It’s a question I sometimes get asked. “Why couldn’t I do this on a website?”, “What is it that a conversational system offers, that a website cannot?” I should confess that if you ask this question, it marks you out as an unbeliever.
So this post is dedicated to all those unbelievers. I hope to convert you in the next few minutes.
I have three simple answers (after carefully inserting a pin into the voodoo doll of the unbeliever) that I commonly offer:
- 🤩 We can engage, entertain and retain attention in ways that websites do not.
- 😎 We can connect with new audiences in new ways, building a connection with hard to reach groups.
- 🏎 Done well, we can rapidly deliver and iterate in a way that’s more agile than anything you’ve ever experienced.
Let’s be honest; the modern digital world is overwhelming 🤯. We’re exposed to a relentless onslaught of information, adverts, offers, demands and scams.
Where once we had a good book to read 📖, we now have all of the world’s 🌎 information at our fingertips.
Most of us now have the attention span of a gnat 🦟, flitting from thing to thing. We only pay attention to something that grabs us. The boring 🥱 need to shut up shop and go home 🏡.
👉 Enter one of our conversational experiences. It’s filled with personality, using words to paint a picture. It uses humour 🤣. It’s littered with emojis. It doesn’t always play by the corporate rules — and in so doing, it delights and surprises 😳.
💥 There’s a whole new world of language and grammar out there that only conversational 💬 systems can harness. It’s how we speak to each other in Facebook, WhatsApp or SMS. It’s the language of real 🧑 people.
In contrast, web pages have become the language of business 🏢 — faceless, boring, staid and corporate. It doesn’t matter how flashy your home page or how good the designer. We’ve all seen the video backdrop, the elegant colours and over-designed graphics. But, sad though it is, they all blur into one.
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⚠️ In contrast, conversations are where real culture is expressing itself. Whether it’s an emoji 👊, a ~special~ use of characters to bring emphasis, an acronym like lol or the use of a passive.aggressive.full.stop, the effect is the same — people take notice. Good conversational systems are edgy, surprising and funny. We use words to solicit a reaction, not just to inform. And when we design to create a reaction, we build something that retains attention.
Check out Gretchen McCulloch’s Because Internet if you’d like to understand how we’re using words in new and surprising ways.
It’s a movement we’re all part of in our personal lives — why not harness it for businesses too?
Only a conversational solution allows us to place our functionality at the heart of messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Apple’s iMessage and even plain old SMS. We can’t exist in these places unless we build a conversational solution.
Ask yourself, which are you more likely to action — an email, a notification on your phone’s screen of a new Facebook Messenger message, or an SMS? Email turned up to this fight with a knife 🔪, whilst Facebook and SMS brought a whole arsenal 💣🧨.
And ask yourself which apps those 20-somethings spend most of their time in? Hint: they’re virtually all social media 💬 apps of one kind or another.
iGen is the generation that grew up on social media and smartphones. They’re able to immediately discern BS and inauthenticity. Their phone is their computer. And they likely don’t experience your brand through your exquisitely designed website — they know of you through a myriad of digital experiences you’ve probably never considered — many of which use new forms of language.
I like this pithy take on this generation from ZebraIQ.
“Talk like a real person. Not like a robot….Constantly chat with your customers.”
Talking like a real person means using the language of real people. It’s the words we use that bind us — and only words can connect with younger audiences. You don’t necessarily need to go full-on and litter your dialogs with “af”, but knowing your audience and tailoring that dialog in a way that truly connects does much more than any graphic design could.
I’m a huge believer that conversational solutions “reach the parts the other technologies cannot”, to coin a famous advertising slogan🍺.
You can make a conversational project as big 🐘 or as small 🐭 as you want. In my previous life, I saw my fair share of $1m+ projects and a few $10+ ones as well. My honest opinion is that such initiatives are extremely difficult to build and most likely will underwhelm when they arrive. At Humanise.AI we avoid such projects.
The conversational experiences that we build are single-purpose systems 🤖. Almost nobody thinks they’re interacting with an all-knowing, all-seeing sci-fi artificial intelligence 🧠. But that doesn’t matter, because we’re getting stuff done in an engaging and efficient way. This makes the systems efficient to build, because we’re not trying to build a sci-fi dream.
Even when we build something bespoke 👚, we exploit our underlying platform — that’s been evolved to support the kind of things we commonly need. Because of that, we expect implementation projects to be between 2️⃣ weeks and 2️⃣ months. You could say that we prioritise simplicity, speed and “getting shit 💩 done”. And even when we’re building bespoke things, we’re looking for opportunities to improve our platform to make similar jobs more efficient the next time.
With these conversational systems there is no UI 🖼 design. You get chat bubbles with text and a few standard widgets like buttons and carousels. About the only UI design decision is what colour 🎨 you want the message bubbles to be.
By making purpose-driven systems, rather than AI experiments, we build systems that are fast to deliver and faster still to change. Of course, if you want to build Siri or compete to win the Turin Test, it’s a different matter. But that’s not what we do.
We’ve delivered significant new conversational experiences in just a couple of weeks — including designing a whole new process and integrating with core systems. We can rapidly make major changes to those experiences in just a few hours ⏳, if needed. And we frequently make major changes to a process flow mid-flight 🛫. If we notice people getting confused by the conversation at 10am 🕙, we make a change to fix it by lunchtime. It’s all about rapid adjustment where the only thing we’re changing is the text of the conversation.
👉 The nature of a conversational system means that we have a complete end-to-end framework for how everything works — and that framework allows us to do things at a pace that other technologies cannot match. Our only decisions are about the text of the conversation, not what the interface looks like or what the engineering of the systems should be.
By way of example, our 🦠 COVID-19 bot 🦠 was developed in just a few days. When we decided to implement a real-time data feed into it, we did that in an evening. We make adjustments to it — some small, some not so small — on a daily basis. For us, it’s about reacting in the moment. It’s about being relevant and getting stuff out there that starts a conversation. Only conversational can do that, because it allows us to jettison so much other stuff and focus our efforts.
❓ So, what can a conversational system do, that a web page cannot?
✅ My answer, simply, is that it’s not ✨what✨ it does, but ✨how✨ it does it.
Purposeful conversational systems are quicker 🏎 to deliver, retain the attention 🤩 of users in ways that over-designed websites cannot and build connections 🤝 with important, but hard to reach, audiences.
The best thing about Conversational solutions? They complement, rather than replace, your current channels. You can still have that corporate presence — but add a bit of sass with a conversational solution. Those who like a bit of sass will love ❤️ you for it. You can afford to, and should be, a bit experimental with your conversational solutions.