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“Hey, Siri, Where’d You Get Your Personality?” Four Ways to Make a Digital Assistant Engaging.

When you think of digital assistants, you’re likely to think of Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant or Apple’s Siri, and how they make your life a little easier by giving you reminders, providing commute updates and helping you with your online shopping. The form and function of these assistants is often top of mind and it’s easy to see how these aspects align with their respective brands and help engage the user.

But what about the personalities of these digital assistants? How do their personalities enhance the user experience, and how do you design a personality that is both helpful and fun for the user to interact with?

The personality of a digital assistant is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to user engagement and satisfaction. A digital assistant may have plenty of functionality, but if accessing that functionality isn’t an enjoyable experience, users might decide not to use your product. Below are four key things to consider when designing a digital assistant personality that engages users and aligns with the client’s brand.

• Conveying Empathy: The digital assistant should use a tone and language that signals empathy to the user as a way to build trust. Especially when dealing with sensitive topics like health or money, it is important for the user to feel like their digital assistant is trustworthy and understands what they need.1

• Personality Quirks: While incorporating personality quirks might seem less intuitive than building in empathy, adding minor personality flaws helps humanize interactions in a way that allows the user to relate to their digital assistant.2 Think about taking an existing personality trait of the parent brand and amplifying it or adding a nuance to it for the digital assistant.

• Creating Dialogue: Users are more likely to engage with their digital assistant if they feel satisfied with the overall experience. While the ultimate goal is for users to feel like their needs are being met, something as small as creating simple dialogue can go a long way to increase user satisfaction and engagement.3

• Gendered or Genderless?: Currently, the “out of the box” personality setting for the majority of digital assistants is explicitly or implicitly female. Conversations in the media highlight concerns that female digital assistants reinforce gender stereotypes by implying that they are more suitable to fill service roles.4 This means choosing a gender – or not – increasingly has the potential to make a statement.

1. Tearsheet. Banks struggle with empathy, privacy issues with voice banking. Available at: https://www.tearsheet.co/artificial-intelligence/banks-struggle-with-empathy-privacy-issues-with-voice-banking. Accessed August 2, 2018.

2. Digiday. ‘We’ve trained our customers to be super rigid’: Lessons from Capital One’s chatbot, Eno. Available at: https://digiday.com/marketing/weve-trained-customers-super-rigid-lessons-capital-ones-chatbot-eno/. Accessed August 2, 2018.

3. Time. Google wants to give your computer a personality. Available at: http://time.com/4979262/google-wants-to-give-computer-personality/. Accessed August 2, 2018.

4. Forbes. Voice assistants as an extension of your brand: Three things marketers should consider. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2018/07/23/voice-assistants-as-an-extension-of-your-brand-three-things-marketers-should-consider/#71c44c0d8a24. Accessed August 2, 2018.


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