How to Find the Right Chatbot Persona For Your Brand

Generic bots are out, unique bots are in. Finding the right chatbot persona for your brand takes effort, but it’ll help make the rest of the process flow.

Chatbots often give a first impression of your company. Whether it’s greeting your website visitors or helping customers with their orders or inquiries, chatbots communicate with your customers in a direct, personal way.

Coming up with a unique persona will not only help you build stronger personal connections with your customers, but it will add fun and clarity to your development process. This post will cover why a chatbot persona is so necessary and steps for getting started.

Why chatbots need a persona

Chatbots are for humans, by humans.

People naturally project human traits onto everything. If you cut corners on your bot’s persona, chances are users will assign it one anyway. But the results could be unfavorable.

A rich persona is memorable and can make your bot feel more like an extension of your team. In return, this could help reduce workload for your human employees.

Personas make script writing easier

When creating your chatbot conversation flow , a backstory and persona will make it easier to find its voice. It’s an approach often used by screenwriters and authors to help drive their character’s dialogue and actions.

notebook and pen

A chatbot persona doesn’t need a whole family tree and fabricated childhood trauma to perform well, but a motive, experience and possibly even age will add character.

Take Cleverbot as an example. We don’t know how old it is (I asked and all I got was a “Good. How are you”) nor its background, but we do know that it’s clever in every dry sense of the word. This fuels its interactions. If you try to ask anything personal, it deflects with some witty remark. Its persona is simple but clearly defines its conversation style.

Promote your brand’s identity

Technology can’t replace the human need for personal connections. Intelligent AI may be your solution to pain-free chatbot service interactions, but people want more than that .

Without a persona, a chatbot can seem empty and cold. Creating an identity modeled after your brand builds empathy with users and mirrors the personalized engagement they receive from your team.

If your business is online or rarely ever customer-facing, then a likable chatbot person may help your brand stick in a customer’s memory. They likely won’t remember the exact conversation they had with your bot, but they will remember how pleasant or irritating it was.

The industry demands it

We’re surrounded by Conversational UI. Chances are one of the devices you own has a digital assistant built into it, likely with a pre-determined persona like Siri or Bixby .

It’s no real surprise, especially once you consider that consumers prefer text communication over phone calls and face-to-face service .

But it’s not easy to write for Conversational UI. That’s why more and more companies are putting out job ads in search for Conversation Designers to do the tedious creative work for them. Every chatbot writer and creator needs a jumping point though, which is where personas come in handy.

Where do you even get started?

Be inspired

Companies big and small have impressive chatbots. A few notable examples are Capital One’s Eno , which is a helpful, friendly bot without being overly conversational. It has a gentle, professional persona.

The Canadian airline Westjet uses its Juliet bot to assist customers with their travel plans and make suggestions. We included it in our list of the 10 Best Chatbots of 2021 because of the bot’s highly accurate natural language understanding.

Replika is also on our list for being a sophisticated example of a conversational chatbot. It learns how to speak like you over time, which is supposed to make it feel more like a friend.

Check out TopBot’s directory of chatbots from a diverse list of brands for even more inspiration.

Research personality types

Whether or not people like to admit it, most personalities can be organized into an existing archetype. But this is great news for brands that want to speak their audience’s emotional language.

Many large brands fall under the main Jungian Archetypes:

Archetypes reflect the personality of the brand to better align with the type of customer they wish to assist. Having a clear brand personality can help you focus your chatbot’s efforts.

Ralph, Lego’s Gift Bot, is a good example of a brand playing to its archetype’s strengths. Ralph refers to the person you’re buying for as “the builder” and uses puns and creative images to keep the conversation going, true to its Creator nature.

screenshot of conversation with Lego chatbot
screenshot of conversation with Lego chatbot

Assigning your bot a Myers-Briggs or Jungian Archetype can help you determine its strengths, weaknesses, interests, dislikes and abilities. Once you have an idea of how your chatbot will behave and respond to certain prompts and ideas, the easier it’ll be to develop its script.

Use the Persona Method

This a helpful tool for identifying your audience. Often used by marketers , the idea is to create a profile of a fictional person who encapsulates your ideal customer or user.

Here are five elements of the Persona Method that work for creating your chatbot:

Photo: An image of your bot.

Name: Your bot’s final (or even potential) unique name .

Description: You bot’s background, which can include their job, motivations, interests, etc.

Problems: What your chatbot struggles to help with or understand.

Goals: What your chatbot wants to achieve when assisting others.

Because this is a creative process, you can add and subtract as many elements as you need to create a clear profile for your bot. Here’s the persona I made for Ola, the hair appointment scheduling bot I created for my chatbot conversation flow post :

profile of the chatbot Ola that explains her strengths, goals, pain points, motivations and personality type

I added in a quote as an example of her speaking style and charts to show her personality’s driving traits. She originally had a backstory about moving to New York at age 20 to become a fashion photographer, but I ultimately decided that this information was not relevant to her chatbot duties. Plus it ventured too much into uncanny valley territory, which I’ll cover later in this post.

Connect your bot to your brand persona

In high school English, my teacher told the class to “write what you know.” It’s common wisdom given to new writers, but also a helpful guideline for those creating a bot from thin air.

What types of words or phrases do you already use to market to your target audience? Create a chatbot persona that fits this language. For example, I tied Ola’s persona to the industry she was representing. Stylists can be great conversationalists and give unfiltered opinions on your hair, which I wanted to capture with Ola.

It’s difficult to appeal to all humans, which is why making your bot uniform with your brand’s language is a good emotional strategy.

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Persona traits that can kill your chatbot

There’s a lot of things people don’t like about chatbots, and it goes well beyond shoddy AI. Here are a few characteristics to tread lightly on:

Relying on humor. All humor is subjective , so this is a tough trait to get right in the first place. Even the most popular digital assistants use neutral “dad jokes.”

Excessive humor can also be irritating. Imagine a Best Buy employee making technology puns during your entire transaction. The first one may make you crack a smile, but any more than that would seem too immature.

Try to use humor unexpectedly. For example, Woebot , a mental health chatbot, manages to lighten the mood without being too silly:

Jeffrey Hall, associate professor of communications studies at the University of Kansas, observed that people prefer shared laughter than listening to one person be a jokester. But predicting these shared moments of humor in a chatbot conversation is difficult.

As a compromise, try to keep humor as an afterthought rather than your chatbot’s whole identity.

Sounding human. In our consumer chatbot perceptions survey , we learned that users expect chatbots to behave like human agents, but make it clear that they’re bots. Doing the opposite could be damaging.

Researchers found that people are more likely to speak quickly and less clearly to systems pretending to be human. If your chatbot’s persona is too convincing as a human, users are bound to become irritated when errors occur — which are inevitable.

The more human-like a system acts, the broader the expectations that people may have for it.

Justine Cassell, computer-science professor at Carnegie Mellon University

This is why a lot of successful chatbots are non-human characters. Brands use images of cute robots and animals because it is in our human nature to feel positive emotions when we see large eyes and a little nose. Try using the baby-face bias to create a chatbot persona users will naturally embrace.

Being too conversational. Your chatbot’s persona could be “Entertainer” or “Debater,” but that doesn’t mean it needs to be a chatterbox. It’s better to let your users do the talking.

This advice even applies to chatbots designed to be conversationalists. Bots like Replika and Woebot work well as conversation partners because they are constantly asking users questions and turning the attention back to them.

Scatterbrains are a pain to talk to and their nonsense quips don’t always fit within the context of the situation. Try to find clever ways for your chatbot to express itself without dominating the conversation.

Maintain your chatbot persona after launch

Once you decide on a persona, it’ll likely go through changes. Monitor conversations and ask for customer feedback to find ways to improve your chatbot. Live chat services like Userlike let users give a star rating and leave written feedback at the end of each conversation.

Your chatbot is a growing member of your team and will get even better with time. I hope these tips help you get started. If you’re in need of more chatbot creation inspiration, check out our posts “5 Steps to a Catchy Bot Name” and “11 Step Process for a Great Chatbot Design.”