Published: 6 Minutes read

How do you Choose a Name for your Chatbot?

Have you heard the story about the person who got sniffy with a customer service chatbot only to find out they were dealing with a real person? It’s easy to see how it might happen. 

We assume those little chat boxes at the bottom of a web page are automated because sometimes they are. It’s a testament to the state of the art that it’s plausible to mistake automated for ‘real’ service. 

At Galvia, we’ve developed chatbots or virtual assistants for both academic and enterprise sectors. The challenge is always to increase engagement by delivering information using a tone appropriate to the user base. It might be friendly and welcoming, it may be completely neutral. It may have a name, it may be nameless. There are good reasons for both approaches.

Why develop a chatbot for your organisation?

Chances are, you’ve interacted with a chatbot without even realising it. For instance, while researching a product on your computer, a chat window may have appeared, offering assistance. Alternatively, you might have used your smartphone to request a ride via chat when heading to a concert. Another example could be placing an order for coffee at a local café using voice commands and receiving information about the order’s readiness and cost. 

Chatbots enhance workplace efficiency and cost-effectiveness for organisations while delivering convenience and additional services to both internal staff and external customers/stakeholders. They enable companies to swiftly address various customer inquiries and concerns, thereby reducing the necessity for human interaction. 

When relying solely on human resources, organisations can only cater to a limited number of individuals at a time. In contrast, chatbots empower businesses to engage with an unlimited number of customers in a personalised manner, with the flexibility to scale operations based on demand and business requirements. By utilising chatbots, a business can deliver human-like, personalised, and proactive assistance to millions of people simultaneously.

Why do most chatbots have female names?

We’re used to virtual personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri and it’s no accident they both have female names. Alexa is the short form of ‘Alexandra’ a Greek name that translates as ‘defender of man’, while Siri is of Scandinavian origin and means ‘beautiful woman who leads you to victory’. Both names are short, easy to remember and relatively uncommon so when you say ‘Alexa set an alarm’ or ‘Hey Siri, set an alarm’ you’re not talking to anyone else.  Even the ostensibly neutral Google Assistant uses a female voice by default.

An article in the Atlantic put it down to two factors: 1) a history of women working in administrative roles and 2) it’s easier to find a female voice with broad appeal than a male one. As Stanford University communications professor Clifford Naas once told CNN; “It’s a well-established phenomenon that the human brain is developed to like female voices.” 

In an effort to not reinforce gender biases, the chatbot we developed for the University of Galway ‘Cara’ – Gaelic for ‘friend’ – is gender neutral but it does have a welcoming tone of voice designed to promote engagement and repeated use. 

The choice worked as it was short, memorable, and had a positive connotation. Our client gave us a brief of creating a service to help students access information on services ranging from opening hours for the library to how to contact mental health professionals. By using a simple conversational interface on-site and a presence on Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp we freed up hundreds of staff hours usually spent on mundane tasks performed during working hours. Cara continues to deliver a 24/7 service and provides a space for higher order tasks for staff to focus on. From a productivity perspective it has been a true friend.

Read our Success Story in full here. 

Does your chatbot even need a name?

What works in education doesn’t necessarily translate across sectors. Different clients have different needs and we are finding that our clients’ expectations can be met based on functionality without having to develop a persona or tone. 

With one of our Enterprise clients our solution was designed to alert to project failure for staff.  We were tasked with developing an AI chatbot built on ten years worth of project data held in its enterprise resource management systems.  Our scalable decision intelligence platform was able to identify red flags from past failures and create automated alerts for when they appeared, allowing for rapid correction so as to save money and man hours. Our on-premise solution was delivered with in-depth training to communicate its value and make sure it could be used effectively. 

In this case, the user experience here did not need the kind of sensitivities required to deal with a broad range of users who may be feeling isolated or in need of information about a massive and imposing institution. The enterprises’ project managers were already familiar with the organisation, its resources and how to effectively use AI. The goal wasn’t to deliver a friend or a guide, it was to roll out a copilot, a tool added to the regular productivity suite. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and gave us important feedback and validated this approach we have replicated with other clients.

Find our more about decision intelligence here.

So, does your chatbot really need a name? If your audience is large and outward facing it can be valuable in helping foster a compelling customer experience with a bit of personality to create a safe space. If your audience is limited to on-premise use then you probably don’t need an office bestie that delivers bad news with pep in its step.

When you’re embarking on your chatbot journey take a moment to consider whether you want a contributing member of staff or a tool to enable your renewed data-driven organisation. ChatGPT will have plenty of suggestions.
Talk to us today about developing the right chatbot for your organisation.

For more insights, sign up to our newsletter.