Before creating the dialogues and conversation flows with your virtual assistant, it’s important to take some time to decide on your virtual assistant’s tone of voice, and match these with your company’s identity. It’s also good to become familiar with some important conversational elements that work well in chat. Your virtual assistant is likely to be the first point of contact when your customers have an inquiry or need help, so it’s crucial to think about what kind of an impression you want to leave.
Before setting up dialogue flows and hypothetical questions, spend some time thinking about your future bot’s tone of voice - how is your virtual agent going to fit into the overall brand and image of your organization?
Important - At the end of the page, we have an exercise that you can download to work with your team to build your replies with some of our recommendations.
Be Consistent as a Company
A virtual agent, just like your customer support team, is an extension of your brand. Therefore, it is important to match your virtual agent with your company’s brand and identity.
What’s the voice of your brand and how do your customer support agents communicate with your customers?
Consider your virtual agent as an addition to your customer support team and match its voice to your brand and agents’ voices to maintain consistency throughout all customer interactions. If your brand is traditional and more on the formal side, you might decide on a polite and formal virtual agent. However, if your brand is targeted more toward a younger audience, going with an energetic and more informal virtual agent might be more suitable.
After thinking about these two points, you should have a better idea of what kind of tone of voice suits your virtual agent best.
Have a look at the examples we created for you here.
Rather than attempting to invent an entirely new mode of communication, why not build off of what you already have? Some organizations have standardized communication guidelines for their customer care agents, and these can be a great reference when first setting up your chatbot. Should you not have any such documentation, though, a combination of speaking to your agents and reading past tickets could also work well as a starting point!
The voice is not a simple thing, though. Many elements combine to make up the outward face of your organization, and consistency is king when it comes to giving a good and professional impression. Here’s a small, non-exhaustive list of elements that you may want to consider:
- Punctuation practices
- Spelling practices (i.e. American vs British English)
- Standard greetings and goodbyes
- Abbreviations and acronyms
- Any special vocabulary that you use
A good example of where your voice might factor in is your immediate response when a customer complains or requests a refund/similar. Do you apologize, or do you jump straight into trying to find a solution? Whichever approach your agents use, that’s most likely what you’ll be wanting to bring to your virtual agent.
Another example is the extent to which you refer to the customer’s name: some customer care departments have set a golden rule of 3 namedrops per conversation, while others aim for even more, or perhaps only one! How many will your bot be making?
However, there are still some points on which virtual assistants differ from real agents, one of being that the chatbot will likely lack the same nuance as a real agent. For that reason, we recommend that your virtual assistant be assertive when collecting information, and empathetic whenever a customer has had a poor experience.
Be Human Centric
Virtual agents are designed for humans, by humans. Understanding who your customers are will help you better design your virtual agent.
Is your customer base mostly made up of the Millennials (born 1980-1994) and Gen Z (born 1995-2010) who are quick learners and appreciate self-help? Or are your customers made up mostly of Generation X (born 1960-1979) and the Baby Boomers (born 1940-1959) who are likely to appreciate an intuitive virtual assistant with easy access to speak to a human agent? Or perhaps your customer base is a mixture of demographics, in which case you should consider designing a solution that is suitable for all.
No one knows your customers better than you - so use that information to your advantage. What do they like, and what do they want to gain from their interaction with your virtual agent?
Marketers often like to refer to the “Generations”, and it is important to relate your bot to the age of your customers, too. Here, we’ve written out some recommendations for the latest four generations.
Select a bot that can also handle email communication
Ensure that the chatbot platform is
Offer an automated FAQ or knowledge database, such as Zendesk’s Answer Bot
Ensure your chatbot platform is mobile friendly
Train your chatbot to provide an easy path to speak to a human agent
Make your bot offer incentives in its customer communications
Write your responses to make Millennials feel like part of your brand’s tribe
Make sure that your bot is set up to answer queries 24/7
Write your dialogue to be less colloquial and more formal
Offer incentives to direct the customer to the live chat. For example, you could tell them how long the waiting time will be before they can speak to an agent on the phone
Personalize your chatbot’s dialogue, making it short, snappy, and conversational
Provide chatbot responses that give the user agency to find their own answers
However, this may not be the same for every culture, these definitions may not apply in entirely as clear-cut a fashion as we put them. Do a little bit of research, and you should quickly be able to have a similar plan of your own.
Lastly, it’s important that your current voice meets your customers on your customers’ terms. Do they prefer a more formal or informal approach? A more friendly and warm dialogue, or one that’s more pragmatic and straight to the point? While real agents can easily gauge clients and speak to them in a way that they understand and appreciate, your new virtual agent doesn’t have that ability. Instead, we have to create a bot that’ll be able to communicate with all of your customers.
Regardless of the formality, tone, and language of your bot, there are some general guidelines and recommendations that we recommend you follow.
Be honest. Establish the right expectations right from the get-go.
Your customer is not speaking to a human agent, but rather a bot. 70% of American customers prefer speaking to a human agent rather than a chatbot, and the last thing you want to do is lie to them. Tell your customer that they’re speaking to a bot - and make sure that they can easily escalate to a human agent.
It’s also important to be transparent about the fact that the bot can’t do everything your customer may need, but rather a subset of tasks, for which reason we recommend that you’re direct and confrontational as to the bot’s capabilities.
Make it clear what the bot can and cannot do.
Good ways of demonstrating this can be through the use of buttons or by listing the topics that the bot can handle.
Make sure your bot doesn’t overpromise. The confidence that a human agent may have when handling a given situation cannot be emulated by the bot, and the last thing we want is an unfulfilled promise. For example, instead of saying that something won’t take long, let the customer know what the actual set timeframe is - even if that’s a lot longer than they might want to hear.
Your bot’s responses have to be general, direct, and accurate, all at once.
The bot’s response has to be general enough that it can be seen as an acceptable reply for all the possible messages within the intent, while still being short enough that it’s readable. If you have an FAQ, then most likely you’ll have the majority of the information you need to fill out your bot’s conversations. However, pasting your FAQ answers directly into your dialogue flow is hardly a good idea. Instead, increase the ease of reading by rewriting the content into a more concise form.
Be clear. Stick to one thought at a time and separate points with line breaks. Large chunks of texts can be overwhelming, and even more so if not separated by points. Dividing a large message into multiple small ones, and using line breaks, increases readability for your customers, and also makes editing your dialogue easier in the future. Similarly, you ideally want to avoid using large, long, and complex sentences. While short, simple sentences may appear less aesthetically appealing or eloquent, they are much easier to quickly skim through while looking for information than their longer counterparts.