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How the art of conversations is evolving in the era of conversational AI

Chatbots are desperately trying to be funny.


Sample this – Why are archaeologists so annoyed? They always have a bone to pick.

This was one of the replies of a chatbot when asked to tell a joke. The good news then is clear – conversational AI is finally becoming a genuine reality. As chatbots and other engagement interfaces gradually become an integral part of our interactive world, it is definitely better if these virtual talkers are empowered with a sense of humor to keep customer interactions engaging and meaningful. In fact, as the demand for messaging-driven brand communication evolves, brands are increasingly asking their chatbots – why so serious?

From the days of dry, staccato, one-word responses to humorous conversations, chatbots have taken giant strides in their journey of improving their limited gift of the gab. Along with enhancing utility, and problem-solving capabilities, one of the most pursued goals in chatbot driven engagement today is enhancing the authenticity of interactions. If a chatbot is able to respond with humor, it automatically gives the feeling of being more human, thus adding further depth and value to any brand engagement.

For instance, Poncho, the popular weather forecasting app hosted on several popular platforms such as Facebook and Kik, became hugely popular with its ability to talk to users about a lot of things apart from the weather. With context-driven conversations and occasional rebuffs depending on the severity of language used, the experience of chatting with Poncho became that much more organic. After all, which human could ignore a bot that asked you out for a drink or cared whether you were hungry or not?

Closer home, virtual assistance and automated bot developers are increasingly focusing on creating bots that are equipped with a distinct character and personality. Leading virtual-assistance platform developers are associating with organizations across various domains to develop bots equipped with an empathetic tone, infused with warmth and genuine understanding of the needs and dreams of the users, thereby resulting in meaningful conversations, sprinkled with fun and banter.

But fun and customer engagement make for a slippery slope. Humor is subjective and ripe for missteps. And when it comes to regular interaction with users, offending your target audience is a risk no business can take today. In the world of social media, an offhand comment, even if it is coming from a machine, can earn the ire of Twitterati, and social media users all over the world. In fact, the complexity of what’s considered funny often drives companies into developing bland, but risk-free chatbots. On the flip side, creating a chatbot without warmth and humor would ultimately defeat the very purpose for which a human-seeming conversational agent is created.

Brands, therefore, need to equip chatbots to understand the nature of conversations of individual users, analyze them, and then proceed to engage with the user in an informal, friendly tone. Chatbots need to find a balance in creating a conversation that does not offend or alienate, but builds bonds and entertains. Through shared views on popular culture, shows, sports or friendly banter, a chatbot can endear itself, and the business to a user without overstepping any lines. Sensitive issues such as politics or religion are, then, best avoided.

To this end, businesses should collaborate with third-party expert chatbot builders and equip bots with a character and a sense of humor that perfectly aligns with the organization’s image as well as the target audience’s preferred style of entertainment. Chatbots need to incorporate, and raise their standards of humor to become popular with future audiences, which can only be achieved through a combination of dedicated human efforts, and repeated exposure to everyday interactions.

The article is written by Swapan Rajdev, CTO, Co-founder, Haptik.

  • Published Date: August 29, 2018 10:49 AM IST