Your Brand’s Tone of Voice

How you can build your bot’s emotional intelligence through tone of voice.

People are emotional beings, and what it boils down to is that most of us listen to our gut feelings. Especially when it comes to relationships. We are guided by the feeling we get when we interact with someone. In conversations, it’s especially the language used, the body language, the voice and tone, and also eye contact that forms our impression of the person and the connection we develop.

We teach emotional intelligence to our children from a young age. It starts with gently patting another baby to learn to say sorry when they’ve hurt someone or someone’s feelings. Further, it ranges from understanding one’s emotions to being aware of and considerate towards other people’s emotions. And it encompasses reading the emotions of others, understanding situations, and context, and knowing how to behave and handle the conditions, to be able to communicate and achieve our goal.

Up until now, marketers have worked with emotions, especially when creating a brand strategy, with regards to evoking specific emotions in their consumers. Your brand is your business’ identity. Your brand gives your business its personality. With that, you can impress your consumers with the way you make them feel. It’s this feeling your brand evokes in them that creates a connection and differentiates you from the 100 other companies out there selling the same product.

Your bot needs emotional intelligence as well

When it comes to bots, it’s a different ball game. Your brand starts to have a conversation with your consumers through your bot. Those same emotions you evoked through ads, content, and one-way messages, you’ll need to achieve now through your bot. It’s not just a one-sided monologue anymore. It’s a conversation. Remember, what makes a great conversationalist? Yes, someone who understands the context and reacts appropriately. Someone who has emotional intelligence.

So on this same point, your bot’s personality is just as important as a good conversational framework. Before you roll up your sleeves and start creating a conversation for your bot, you’ll be doing yourself a massive favor by determining your bot’s personality now rather than later.

Why does your bot need a personality?

Can you picture having a conversation with someone with no personality? It’s challenging to interact with someone emotionally unavailable. Personality traits give us cues we need to build trust so that we can engage in a real conversation with another person.

If you’ve read my last post, The Conversation is the Message. You’ll know that your bot’s conversation is perceived as your brand talking. The conversation between your bot and your end-user will feel like a conversation between your brand and your end-user. Your goal is to offer your end-user an enjoyable experience while engaging with your brand, so they remember and come back again. Your bot needs to captivate your consumers in a way that they come to trust the bot and engage with it in a conversation. In other words, your bot needs to interact in a manner that resembles a human interaction as much as possible.

Find your personality in your brand strategy

If you have a brand strategy, then you need to look no further. Refer back to it because the foundation you need to build on is there. You should look more precisely at your brand voice, tone, vocabulary, and style. It is merely because the tone of voice both embodies and expresses your brand’s personality. So by using your brand’s tone of voice, you’ll already have a personality to work with for your bot.

Don’t get me wrong; your bot does not have to have the same personality as your brand. You can choose to have a bot that has a specific personality that fits the job it needs to get done. Let us say; you want to create a virtual assistant for your customer service department. I always recommend looking at the handbook or guidelines which the customer care team is given to learn from. If a handbook doesn’t exist, then take a look at how customer care staff communicate with end-users. The tone and language they use should give great insight into the type of personality your bot should have so that inevitably it aligns with your brand’s values and voice.

Finding your voice

There is a difference between your brand’s voice and your brand’s tone of voice. Your brand has a unique voice and many different tones of voices. Take yourself as an example. You have one voice. Depending on whom you’re talking to, what you’re talking about, you and your recipients’ emotional condition, you change your tone to fit the situation best.

I’m guessing you already have a brand voice. If you don’t, well, it’s never too late to start working on having one! There are so many valuable guides out there that take you through the steps of finding your brand’s voice. One that I can highly recommend is MailChimp’s Content Style Guide on Voice and Tone.

Once you have your voice, you need to focus on your tone. It’s the tone that sets the direction of the conversation and gives it a natural flow.

Creating your tone spectrum

With a tone spectrum, you can make sure that your brand voice stays consistent in different situations. More importantly, it’s with the tone that your bot will seem intelligent in the emotions department.

To create a tone spectrum, you’ll need to decide on the range of situations your end-users can find themselves in during their user journey. The situations are dependent on the interaction type (the user being prompted, making a request, etc.), the user’s state of mind, and the emotional impression your bot should make. When I’m creating a tone spectrum, I start by deciding on the two distinct points on the end of my spectrum. These represent a positive interaction on one end and a negative interaction on the other. So again, if I’m creating a virtual assistant for customer service where a user interacts with the bot to find answers, my two extreme situations can be:

a. Found answer
b. Lost

The next step is to decide what tone your brand will use in these extreme situations, which will be the two ends of your spectrum. For my example, it’ll be:

a. Joyful
b. Supportive

Defining different user scenarios

Once you have that, you can work out the different scenarios a user might find themselves in during the different steps of the interaction they will go through and establish an appropriate tone for those as well. In my case, when I’m creating the conversational framework for a specific bot, a few of the steps present in any conversation of the user journey include:

1. Introduction = Cheerful
2. Onboarding = Informative
3. Stating question = Attentive
4. Requesting to speak to a person = understanding
and so on.

Voilà! You have created your tone spectrum. It’s always a good idea to also take into account the user’s emotional state for the different steps in the interaction. Users are different in their behavior, and you’ll never know and be able to guess a user’s mood, but being able to accommodate to different emotional states within a conversation makes all the difference.

Use the worksheet we’ve designed at BotXO to help you get started in creating chatbot conversations. It’s a great guide if you want to see your brand’s voice, tone, user journey scenarios, fallback answers, and more in one place and how they’re connected. You can download the worksheet here for free (no contact info is required).

Start writing

Now that you’ve got your brand’s voice and the tone spectrum in place, you can use the words specific to your brand and words that convey your tone correctly to build a conversation. I start with creating a conversational framework with the different paths a user can go through and then build in the different scenarios, emotional states, and conversational nuances. Then bringing it all together through the play of words and creating a conversation around it is what I love doing most!

Stay tuned for more!

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