December 9, 2019 How to create a chatbot persona

By Melinda Jennings

robot drawing

Designing a persona, or personality, for your chatbot is one of the most important steps. Big call, we know. But it’s true.

Like your customer service team, a chatbot becomes the frontline for your business. They represent your brand, can make or break a customer’s experience, and often shapes the way your business is viewed.

See what we mean about it being important?

Luckily, we’re here to share with you 4 easy steps – the 4 D’s, if you will – of creating a chatbot persona.

Step 1. Determine the goal of your chatbot

First thing’s first, there’s no point in spending any time creating a chatbot if it doesn’t have a purpose. And not just a wishy washy, “I don’t know, to talk to people online lol?” type goal. You need to get specific.

The more targeted the aim of your chatbot, the more likely it is to succeed. So rather than trying to create a ‘Bot of all trades’, laser in on what you want to do, and do it well. Remember, you can always expand your chatbot’s skillset later on.

Step 2. Develop your chatbot’s identity

Once you’ve established what your chatbot will do, it’s time to work on who they’re going to be. That includes what they look like, how they’ll speak (at a basic level, we’ll go into more detail on that in the next step), and what they’ll be called.

Here’s a cheat sheet we prepared earlier:

  • Name: You can either give your chatbot a unique name (which may be a derivative of your business’ name – think “Jess” from Jetstar), or keep it simple with something like “[Your Company’s Name]’s Virtual Assistant”. Pro tip: it’s usually easier to come up with a name after you’ve gone through the rest of the list.
  • Form: Chatbots can take many forms – rendered images of humans, cartoons of inanimate objects brought to life, a real-life photo of an animal… the options are limitless! If your chatbot is going to be modelled after a human, it’s best not to make them look too life-like, as it can confuse users into thinking they’re speaking to a real person.
  • Gender: The jury is still out on whether people relate more to a ‘caretaking’ and ‘empathetic’ female stereotype, or an ‘authoritative’ male stereotype. The obvious flaw there is that both those examples are just that – gendered tropes that aren’t necessarily representative of either sex. The obvious solution could be to just go neutral; after all, it’s a chatbot, does it really need a gender? If you do feel your brand or chatbot personality aligns better as a male or female, though, go for it! Just avoid regurgitating outdated gender stereotypes, because savvy customers can see right through it.
  • Character: Based on the goals you’ve established, think about whether your chatbot is going to be a doer, thinker, feeler, etc. They can be a combination effort, of course!
  • Tone of voice: You’ll pad this out more in step 3, but it’s a good exercise to start thinking about how your chatbot will speak. This should align closely with your brand’s tone of voice, so brand style guides and marketing resources are often a great place to start.
  • Physical traits: The fun part – what will your chatbot look like? Think about things like the clothes they’ll wear (if any, no need to dress a unicorn), accessories they might have, and ethnicity (again, if relevant). You might want to have a quick look online to get inspiration, or try your hand at drawing your own.

Step 3. Design your chatbot’s personality

Arguably the most daunting part of designing a chatbot persona is crafting a personality. The first two steps you’ve already completed should help with this part, though.

A great exercise for getting your creative juices flowing is thinking about what personality traits you want your chatbot to have, and what ones you don’t want them to have.

Create a formatted list and lead in with “Our chatbot is _______ but not _______”, and try to tie the two together.

For example;

Our chatbot is playful, but not immature.

Our chatbot is knowledgeable, but not arrogant.

Our chatbot is funny, but not trying to be a comedian. And so on!

Step 4. Draft some ‘personality’ responses

Congratulations, you’ve put together what should be a solid chatbot persona. Now it’s time to road test it.

Every chatbot should have certain personality responses built in, to handle those, shall we say, slightly off topic things people ask. That includes profanities (yes, unfortunately people swear at chatbots), queries about your bot’s ‘personal life’, and even marriage proposals (yep, that happens too).

There are also the regular conversational things people will say, even though they know they’re talking to a chatbot. Things like “hey”, “how are you”, and “thanks”. Making sure you have responses built in to handle such inputs will ensure a better customer experience for your users.

By writing these responses, you can put your chatbot’s newly developed personality into practice. Think about whether you want them to answer with humour, keep things practical and serious (e.g. you could direct them back to the task at hand with a gentle, “how can I help you today?”), or strive for something in between.

Keep in mind, using humour to respond to more inappropriate inputs, like abusive comments, can sometimes encourage people to continue with the way they’re speaking. You may want to choose to shut down such inputs politely and swiftly.

Need help with your chatbot?

So there you have it, how to put together a killer chatbot persona. How do we know so much? Well, we love working on emerging technology projects, having written the script for an ice cream selling robot, as well as a bunch of other large-scale chatbot projects.

If you’ve got a chatbot that’s more ‘bot’ than ‘chat’, get in touch with our team of conversation designers. We’re particularly skilled in running workshops to help you create your persona, managing chatbot projects from beginning to end, and, of course, writing engaging responses.