The Conversation is the Message
Conversation as a form
I’ve been working on designing conversations for chatbots daily. Why I believe that bots can engage users and keep them coming back for more is the fact that we, humans, are undeniably social beings. As a species, we’ve been communicating for ca. 500,000 years for our daily survival and socialization. We’ve also used roughly the same amount of time to develop our ways and the tools we use for communication.
A face-to-face conversation is the most basic form of language which we learn as infants. So we are most experienced in speaking, and as a result, we find it easier and are far better skilled at it than we are at reading, writing and listening (not necessarily in that order).
So it’s not a surprise really that technological advances are being made into the realm of conversational interfaces, NLP and voice recognition. Humans prefer oral communication and conversation above all other forms of communication. Another advantage with conversation is that we eliminate the underlying friction between machines and humans by speaking the same language without the help of a translator. Until recently, computers only understood syntax, so we had to learn how to communicate with machines in a language they understood. However, technological development today allows machines to understand us when we speak to them the same way we would to any other individual. It has lead to the rise in conversational interfaces and also the creation of new jobs within the field of chatbots, such as conversational design.
We spend hours on end swiping and tapping feverishly on our phones and using messaging apps to socialize with others. We’ve become super users of technology which enable social interaction. We can have conversations with anyone, anywhere and at any time. Now with the help of a chatbot or virtual assistant, all of a sudden we can have personal conversations with our favorite musician, or with our favorite brand or our insurance company (outside of their opening hours). It is a direct one-to-one interaction through personal messaging.
Conversation in your brand messaging
It brings me to the title, “The Conversation is the Message.” With your brand messaging, you communicate your brand’s value, its promise to the customer, and form your brand’s image in their minds. Your brand’s unique message stays consistent no matter the channel of communication. Most importantly, your brand’s message connects with your consumers on an emotional level, gets them excited about your brand, and motivates them to follow you.
Today, almost all businesses are socially interacting with their customers and end-users one way or another through their social media channels. It has been and still is mostly people who are responsible for making posts, replying to questions, commenting, supporting customers, and taking calls. So consumers have always been speaking to a human. However, with the development of chatbots, it becomes the brand itself who starts having a direct conversation with employees or customers instead of a representative returning a call or offering support and guidance. Now which businesses will turn down the chance to have a one-to-one conversation like that?
The conversation = your brand talking
Naturally, when you converse, what you say and how you say it, determines the quality and meaning of the relationship between you and the person you’re having the conversation with. When we have conversations, it can strengthen, weaken, or break our relationships depending on the content, context, and how it makes us feel. So when a brand has a conversation with a consumer, it will be doing the same. This way of communicating is amazing and new but also means that we need to learn to understand how to create our brand’s conversation through a bot if it’s to succeed.
So just by having a chatbot doesn’t guarantee your success. You can’t build a meaningful chatbot that adds value to your users in 5 minutes or by copying/pasting a template. Just the same way as you didn’t spend 5 minutes to plan and design your brand’s messaging strategy. The conversation your bot has with users is more important than having a bot or not. Why? Because it’s your brand talking. It’s your brand having a conversation with your consumers.
Once you’ve decided to have a bot represent your brand, you need to find out how the conversation will incorporate your brand messaging strategy. Because ultimately, the conversation will be your brand’s message. While designing the conversation, you have to take into account how your brand’s voice, tone, vocabulary, and style needs to be used to help build your brand-customer relationship through the way it makes your customers feel.
Follow me on my next post, “What is a conversation?” to find about how a chatbot conversation is more than just stunning carousel cards and witty, quick replies. I’ll explain how to use context and versatility to improve your conversation and how to incorporate your brand’s voice and tone in the conversation. It’s a good guide together with the worksheet we’ve designed at BotXO to help you get started in creating chatbot conversations. You can download the worksheet here for free (without providing your email address).
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