Podcast | Why today’s brand stewards should speak conversational UX – in rich media

Jean
Shin

Director, Strategy & Content | Podcast Host of Mobile Interactions Now

20 min podcast
tyntec Podcast - Episode 26

In this Part 2 of our discussion with Marco Spies, we delve deeper into the dialog design side of conversational experience. Marco takes us through a case study and shares the secrets behind making a stellar chatbot and training it to become a sales outperformer – complete with an overall approach, and details involving people and process.

Podcast transcript

Jean:

Marco, welcome back to the show. In our previous episode, we talked about some of the big topics that we need to really start thinking about as we are designing more conversational interface, a chatbot being one of them. This time, I would love to get more specific in terms of some of the case studies that you briefly mentioned, some of the work you're doing, and really break that down to the secrets of why something was really successful versus other things.

So I would love to just pick up from the two things you mentioned, they're really interesting. The overall approach to UX flow, and how you can provide  guided experience differently for more impact. And the second part is, having that personality of the assistant to make the interaction more satisfying. So can you tell us, say case study in a way where you can break it down for us a little bit?

 

Marco:

So I mentioned before that we did a chatbot for Lexoffice and they approached us actually with the task to create a campaign idea for Black Friday. And we proposed actually three ideas. And one of those was a chatbot and we knew that it was actually quite bold to propose a chatbot as a sales campaign. But we outlined the idea and we said to the client, "If this works, then you will have not only a successful campaign, but you will have a whole new channel to reach your customers and to keep constant conversation with your customers." So the client liked the idea and we did that.

Now, the problem was we only had six weeks time to go to launch the whole thing. So we had to build a chatbot in six weeks and we had to set up the whole campaigning around it, including social media advertising and all this. But at the end of the day, we really made it. It was a really great experience for the team also. It was not just an FAQ bot. It was a sales bot and we really had to get the UX right. And we had to get the personality right. And we had to get also the advertising around it right.

So we created Lui. We built it based on cognitive AI, a bot platform, which really allowed us for rapid building of the bot. It is also the platform that is probably most easy to use among all that are out there. In our last session, I outlined the process a little bit. So we traded the personality of Lui. We created an avatar, we animated the avatar, we created a lot of assets that were related to the product and to the campaigning. We bought online on Black Friday and on Cyber Monday, the Monday after Black Friday, Lexoffice had the highest sales ever on one single day and all through a bot. To be honest, that was something that we did not expect. It actually thrilled all of us.

 

Jean:

Allow me to pick up from there. So you talked about training the bot to get to that point. Was it just the training part of this or what made it so successful? Because I'm imagining, because you're talking about the whole buyer's journey and throughout, not just saying hello and just answering a quick question. So tell us a little bit about what that training was like, why it was achieving that kind of results. And to what extent throughout the journey, when do you actually have to hand over to the salesperson? How far through the buyer's journey did it go?

 

Marco:

Well, we actually covered, first of all, the whole sales process, but also the recommendation process. So we actually had to cover the whole process of buying, but also the process of recommendation. So we had to separate actually the target groups, existing customers and prospects, and then we had to create different funnels for each of them. And then there were prospects that already knew about Lexoffice. And there were those that did not know anything about Lexoffice. And so there were a few mechanisms that we also had to develop and had to implement into the bot and reactions to this. So whenever a new level was reached of a lower pricing and so on, the bot had to communicate this to the community also.

So all this was basically built in a big storyboard or a big architecture, and then put dialogues to it. And actually the misunderstood rate right from the beginning was quite low because we worked strongly with user guidance and quickly replied. So I think in the first hours we started off with like 20% misunderstood rate, but then very quickly brought it down to something like 10 or so. And then in the further course, we brought it so far down that we had an overall rate of 3% in the end.

 

Jean:

That sounds like a powerful AI machine working behind, from right out of the gate, if it was hitting that mark. Was it 100% text-based?

 

Marco:

No, it was not only text-based. It was actually, as I said, we had integrated quite a number of rich media and we had in-credit slider, carousels, where you could choose the different referral bonuses. Also, we had integrated something like a product wizard, which would recommend you the right package of the product, the right version of the product. And yes, I think Cognigy.AI does contain quite a good AI, but at the same time, we did a really good job covering all and analyzing all the intents immediately came in and optimizing for them. So the system really got very quickly better because we had a conversational designer behind it, in the first days, optimizing costs, essentially.

 

Jean:

That really jives with what I'm dealing with at work, in terms of how simple features like interactive buttons and some of the menus and carousels, those tools are really built for automation. As an end-user, rather than having a conversation, whether I text or speak to the bot, if there's just something quick that I already know and got already trained by using it on a website or something like that, something I can simply click, I would click.

Now, I want to get your advice here for brands out there who are thinking, "Okay, OMG, we really need some rapid solution to have some of those things." And whether that becomes chatbot being part of it or not, how would you advise brands in general, who need to really start utilizing digital experience, specifically as a sales marketing tool, rather than the passive way that they have been using on their website or other things? How should they begin to think about, what are a few things that are really important that they need to think first before they engage and move forward?

 

Marco:

I think the first challenge that brands have to solve is to think of where they put the ownership for this topic. Most of the time it is in IT. Under the common circumstances at the moment, this leads to an IT only solution most of the time, because most of the companies still have silos. We need a change in mindset, but this is not new for the conversational space. This is in everything that companies do nowadays, we can see that things go better if they change their mindset from a silo organization to an interdisciplinary organization where different disciplines, different departments really work together and talk to each other.

I think it is exactly that. Preparing the ground for adding conversations to their experiential ecosystem, preparing ground means for companies getting the brand set up right. And for large corporations, it's easier said than done as it actually requires fundamental change in their mindset and in the waste brand stewardship it's executed today. And they have to get out of the role of being the guardian of the brand and develop their own initiative. On the other hand side from a product development perspective, brand departments are often perceived as a nuisance. So here too, is rethinking necessary and both have to approach each other. They need to break up open their silos and work together.

There is a lot of uncertainty about this topic and the lack of trust also in that technology. Before you mentioned Clippy, Clippy is what we are quite often confronted with as a worst case scenario. So people say, "We do not want the Clippy." That is it. There have been experiences in the past that make companies afraid of doing the same mistakes. All right? In Germany, we say, "They are burnt children."

 

Jean:

God forbid. When you and your team were creating Lui, did you have to work with some kind of brand style guide or something? Because what you just said, really, I wanted to bring it to the real environment where, how the classical role of brand stewards is, they have kind of a policing responsibility, right?

 

Marco:

Yes, definitely. I mean, you have to understand the brand first. So any brand guidelines or a style guide or whatever that sums up what the brand is about is helpful, but then you have to reinterpret it for the new medium. And here, again, like in any other digital medium, it is about cohesiveness and not about consistency.

 

Jean:

Does that take re-interpretation, reiteration? I guess one can get better with practice.

 

Marco:

It is about defining personality and thinking of how is this personality perceived in this medium? In the end, it all goes down to bot's behavior and a bot's way to speak with people. And of course for this, we also can then again, define guidelines. And that is usually what we do after having done the project and launching the bot. We should document all the learnings and we should set up a style guide because usually our clients then start working with their bot by themselves. And it is important to give them some guidance. Of course, we can support them for the process, but it's important at the same time that they have the feeling that they really own it and it's not a work that an agency has done for them. And they do not... They have to relate to it. The bot has to become their colleague that they can work with and that they can further develop. So documentation and brand definition is important there.

 

Jean:

Absolutely, a fascinating new field. I think there will be more use cases, specific parts and different interactions as well. I can imagine one single brand owning many different manifestations of that bot persona and in different contexts. And how we as professionals trigger that, the whole action in terms of making that click connect to the entire customer journey that is happening in the background, and still being able to let people experiment and own it themselves and keep building on it, because it's not a logo design, a finite thing. You can’t just say, here you go, you put this on this corner. It's nothing like that. And what you're talking about is, it's really exciting, but at the same time, how would I do it if it's on my desk? And it's not an easy thing. That's why it's, I think, exciting. So I really thank you for that.

And let me just, because I know you're intimately working with a lot of designers, not only developers, and thinking about the role that they are playing. The scope of what they're doing, I think has drastically changed. If you were to look at it from the new generation of designers, what are some of the words you want to give them in terms of how to think about it and really take it from there and do something exciting with it?

 

Marco:

I think in general for designers, it's a great time to live in because there is such a broad range of things that we can design in the digital world, from websites and mobile apps, from gooeys to natural user interfaces, tangible thing to conversational user interfaces. And I think as a designer, you should be open to get familiar with any of these actually. I think it's important to have a process and to have a way of thinking and going about things. And if you have that, it actually doesn't matter what medium you're designing for.

The funny thing is that our lead conversational designer is actually a visual designer. And before he came to us, he have not even done any digital project, but he has even worked on Cognigy's graphical user interface. Now, because as the conversational designer, working with Cognigy, he's so familiar with the platform and as a visual designer, he's able to create a interface and he could bring this together, working on the Cognigy user interface as well.

At the other hand side, it's important for us designers to understand that we are not the only ones who create new products in that world. You also need developers and you need other disciplines. You need strategies, you definitely need UX people and you need writers. I think being part of an interdisciplinary team that may even be the best, best part of the whole job, because you learn so much from everyone else. I mean, when we did our first extended reality project, we had never dealt with virtual reality before, so we had to become experts in basically no time. And we made it because we had our approach and we just deep dived into the technology and experience it. That's the most important part, experience your own product, use your own product. If you build a chatbot, talk to it, don't just build it, but talk to it constantly. I think that is very important.

 

Jean:

That's an awesome advice, really something even I can enjoy. So I really thank you. And I know your Branded Interactions, the English edition just came out, congrats, by the way! But if there is any place else that you want our listener to go to, to follow the work you are doing, where would you point them to?

 

Marco:

We have a blog called brandnewthinking.de. It's mostly German, but some articles are in English as well. And we are on Medium as well. Then of course, our website thinkmoto.de.

 

Jean:

I lied a little bit. I do have one more question that I ask my guests. And with that, that is really the last question. So tell us, please, so that we can get to know you better, what are the three apps you use the most on your phone?

 

Marco:

For sure WhatsApp, Instagram and Duolingo at the moment, because I'm trying to improve my French. I have a 40-day streak today, so I hope I keep it going.

 

Jean:

Special thanks, because I stopped using the English-German Duolingo for a while and I'm just going to remind myself to get back on it. Thank you for that. Lovely. So, with that, it was absolutely wonderful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

 

Marco:

Thank you.