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Building Conversational Interfaces - The Do's and Don'ts with Ondrej Sirocka

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Building Conversational Interfaces - The Do's and Don'ts with Ondrej Sirocka

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Building a conversational interface that people actually want to use can be tough a process. From understanding what users enter to providing logical responses, there’s a lot to create a successful experience. This presentation provides tips for designing conversational interfaces and the content that powers them. If you’re considering adding chatbots or voice-activated devices to your content delivery strategy, this session is right for you.

Takeaways

1) Tips for designing conversational interface
2) Tips for writing conversational content

Presented November 29, 2018, at Quadrus Conference Center for Information Development World 2018.

Building a conversational interface that people actually want to use can be tough a process. From understanding what users enter to providing logical responses, there’s a lot to create a successful experience. This presentation provides tips for designing conversational interfaces and the content that powers them. If you’re considering adding chatbots or voice-activated devices to your content delivery strategy, this session is right for you.

Takeaways

1) Tips for designing conversational interface
2) Tips for writing conversational content

Presented November 29, 2018, at Quadrus Conference Center for Information Development World 2018.

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Building Conversational Interfaces - The Do's and Don'ts with Ondrej Sirocka

  1. 1. Building Conversational Interfaces: The Do’s and Don’ts Ondrej Sirocka
  2. 2. Don’t get scared of the technical challenge
  3. 3. Don’t do it just because it’s cool We’re so trendy!
  4. 4. Have a relevant content strategy in place
  5. 5. Do your planning before writing
  6. 6. Analyze customer behavior Do your planning before writing
  7. 7. Define goals and scope Do your planning before writing
  8. 8. Create a character Do your planning before writing
  9. 9. Design a flowchart Do your planning before writing
  10. 10. Do your writing right
  11. 11. Write structured and reusable content Do your writing right
  12. 12. Pick scenarios one by one Do your writing right
  13. 13. Make sure people know they’re talking to a bot Do your writing right Hey Joseph, my name is Pepper and I’m here to help you with your order. I want a salami pizza In case you’d like to talk to one of our operators, feel free to type “Take me to a person” anytime.
  14. 14. Always have a way out Do your writing right Hey Joseph, my name is Pepper and I’m here to help you with your order. I want a salami pizza In case you’d like to talk to one of our operators, feel free to type “Take me to a person” anytime.
  15. 15. Repeat user’s input Do your writing right I want a salami pizza All right, I’ve added Pizza Salami to the basket! Would you like anything else? Any drinks to wash it down?
  16. 16. Provide summaries Do your writing right What’s in my basket so far? You have one Pizza Salami and Coke in your basket. What an excellent choice!
  17. 17. Use closed questions when possible Do your writing right I want a salami pizza All right, I’ve added Pizza Salami to the basket! How about adding some tasty upgrades? Cheese crust Extra topping No thanksChicken poppers
  18. 18. Provide priority information right away Do your writing right I want a salami pizza All right, I’ve added Pizza Salami to the basket! How about adding some tasty upgrades? Cheesy crust $1 Extra topping $2 Chicken poppers $6
  19. 19. Provide priority information right away Do your writing right All right, I’ve added Pizza Salami to the basket! How about adding some tasty upgrades? Detail Add to cart Detail Add to cart Detail Add to cart Cheesy crust $1 Extra topping $2 Chicken poppers $6
  20. 20. Prepare multiple versions of the same things Do your writing right I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that. I’m afraid I don’t understand. Sorry, can you rephrase that? When I grow up, I’ll be able to do that for you. Right now, I’m not sure I understand. Uh, oh… what do you mean exactly?
  21. 21. Humanize your conversational interface Do your writing right Uhm… ok, just a sec. Right on it. This might take a while. Hold on! Good choice, that’s my favorite too!
  22. 22. www.kenticocloud.com ondrej.sirocka@kentico.com Thank You OndrejSirocka

Editor's Notes

  • Hello everyone, thanks for having me, I hope you’re enjoying this event so far!
    My name is Ondrej Sirocka, I work at Kentico Cloud and as a vendor providing content management system for omnichannel content delivery, we tend to see some growing traction in businesses who are interested in conversational interfaces to use them for communication with their customers.
    And since we already have some projects behind us, today, I’d like to share with you our experience and some quick tips on how to deal with this kind of challenge. So I’m not going to talk about motivation why you should or shouldn’t go with conversational interfaces, but rather than that we will focus on what should happen once you seriously consider to do so.
    In other words—take this presentation as a summary of our lessons learned and best practices that you can use later for your work.
    Let’s get started.
  • If you want to implement a conversational interface, you shouldn’t get scared of the technological challenge and let it drive you away from the idea of building it. Very often I can hear people saying: “I don’t think we will ever build it. It’s too complicated, I don’t understand it, it involves all that sci-fi technologies like artificial intelligence and only big companies can afford it.”
    Well, the truth is, that building a chatbot is less of a technical and more an issue of user experience. In fact, and please remember this, conversational interfaces are, in a vast majority, not artificial intelligence at all. They are just programs following programmed behavior and even the most advanced ones are only using machine learning and natural language understanding.
    Which again might sound complicated, but you don’t need to deeply understand it, because there are awesome tools out there like dialogflow, microsoft luis, ibm watson and similar, that can be set up in a few minutes and once you learn rather simple concepts they work with, they’ll do all the hard work for you.
  • Even though you now know the technological part is not the biggest challenge, there is still a lot of effort hidden behind the whole process of building conversational interface and it can all become quite complex and expensive. Therefore you certainly shouldn’t build conversational interface just simply because it’s cool these days and everyone else is doing it. And believe me—we have seen cases like that.
  • So instead, I strongly suggest supporting your decision of implementing a conversational interface with a relevant content strategy and based on that define, whether this particular communication channel is the right one to do.
    There are two major elements, that might help you with the decision. First—take a look at your typical customers or personas, try to find out what channels they use for work, communication or even fun. Second—define what channels are in line with your organizational or content goals. If conversational interface appears on both of the lists and it seems to be one of the top priority, you might be good to go.
    So in short, if you aren’t able to justify the conversational interface implementation with a clear and relevant strategy, and that primarily involves your personas and goals, then you should reconsider the idea of building it because it might not be the right thing to do right now.
  • Once you know that the conversational interface is the right direction for your business, it might be tempting to jump straight into the implementation and start delivering quick results.
    However, before you do so, try to hold on a while and do some less sexy stuff first. Chatbots and voice systems are quite a new thing, their creation process has certain specifics that might be still new to most of us, and it’s very beneficial to think everything through before we write the first line of code or even content.
    That’s why I strongly suggest you defining some plan and strategy first. And now I’m not talking about the general content strategy I’ve mentioned together with the previous slide, but rather about the plan related to the conversational interface itself.
    Here’s how we do it.
  • Since you already know your customers and you might have your personas defined, it’s a good idea to take a look at their behavior and agree on tasks, issues or challenges that your new interface will help them to solve.
    We’ve learned that the easiest way of doing this is talking to our customers directly and learning this way about their problems, objectives and gathering feedback on their experience and suggestions for improvements.
    In general, the benefit for your users can be anything from faster searching for information, through providing assistance to performing some specific tasks more easily. It really depends on your context, so make sure you’ll do your best to find out.
  • Helping your customers and improving their satisfaction is always a priority, but you should also ask: “What’s in it for us? What goals do we want to achieve by implementing the conversational interface?”
    That’s why once you have the customer analysis done, it’s time to define your goals and based on that determine the scope of your solution. We do that in the way that every time someone in the team suggests a feature, conversational flow or any other addition to the scope, they have to justify how it is going to help us to fulfill the goals we have defined.
    This kind of approach will help you to know the direction of where you are going with the implementation and keep it within some clearly defined boundaries that are reflecting your objectives.
    Is it cutting costs for customer support, increasing conversion rates, supporting sales growth or anything else? That’s, once again, up to you and your organization. So be sure to know.
  • Well designed bots are, in fact, well-designed conversations. So what you’ll need next is your conversational character. It will have a big influence on your copy and style of writing and that’s why it’s important to have it defined before you actually start designing and producing the conversational content itself.
    Generally, it’s a good idea to project your strategy and your brand to the chatbot persona - a chatbot for Disney will definitely have different language and behavior compared to a chatbot for an insurance company focused on corporate clients. If you already have some marketing communication guidelines, brand materials, voice&tone or language specifications and similar, they can be a great help.
    So think about your character, define it’s backstory, avatar icon, voice and tone, language and type of personality, and then use your writing skills to make it come to life. If you don’t feel confident with this step, don’t be ashamed to hire a specialist, because no matter how easy it might look, creating a new conversational character is not a simple thing and very few of us actually have some real experience with it.
  • Once you have all of that, it’s time to design your flowchart. A flowchart is nothing else than a map of all your conversational scenarios and their walkthroughs. It will help you to illustrate where the dialog can go and what content you need to produce.
    This step is very important, because even a simple task like ordering a food can have many unexpected side scenarios like upselling with a drink or any other promo offer, setting up the delivery time for as soon as possible or some specific hour, changing the number of items in the basket and so on.
    As for the tools, I prefer to use some mind mapping software just because it’s easy to make changes in the diagram, but if you like, just paper and pencil will do the job too.
    In the first phase, there is no need to be too specific and write actual dialogs in the bubbles, just a description of what’s happening in every step should be fine and serve the purpose.
  • That’s pretty much it for the strategy and planning, and now let’s take a look at some tips on what should happen once you have your strategy ready and you finally want to start with the content production.
    And please note that I’ll be demonstrating all of the tips on chatbots since it’s easier for the purpose of this presentation, but most of them are applicable to conversational interfaces in general.
  • Since you’re going to produce content for a new channel, it might be quite tempting to start creating completely new content in a new platform just for the purpose of the conversation interface.
    Rather than that, try to reuse what you already have or at least try to prepare your new content in a way so that it will be reusable for other platforms too. Who in the audience is familiar with the term “Intelligent” or even “adaptive content”?

    So for those who haven’t heard about it, it’s a structured content that is produced in line with a few basic rules so that it’s easily reusable across multiple channels or platforms.
    Of course, this is just a very brief explanation so if you’d like to know more, you can find additional information on our blog for example. The main message here is that your content shouldn’t be produced in silos, but rather than that the team should cooperate and collaborate over the same content stored in one place. Believe me—following this advice will save you a lot of time and pain.
    For this, just like our clients did, you can use Kentico Cloud, which is an omni-channel content hub designed exactly for this scenario.
  • When writing the conversational content, I recommend making things simple and always focusing on one particular conversational flow at a time and not to extensively think what can happen in some other scenarios you’ve discovered and designed. Because remember - even though your chatbot has multiple scenarios, your customers are always going to experience just one of them at a time.
    So start with the scenarios where you see the biggest value for you and our customer, do a testing run and then continue with the rest, step by step.
  • Make sure people know they are talking to a machine, because they don’t like to be fooled. No matter how well you implement your chatbot, there will be always situations when the conversational interface won’t be able to respond correctly or won’t get users intent right.
    I remember I was once testing Mayo clinic skill on Alexa and asked:
    “How can I go on a diet?”
    And Alexa answered: “Suicide, taking your own life, is a tragic reaction to stressful life situations — and suicide can be prevented...”
    So what it understood was that I wanted to die, not go on a diet. It was kind of funny, because I knew I was talking to a machine, but if I had thought I was talking to a real person, I wouldn’t have had very good feeling about it.
    So again - always make sure people know they are talking to a bot and apply this rule to your writing and to the process of creating the character we were talking about earlier.
  • Another tip is tightly connected to the previous one. Always have a way out.
    It might happen that your bot won’t be able to help, or there might be customers, that are not willing to talk to a machine. For that kind of situations, I recommend you make it possible to redirect the conversation to a real person at any point of the dialog.
  • This is just a demonstration how customer frustration can look like when they are not able to get to a real person. You can see the user repeating human, human, human to be redirected but chatbot always fails to do so because of its poor implementation.
  • When compared to classic visual interfaces, we can say that conversational interfaces provide us with less control overall. Just try think about it – when you are using a mobile application or web, you can click here and there and you can instantly see the information you’re looking for, you can skip certain parts to get where you want and so on.

    And then you have your chat bot or voice channel that is kind of one-directional, has some specific flow and can provide limited amount of information at a time. So the question is – how do you make sure that your users have the feeling they are in control and know what’s happening?
    That’s why the next tip is quite clear - repeat user’s input wherever it makes sense. Users need to be sure that your conversational interface got their intent right, therefore some kind of confirmation is more than welcomed.
    [read the conversation on the slide]
  • For the same reason I’ve just mentioned, I also recommend providing your users with summaries. Make sure your customers can review what’s the current situation or what actions they’ve done so far.
    [read the conversation on the slide]
    Simply put - remember the differences between visual and conversational interfaces when designing and writing your content and make sure you give your users as much control as possible.
  • Another related advice might be—use closed questions with predefined answers. Take a look at my example
    [read the slide].
    If we didn’t provide the user with the options, he would be quite lost, because he wouldn’t know what upgrades are available. So if the list of next possible steps is rather short, always give your customer closed question with clearly defined answers.
  • As I’ve already mentioned, conversational interfaces are quite different in terms of providing information when compared to a computer screen for example. For Alexa, it takes some time to communicate the content, for chatbots you have limited possibilities of presenting the information. That’s why it’s important to prioritize your content and provide the most important parts right away.
    Just compare this to the previous slide. [switch to the previous slide]
    You might have something like this, or… [switch back] something like this.
    The difference is that the most important information, name, photo and price, are now instantly visible and user doesn’t have to ask for them specifically. This is very helpful to the user to safe some time and make the right choice.
    The only thing I’m missing here is some specific actions the user can perform, so let’s take it to another level
  • Now I’m perfectly happy with the result. The user has all information he needs and there are clear actions defined.
  • Next tip - randomize conversational answers. With a high probability, you’ll identify some parts of your conversational flow, that’ll be repeated more often than the others. That’s very typical for confirmations, asking additional information or situations when your bot doesn’t understand.
    So if you have something like that, it’s a good idea to prepare more options and randomly exchange between them. So for example here I have various versions of the chatbot saying that it doesn’t understand what user wants to do.
    [read some examples]
  • And finally the last tip… Even though I’ve told you to let everyone know they are speaking to a bot, the conversational flow should feel natural and it’s always ok to make your conversational interface a bit human. So all those little things like [read from the slide] can help you to make the conversation sound more natural. It helps you to build conversational personality, keep the interaction friendlier and build a connection with your customer.
  • And that’s it. I don’t really have any key takeaways since the whole presentation was a summary of our experience and quick tips that you can work with. If you don’t remember them all, make sure you keep the handout that should be sitting on your table so that you can revisit them later.
    Thank very much.

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