The real time aspect of chat-bot experience generates endless possibilities for its development, and the impact they’re having on the industry and customer experience is exciting. While human language is amazingly intricate, having been enriched over many millennia; gestures, touch and other screen-based interactions can still feel unnatural. But with the likes of Tech Insider, CNN and even Dutch airline KLM, adopting this new tech, could chat bots be our early steps towards building a more authentic and automated customer experience?

With this in mind, our team of user experience designers at Wunderman decided to stop reading about the experiments of others and, instead, just get creative. Here’s what we learned…

How we did it

Using a platform called ‘Chatfuel’, we built a bot that lived on Facebook messenger. Our goal was to help users learn about a client’s products, allowing them to begin defining their needs and compare similar products out there. The process involved running a sprint where we built, tested and iterated our bot alongside users and designers.

Know your audience 

From the outset, we discovered that our chat bot fostered an experience that the customer could dip in and out of as frequently as they wished. This level of convenience transformed the typical consumer-brand interaction, compelling us to build a picture of the customer’s needs and intent at each interaction touch point. We also had to understand how this service influenced both the digital and physical discovery of our product, any purchases and later steps on the journey.  

So how did we manage to gain a comprehensive understanding of user needs? Using an ethnographic approach, we conducted interviews with key stakeholders, observed the journey in-store and online, participated in experience walk-throughs and finally had our users complete research kits. These qualitative findings were synthesised and iterated until we formed a clear picture of the customer’s needs and expectations of the brand throughout the user’s journey. This then allowed us to craft a story that could inspire customers to act and help them better engage with the brand.

A new type of interaction

Practice makes perfect and designing that great user experience boils down to trial and error. But with chat bots still very much in their early adoption phase, designers don’t yet have the luxury of drawing directly on previous experiences with such interfaces. The patterns we are familiar with don't work here.

Let’s look at Amazon Echo – it doesn’t have a screen-based interface, putting the emphasis on the user themselves to drive the interaction. However, to reassure users Amazon installed Echo with a visual light to show that it is listening. Meanwhile Apple’s Siri replies to a question with a ‘let me think…’ or ‘looking’.

Users want to know that the bot is listening and formulating a response to their query. Interestingly, while we didn’t want to cheat users into thinking there was a person on the other end of the conversation, we found that by delaying the responses slightly, consumers felt their query had been carefully considered, and that the bot had found them a worthy answer or the best deal possible. Believe it or not, experimenting with such delays made the whole experience more credible to users.  

The importance of storytelling

Telling a story and telling it well is paramount to your chat bot’s success. Positioning your bot’s capabilities must be super clear, so as not confuse the user or alienate consumers. Understanding your audience is paramount, and the rigour of matching a customer’s emotional journey created something compelling and fostered moments of delight throughout the interaction.

While a brand may have a clear tone of voice in their communications strategy, a bot’s conversational tone may need to be very different. Our experiment was on behalf of a client, and in order to get the tone right we experimented with levels of personification – at times it became a little creepy, weird or even fun. We felt the best way to discover what worked was to iterate fast, trying different things and seeing what did and didn’t resonate with users.

These conversational services are still in their infancy, but experimenting with what works and what doesn’t for users allows us to create more exciting opportunities than ever before. If you take one thing from this article, please, go try and build your own.


By Sean McHarg, experience designer at Wunderman UK

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