Did Microsoft go wrong with its chat bot for India?
On India’s Independence Day, I sat back late night doing some reading when I read about Ruuh. Ruuh is Microsoft’s desi chatbot – made for India.
— Microsoft India (@MicrosoftIndia) August 5, 2018
I said to myself – “Wow! I should strike up a conversation” and proceeded to Messenger. It proceeded fine with Ruuh to the point where it replied back in Hindi.
Then this happened! I asked “her” when was India’s Independence Day.
@MicrosoftIndia Ruuh is a nice desi chatbot, except that your engineers have configured EST timings in it, while it should be in IST, considering you made it for India. Check the snap! @harryshum #MicrosoftAI pic.twitter.com/DI1YOrRZs6
— Samrat Roy Chowdhuri (@techiesamrat) August 14, 2018
This is what the chat looked like on August 15, 2018 01:12 AM IST, which is India’s Independence Day.
A common but highly unexpected mistake from Microsoft – you have a chatbot specifically made for India and yet the chatbot does not have the context of Indian time. Instead it seems to calculate in Alaska Daylight Time (not EST as has been mentioned in my tweet). Why so, Microsoft?
The Need for Humanizing Chatbots
The world is moving more towards a conversational experience. Chatbots help implement this experience through the use of CUI or conversational user inerface.
Human beings having a conversation with machines through computer or laptop keyboard, the mobile touchpad, or voice based commands is taking the world by storm and every organization, small, medium, big have either implemented a chatbot or is in the process of designing one.
The idea behind building a chatbot is to humanize the experience of conversation with a machine or software. Chatbot builders need to remember this while ideating and building one.
The success of a chatbot depends on the facet – can a bot understand, interpret and take action based on what the user has spoken or typed?
Building a Successful Chatbot
There are different elements that can contribute to the success of your chatbot and I will highlight some of these easy concepts below.
The make or break point – how does a chatbot welcome the user. The user can be new or existing and that should define the chatbot behavior.
For a business, it can be as formal as –
- Hi <customer first name>
- Hello <customer first name>
- Hi <customer first name>, I am <chat bot name>, how may I help you?
For a utility based chatbot app, it can be a bit different. A weather chatbot can easily start with the current weather of the user based on the location he/she is in. “Hi <user first name>, the weather at <city name> is <weather type> and the temperature is <temperature in Fahrenheit or Celsius>”.
An informal or fun chatbot can make the greeting lighter with a smiley or GIF.
All these sounds good if it is a new user. However, for an existing user, it can be a bit challenging and AI plays an important role here. Like, the user might have an abandoned cart and the chatbot can start the conversation from there or provide some better alternatives to the products in the cart. Or it can also delightfully provide some discounts to the products in the cart.
I will discuss more on this later in the article.
The idea has always been to interpret and express emotion. And it can be both ways. A user can express his/her current mood or behavior using a smiley or emoticon. Can your bot understand, interpret and act based on it?
Emoticons are very powerful – a simple tap can mean more than a sentence. No doubt, their usage is only increasing and users are even paying to get them on their device. Can your bot also express itself through an emoticon?
Emoticons can make the interaction more intense, fun, establish a bond with the user leading to customer acquisition.
Humor can make any conversation light-hearted. Your chatbot can make the user’s experience informal and even that can go a long way in developing a close bond with the user.
Microsoft’s Ruuh has a good sense of humor. Good job here, Microsoft!
Having said that, implementing humor in a chatbot can be complex. Your chatbot needs to know when to be humorous and when to be serious.
Cracking a joke when the customer is facing an issue with his/her order can be disrespectful. Remember – there is a fine line between humor and disrespect!
The type of humor you implement in your chatbot needs to be aligned with the purpose that your chatbot seeks to fulfill.
You will tell me – “Oh come on, this is old!” Gamification is an old concept and has been implemented by brands the world over in the past decade to promote brand awareness, increase brand loyalty, etc.
The same goals can be achieved through your chatbot. For example, implementing a gaming feature where if the user successfully reaches a point, some amount of discount is provided on certain promotional products or services on the online store.
Gamification can be fun and keep the user engaged for a longer duration.
Sorry Microsoft, I again have to bring in Ruuh here to explain what went wrong and why context based design is important.
Just as I signed out from my office for the day, Ruuh proposed a game. I readily agreed! It was a text-based RPG (role playing game) where the chatbot tells me a story and gives me options to choose that will decide which way the game goes.
It went fine and I was having fun till I put my mobile phone away to board the car. The next time I opened Messenger and replied to Ruuh’s scenario in the game, this is what happened.
It was a mess and I had quickly abandoned the bot!
You see how Microsoft’s chatbot forgot the context of the conversation when it was left idle for around 2.5 hours? That’s exactly what should not happen.
Continuity drives human conversation. Remembering the previous conversation and resuming from where it ended previously will bring handsome returns to your chatbot strategy.
Remember, as human beings you and I have short attention span. So it is very normal for a user to move on from an interaction with the chatbot to more important things in his/her real life. If your chatbot does not have a context based design, it will lead to abandonment and losses.
Keep these points in mind and your chatbot will wow your customers/users. Of course, there can be other factors too that will determine how your chatbot does.
Do you have a chatbot? Are you designing one? I am waiting to converse with yours!