning, managing and monitoring, it can go wrong.

Chatbots aren’t intelligent (yet). They don’t have a sense of humour. Or sensitivity. Or morality. They don’t understand what they are saying. So, if a bot is given the wrong thing to say, it will still say it.

This means that a poorly worded message can change your chatbot from a helpful assistant into an offensive user experience. At best, a mismatched chatbot tone of voice is jarring for the customer. At worst, it causes widespread upset and offence.

Cleo, a financial services chatbot, serves as a fantastic example of the impact that chatbot tone of voice can have. And exactly how far wrong it can go.

In February last year, Cleo’s creators added a tough love option (in celebration of Valentine’s day). This option, once activated, completely changed the bot’s tone of voice. Cleo would temporarily shift from friendly to sassy. Instead of handy advice, she’d give no-holds-barred truths about the user’s spending habits.

For most, this proved a funny and engaging way to learn about unhealthy spending habits. But Cleo’s so-called ‘savage mode’ didn’t go off without a hitch. To introduce the feature, Cleo sent users a message many deemed inappropriate. It opened with, “I’m adding the option to get a bit savage with you”, followed by, “Fully consensual, only when you want it.”

To many, this held connotations of sexual violence — which caused considerable upset when shared on Twitter.

A chatbot tone of voice will hold similarities with your brand tone of voice. For instance, if your business offering is more serious, you’ll likely have a formal, informative brand voice. Your chatbot, then, will also need a more serious tone. (An overly jokey or peppy chatbot would prove jarring.)

However, in general, chatbots lend themselves to slightly less formal interactions. (Even for serious brands.) Remember, you’re creating something for your customers to relate to. So, think about what you’d want a human representative of your brand to say. Your chatbot should sound similar.

Your job isn’t done once your bot is up and running, either. Continually testing and tuning your chatbot tone of voice is as important as maintaining its functionality.

Your chatbot tone of voice gives your customers something to relate to. It brings both your bot and your brand values to life, turning a robotic conversation into a natural, pleasant one.

In short, your chatbot tone of voice is integral to a good customer experience. If it’s inconsistent, jarring or offensive, even a functional chatbot can cause a bad experience.

So, could your chatbot tone of voice use a tune-up?

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