Understanding the users within chatbots

“Before being a part of the BotXO team, I wrote my master thesis about how to strengthen the customer relationship with a chatbot.”

By Line Juul Norgaard, Customer Succes Manager & Bot Operator specialist.

The IT-University of Copenhagen liked my thesis and asked nine other selected thesis writers and me to present our results at Thesis Talks. Curios what it entailed? Read below and watch a video from the presentation.

Missing knowledge within the field

My interest within chatbots started, as I had read many articles saying how amazing the technology was, and I had also read quotes from Satya Nadella and Mark Zuckerberg, whom both believe that the technology is going to revolutionize the way we communicate with businesses.

Understanding the users within chatbots - Line Juul Norgaard after handing in her thesis at ITU

Line Juul Norgaard at ITU

That excited me, and I immediately went looking for chatbots to interact with, only to realize that while chatbots sound great on paper, chatbots are kind of annoying within an interaction.

The reason was a contrast between the hype in the tech industry and my user experience. All the articles I had read were all from companies trying to sell their product – a chatbot – and they would therefore only highlight the positive aspects of chatbots and not necessarily the negative.

I, therefore, dived into the academic field of chatbots to see if anyone had tried to figure out what a good User Experience with a chatbot is, yet most studies focused on the development of the technology and the business aspect of it.

As a Digital Designer, I, therefore, felt the need to explore the territory of improving the user experience, as I believe that no digital product sustains the test of time if it does not accommodate the users in any way.

My approach to understanding the users

Line Juul Norgaard working on her thesis at ITU.

“I dived into the academic field of chatbots to see if anyone had tried to figure out what a good User Experience with a chatbot is”

The thing I, as a Digital Designer, view as most important is to understand the user and their priorities. It also meant that my thesis had a huge disclaimer saying that I would not bring any business aspects into consideration in the thesis. Some might cringe at the thought of a designer that doesn’t want to tie their knowledge to some restrictions in the form of resources, but the truth is; I did interviews with Nordea, and the findings from the interviews had already been covered in the academic field. It was, therefore, not cutting-edge knowledge, and I didn’t feel the need to repeat someone else’s research.

What I also viewed as the key was to not just randomly collect people’s opinions about chatbots but look at it in a context. I, therefore, chose to focus on Nordea, as they were on the brink of implementing their chatbot Nova to the Danish market. I decided to focus on Nordea’s customers from the age of 20-65 years of age, as that also covered their customers at different stages in their lives and therefore also had different needs for their relationship to the bank.

Chatbots and User Experience

My methods were to partly do user tests with Nordea’s customers. I looked at both the interaction that happened within the chat, but I also included the informant’s body language, as that is really telling of a User Experience. The informants got annoyed by the chatbot quite quickly, and they started to shake their heads, roll their eyes, and there was even one who stuck out his tongue to the chatbot. The reason was that the chatbot couldn’t answer most of their inputs.

The informants got annoyed by the chatbot quite quickly, and they started to shake their heads, roll their eyes, and there was even one who stuck out his tongue to the chatbot.

I also did focus group interviews to understand how they felt about Nordea as a company and how they felt about having a chatbot being a part of their relationship to the bank. Most of them didn’t understand the purpose of the chatbot and appreciated the human contact they had to the bank. Furthermore, the customers were worried that the chatbot would substitute this human contact. However, almost all the informants were very optimistic about the technology, as they could see the potential for its development. They, therefore, wanted to use it, but at that time it didn’t meet their needs.

Four ways to strengthen the customer relationship with a chatbot

All the above could be boiled down to four main findings that were important for improving the Customer Relationship with a chatbot:

1. The purpose of the chatbot needs to be clearly communicated.

2. The communication in the chatbot should be guiding the user through the process.

3. The content should be personalized.

4. The chatbot should try to accommodate the existing customer relationship.

You can see a presentation of the four findings in the video below:

Strengthening your Customer Relationship with chatbots – Line Juul Norgaard

Hopefully, you thought this was interesting, and if you want to discuss any of my findings, please feel free to reach out via e-mail ljn@botxo.co or LinkedIn.

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