1080bots

Building empathy into chatbots

We’re building empathy into chatbots. Working to give them the ability to understand, and one day even share the feelings of the customer.

When we talk about adding empathy to our chatbots, what are we really talking about?

Can we make lines of code actually understand and share your feelings? Well, if you break it down into those two parts, we can definitely do the former – the latter? Not just yet.

If you break it down into those two parts, we’re doing the former – the latter, well, not just yet.

hug2

The idea of building empathy into chatbots came out after a year or so of discussions. We’d noticed a real imbalance in the corporate structures of some of our clients, and as we researched more, it became clear that we weren’t the only ones seeing this.

We’d been working on an interesting project for a large client, specifically in the area of onboarding – that is, streamlining the process of getting new employees settled, up-to-speed and productive as soon as possible.

On the surface it seemed like a mildly complex set of tasks we’d need to build to accomplish this, but as we dug deeper, and as we researched the slew of companies who were also struggling with this issue, we noticed that many businesses systematically confuse orientation with onboarding.

Here’s why that matters:

  • Businesses spend millions of dollars trying to attract the best and the brightest talent, yet for the most part, once hired, they do a very poor job of making them feel important, welcome, cared about, and an integral part of the organization.
  • This matters because people who don’t feel valued tend to not stick around for long.
  • Pointing someone to a cube, issuing them a badge, telling them about fire exits, and making them sit through a sexual harassment video is not on-boarding – it’s cold, bureaucratic and immediately creates distance between the employee and the organization.
  • Finding, attracting, hiring, and then losing talent after 10-12 months is super-expensive and makes hiring good people even harder.

As we started to really look at this, it began to sound like a typical retail customer experience – basically the same thing happens – businesses spend way too much attracting new customers and, even though they’ll tell you differently, not enough to keep them, to make them feel valued, important and an integral part of the commerce process.

Given that a customer is someone who buys twice, handling churn after the experience has gone pear-shaped is just too late – it doesn’t matter how many toasters or free months of service you give away, your brand is now fundamentally shot with them (and their 500 closest Facebook friends.)

This is why we started to think about how to build empathy into the kickass chatbots we build for our clients.

Bots are nothing new, if you use Amazon or Slack or Quora or a host of other tools, you already interact with them – they’re small, automated packets of code that are super good at handling both the mundane and the complicated. They’re never late, they never forget, they don’t get impatient, they’re always around, and they cost way less, and are much more reliable than humans.

Building empathy into chatbots

Imagine if we could develop an automated way to help new employees feel truly valued, to help them navigate the complexities of a new organization, make sure they’re getting the assistance they need when they need it, and be super-supported for months rather than hours as they navigate their way around.

What if we could do the same for our retail customers?

Where we became really interested is in the area of conversation between humans and bots. How can we have a dialog with a human that’s authentic, helpful, caring, efficient, fun (where appropriate) and most of all gives the sense of empathy?

We have a lot of magic happening to make this a reality, but we think it begins with honesty. Like our first rule of chatbotics states, bots must never pretend to be human – to pretend is to begin a relationship based on an untruth – and people don’t feel connected if they think the conversation they are having is inauthentic.

Perception is reality

Bots are merely a reflection of the people that build them and the experiences and knowledge they are given access to.

By injecting empathy into the actual process of designing and building bots, and by placing the customer always at the forefront of any conversation, we create bots that offer the user the perception of caring, of listening, of really hearing what their issues are, and that translates to a true sense of empathy and connection, from the first interaction to the next, and the next. When our customers buy our chatbot technology, they’re really buying into a philosophy that places the customer at the forefront of the conversation and brings the commerce experience to them.

Contact us

Use this form to get in contact with us, or call +1 650-265-1193.