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5 must-haves for creating branded intelligent agents

“In the next 5–10 years, brands will need to have their own consumer-facing digital assistants. Voice skills on other platforms will not be enough. Today’s retailers should be taking the initial steps toward building fully branded intelligent agents — on open frameworks — that can speak directly to customers and other intelligent agents to accomplish tasks.” 
— Christi Olson, Microsoft

As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more powerful and prevalent, consumers have come to expect easier, always-on, personalized brand interactions. And as the popularity and skills of digital assistants like Cortana and Alexa expand, making sure your brand has a digital agent now is going to put you ahead in the long run.

One of the best ways to get started is by developing a chatbot. It may seem hard to believe but Gartner predicts that by 2020, humans will interact with chatbots more than they interact with their own spouses. And what’s more, although intelligent assistants are designed to communicate with humans, one day soon, they’ll be able to communicate with each other.

Brands must embrace intelligent agents, including chatbots, to keep pace with how humans are using technology. Below are five must-haves for building an effective, branded intelligent agent.

1. Must have human traits

If you haven’t already done so, start thinking of your brand as a human that makes customers feel special and connected on an emotional level. Your intelligent agent must reflect these human qualities. Because consumers don’t want to interact with technology — they want to connect with you through technology.

As evidence, we recently asked consumers to choose the words they would use to describe the character traits of a digital assistant. The top five were: helpful, smart, friendly, logical, and approachable — all human traits. Consumers want to interact with a person who can help them and that they can connect with. Your intelligent agent should reflect the key traits that humanize your brand.

2. Must have personality

While traits contribute to personality, there are specific qualities that make each human, and each brand, unique. Imagine if your intelligent agent took the Myers-Briggs personality type test. What kinds of results would you see? Outgoing and curious? Funny and quick-witted? Endowing your intelligent agent with a distinct personality is key to humanizing it.

Make sure you choose a personality that will connect with your audience and reflect well upon your brand personality. For example, Taco Bell has Tacobot which can help you order your burrito — all while dishing out humor, fun, and enthusiasm.

3. Must have access to data

Lots of data. The type of data your agent needs depends upon how the agent will be used. Does it need access to account information, purchase history, or a knowledge base? Call centers tend to be gold mines of data, with loads of recorded conversations that reveal what’s top of mind for customers, common issues and frustrations, as well as what makes them happy. Use these conversations when building and training your intelligent agent, so it can respond appropriately and within context of the conversation.

4. Must have emotional intelligence

Or in AI terms: it must use sentiment analysis. Customers want to know that you care. Advanced intelligent assistants must be able to learn voice inflections and tones in order to pick up on the attitudes, context and emotions behind the words. If a customer’s tone is getting sharp, the agent must be able to detect the frustration or anger in the customer’s voice and respond accordingly and humanly.

5. Must have the ability to converse and act

By now you probably realize that your agent has to do more than just crank out answers. It must be able to converse, with variations in its responses. It must also be prepared for random questions. For example, if you ask Cortana what her favorite movie is, she may tell you something like, “Not sure of a favorite. I do love those movies where a person closes the mirrored medicine cabinet to discover someone scary in the reflection.” And the next time you ask, her answer might be a little different, not repetitive like a robot.

But more than just being a great conversationalist, your intelligent agent must be able to help customers accomplish tasks such as setting up appointments, ordering a product, or exchanging an item. Your agent should go beyond a simple Q&A ability to deliver time-saving value to the customer.

Learn more today

If you’d like to learn more, download our recent whitepaper, Differentiating Your Brand with EQ.