By Consuelo Puchades, Spain Country Leader
In the movie Her, in the first conversation the character of Theodore Twombly holds with Samantha, an advanced operating system with a female voice, when he says she’s weird and she asks him why, Theodore answers: “Well, you seem like a person, but you’re just a voice in a computer.”
Usually, when companies think about virtual assistants, they do so in terms of technology. They want to adopt artificial intelligence technology (AI) as soon as possible to show that they don’t get left behind, but often they suffer from a good background that shapes the conversational initiative. For this, it’s critical to wonder from the conception phase how the AI that will represent the brand should be, what kind of personality they want to give to the virtual assistant, and to seek its congruence with how the company wants the user’s experience to be.
The voice in a computer, speaker or smartphone will be the face of a company towards the public and give personality to the brand, which will be associated in an indivisible way with the identity of the bot or assistant in question. The form of communication established will be the key to how people relates to the company, for the simple fact that human beings are empathic and tend to create links. And this not only applies to voice assistants, as the chatbots which we communicate with by writing also transmit a personality.
Let’s imagine we speak with an artificial intelligence system that answers with the voice of a child. Would we feel comfortable being tough with him when it comes to making a complaint or lowering the tone? Would we trust him when asking for advice to hire a product? Equally, it is obvious that we would not live the same user experience talking to the computer Hal 9000 from 2001: a space odyssey, Joshua from WarGames or Joi from Blade Runner 2049.
What is clear is that, according to the latest studies, 75% of consumers are satisfied with the use of AI and appreciate that it’s able to understand emotions and have a human touch, moving away from artificiality. However, half of consumers are not supportive of bots having a human appearance, an effect known as the Uncanny Valley.
The design of an assistant’s personality must rely on research. You have to know in depth how customers perceive a brand and decide how you want them to recognize it through this channel; it may even be a good chance to support, through an assistant, a change of image. It is also critical to investigate who will be its target customer and decide the goal of the assistant: Will it inform millennials about how to travel cheaply? Is it going to recommend investment funds? Will it allow you to buy at an online store? Each of these objectives requires a different tone.
Based on all of this, the “character” giving form or voice to the virtual assistant will be defined: maybe a mature and wise woman to whom to entrust our money, maybe a young and enthusiast man who knows how to have fun, maybe an animated character who knows everything… The more details and context are developed in the initial phases of the conception process, the easier it will be for the personality attributed to the assistant to be coherent in the long term.
It’s important to think about the personality of the speaker when defining and writing the answers it will give, so that the user experience maintains coherence and transmits security. Just as you could distinguish a mother’s way of chatting from a child’s way of chatting, a chatbot also transmits skills and emotional content with his writing style, and it must be credible in order to establish a relationship of trust. Because this is what it’s all about, after all: to provide trust by means of that character, system, voice, interface … that represents us.
In practical terms, all this will result into a certain mode of expression by the assistant: what it says and how it says it, in what tone, what kind of sentences it uses, what sense of humor it has and even how it responds to jokes or insults.
In this way, that’s how the relationship of trust of a brand with the user will be built. Because although he is aware he is speaking to a voice in a computer, at the end of the day he will feel and react as if he did it with a real person. Just like Theodore, who goes as far as falling in love with Samantha.