Chatting with Conversational Designers: Injecting Human Sense into Chatbots

Conversational Designers at Wizeline and Talkpush detail the challenges and responsibilities in creating chatbots with "human" personalities and engaging interactions with customers.

chatbot conversational designers

If you want that chatbot to perform the way it’s supposed to, then you need to turn to a new category of IT worker: conversational designers.

Tagged with one of the flashiest job titles in the industry, conversational designers are the people who craft the interactions that chatbots are capable of, as well as creating unique personalities for each bot.

Christina Adamidou
Christina Adamidou – “Conversational design is about humanizing the whole experience, as customers respond better to something that feels more human.”

“In a nutshell, conversational designers design with words,” said Christina Adamidou, Conversational Designer at Talkpush, explaining that the role requires certain skills to make chatbot conversations as engaging as possible. “It involves putting into practice the same ideas of user experience design but through a narrative, so it actually becomes more like storytelling.”

With a background in journalism and freelance writing, Adamidou found that becoming a Conversational Designer at Talkpush was a natural transition, but still comes with its own set of challenges.

“The most difficult thing when designing conversations is predicting what the user is going to say,” said Adamidou. “It’s impossible to come up with every single user intention, but the idea is to get as close as possible before passing them on to humans when the bot is unable to complete a task.”

When Creating Interactions, Where do Conversational Designers Start?

“Before any conversational copy is created, there is extensive UX work that needs to be done,” said Diana Lee, Conversational AI Designer/Chatbot Editor at Wizeline. “The reason UX is so important in because you need to account for who the users would be, and the specific pain points they have that can be solved by the chatbot. Some businesses might not benefit from a chatbot, so we have to make sure that the pain points are aligned.”

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In customer service, an example pain point might be repeat inquires, such as expected delivery time, shipping policy, or information or the return policy. Most times, this information is available on the website, but chatbots become more valuable when repeat questions are asked.

“End customers don’t get any more benefit from a human agent over a chatbot in these situations, because the answers are always the same,” said Lee. “It actually provides more value, more time, and less effort to get the exact same result.”

From there, a conversational designer would begin to define a methodology for designing a conversation. This can be achieved by creating a standard list of intents, as every user will be interacting with the chatbot for one of these specific intents – maybe to apply for a job, submit an inquiry, or make a complaint. From then on, the designer would string out the different conversation flows that occur, using chatbot design software, such as Botsociety, or natural language processing (NLP) software Dialogflow, for example.

Once that skeleton has been constructed, then company-specific information is added, such as what the company wants to explain to the user, as well as adding those user intents. This is when the personality crafting element of the job comes into play.

Creating a “Human” Personality

Commonly, people have had to accommodate to how technology works, but with this role, once the purpose behind the chatbot has been defined, conversational designers have the ability to make them sound and feel more human, making sure that the bots accommodate to us.

“Clients are in different sectors, so we have to look at the branding behind them, the tone of voice they use, and the messaging that we want to craft,” said Adamidou. “You might have a funny bot, a polite bot, or a more serious one, and each one is crafted for a specific function. For example, for an HR company you might have Recruitment Bot for chatting to candidates, or Scheduler Bot for arranging interviews.”

Adamidou explained that each bot’s crafted persona often leads to them being named, based on the image that the company wants to portray. Considerations for this are if the company is young and youthful, more established, or maybe more intellectual-sounding – some examples for a client in the education sector are Sophia, or Athena, named after the Greek goddess of wisdom, handicraft, and warfare.

“It goes back to humanizing the whole experience, as customers respond better if they are introduced to something that feels more human,” she said. “Using words like “I” and speaking in the first person gives accountability to the bot. You would also describe what the bot’s functions are, and try to stress the fact it’s in fact a bot without using the word “bot”. Instead we would have the bot say “I’m an automated HR assistant”, or “I’m your admittedly robotic but friendly assistant”, which manages expectations for the user.”

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diana lee
Diana Lee – “Successful chatbots have very specific user needs defined, and their designers have envisioned the kind of users that chatbots will have.”

According to Lee, each chatbot’s personality is defined by its specific use case. An example is customer service, which would have the goal of answering the user’s question in the shortest time possible. This defined goal then helps determine how to apply the company’s brand voice, create the bot’s personality, and figure out who will use the chatbot, in order to write the conversation that will make sense for them.

“The common misconception is that chatbots are only used by millennials, or that people in that demographic most easily adopt them,” said Lee. “Successful chatbots that I have worked on have very specific user needs defined, and their designers have envisioned the kind of users that chatbots will have.”

Evolving Roles and Robots

For the foreseeable future, the role of conversational designer is likely to be in high demand as chatbots become more prevalent. Many companies might not be aware that they need these roles, but will certainly require them if they adopt chatbots in any way.

“It still feels like Year One in this industry, and the majority of bots are not where they could be, but I see this role as evolving into finding new methods to monetize the bots, or exploring different platforms,” said Adamidou. “They are currently most applied to Facebook Messenger or Slack, but there are many potential platforms they could live on. Cross-bot communication could be another opportunity.”


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