French Canadian film director, Denis Villeneuve, quite poetically said “in contradiction and paradox, you can find truth”. And boy, do we have a contradiction when it comes to providing great customer experiences.

A whopping 82% of US consumers polled by PwC prefer the human touch when interacting with a brand – a figure the authors say reflects the age of automation.

There’s a slight problem, though. In the same study, consumers also ranked speed and convenience as the most important aspects of a positive customer experience, the type that leads brands to favor chatbots

So, more human interaction, please… Oh, but with the speed and efficiency of chatbots, thanks.

Herein lies the contradiction. Now, how do we find the “truth”, as the aforementioned director of Blade Runner 2049 put it? How do we offer human interaction at speed and scale?

Businesses certainly believe they can do it. Our research finds that 42% of brands say their top priority for developing their chatbots is providing a more ‘human’ experience

Whether it’s through conversation design, clever psychology or upgrading your chatbot to a digital human, let’s look at some of the ways you can beat the contradiction and make your chatbot more human.

1. Give your chatbot a name, face and personality

Coming up with a name for your chatbot or virtual assistant is the easiest of these three, if you haven’t done so already. We’d suggest a human-sounding name; think Siri or Alexa, rather than, say, Google Assistant (admittedly, Google had a legitimate reason for choosing a more ‘practical’ name). 

Giving a chatbot a face and/or a personality is the next step, and it’s one worth taking. Research shows that adding a friendly face to automated technology can encourage people to open up more, start to build trusting relationships and co-operate. 

This can be especially important in environments where people are afraid of being judged.

For example, patients who are receiving medical treatment or therapy might be less open about their thoughts, feelings and previous behaviors if they’re embarrassed – which is one of the benefits of conversational AI in healthcare settings. Not understanding financial jargon and products can also prevent customers seeking help and support with money matters.

2. Deliver more emotive empathetic responses

Just 29% of baby boomers believe chatbots are friendly and approachable, and this figure doesn’t increase much among millennials (33%). For many brands, these two demographics make up a significant portion of their customer base.  

Human staff can build rapport with customers; they adapt their responses based on the mood, personality and behavior of the people they’re interacting with. Basic chatbots can generally only offer a selection of pre-programmed responses, so they struggle to provide more nuanced emotional reactions. That can be a problem. 

Let’s be clear, nothing can compete with a real person when it comes to developing a strong human connection with customers. But most automated technologies still have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to being personable.   

A name, face and personality are a good start in forming an emotional connection. You should also work on programming your chatbot with empathetic phrases and responses, like “I understand”.

The very first chatbot, developed by Joseph Weizenbaum, served this very purpose. It paradied a Rogerian psychologist, providing responses no more in-depth than “tell more about that” and “how does that make you feel?” Weizenbaum‘s secretary at one point asked him to leave the room so she could disclose more to the virtual therapist in privacy.

With AI, it’s also possible for chatbots to recognize and respond to the customers’ emotional cues, altering behavior or – when necessary – escalating to a human member of staff. Research has shown that empathetic chatbots can help with issues such as mental health and social exclusion, but it shouldn’t be discounted in the traditional customer journey, either.

3. Make your dialogue less robotic

Writing for the eye and writing for the ear are two quite different things. Even the most eloquent of speakers can sound stilted and awkward in their writing, and vice versa.

If you’re trying to make a chatbot more human, it needs to sound human. And we don’t just mean its voice – although that obviously helps. It comes down to the dialogue itself. 

The written word is meant only for consumption; proper communication is two-way, so your chatbots need a script that reflects that. 

Here are some quick tips for writing better dialogue for your chatbot or virtual assistant: 

  • Be concise: normal conversation usually has shorter sentences and simpler language, which keeps things free flowing. 
  • Use contractions: choose ‘didn’t’ over ‘did not’, ‘can’t’ over ‘cannot’ and so on. Humans use contractions when speaking, and chatbot should too. 
  • Get to the point: Are you noticing a trend? All our tips emphasize a similar issue – brevity. Not just linguistically, but also conceptually. Your chatbots don’t need to give long-winded introductions or over-explain things, keep conversations brief, engaging and on-topic.

For a more in-depth guide, check out our dedicated blog post: Create an AI that speaks human with these five essentials.

4. Don’t be afraid to lighten the mood

Why did the AI cross the road? Because it was programmed to be a chicken. 

*Tumbleweed gif* 

Okay, admittedly, that was a terrible joke. But that shouldn’t put you off giving your chatbot a sense of humor.

In fact, one-third of Google Home or Alexa owners have asked their voice assistant to tell them a joke. That’s more than the number of people who asked it to help with core functional tasks like shopping, checking sports scores, home automation or making lists.

Studies have also shown that adding humor to customer interactions makes the experience more enjoyable, provided it’s appropriate to the situation. Of course, fun doesn’t have to mean “jokes” per se; experiment with creating a conversational mood and a tone of voice that’s light and enjoyable for your interactions.

If all else fails, you can always steal our AI chicken joke.

5. Consider upgrading to a digital human

We believe chatbots have their place, we really do. But we also recognize they have their limitations. If you really want to make your automated technology more human, then you might want to think about upgrading your chatbot into a digital human

With digital humans, you enjoy many of the benefits we’ve listed above as standard features: a name, a face and a voice. Naturally, choosing a personality and sense of humor is up to you. You can even use an existing brand mascot or ambassador – among many other personalities primed for engagement.

In fact, we’ve found through our work on Digital Einstein that brand personality can be the secret ingredient to a competitive marketing strategy, creating engagement throughout the customer journey.

Make your chatbot more human – in less than five minutes

If all this sounds intangible, difficult and lacking a structure from which to launch your chatbot ambitions, we have some good news.

Our UneeQ Creator platform allows you to design, develop and deploy your own digital human employees and start seeing your chatbot in a new light.

If you’re already using a conversational AI platform (any platform), you can hit the ground running. Sync your chatbot with UneeQ Creator and you can listen to how your your brand looks, sounds and engages as a digital human.

It’s a quick and easy process, so why not give it a shot by clicking the button below? We’d love to hear how you get on.