How to build customer relationships through conversation design in 3 steps

The people that we have a deep and meaningful relationship with, are the ones we care about. We trust them, listen to them, and forgive them when necessary.

Most people strive to create deep and meaningful relationships. And when you think about it, these relationships are often built upon shared experiences that are exciting, emotional, or stressful. So what can we learn from this in terms of conversation design?

Step 1: spot opportunities

When brands want to develop a deep relationship with their audience, they have to keep in mind that stressful situations create opportunities. For example: when someone gets stuck in the customer journey or has to reach out because something went wrong with their bill, then the person will contact the company, and that becomes an opportunity to create value.

If you ensure that you provide a valuable and memorable experience, a deep and long relationship will be established. Imagine a customer calling you because he cannot pay the bill. You tell him that there are others just like him, you make him feel understood and you promise him to help. At the beginning of the conversation, the customer was stressed and insecure, but in the end, he feels relieved and happy. You made him feel that way. A personal experience builds more trust and meaning than a thousand commercials on TV.

But how exactly do you use empathy, and create trust within conversational interfaces?

Step 2: learn how empathy works

It is tempting to think that empathy has to do with feelings. Sure, there are emotions involved but the last thing you want to do is fill in someone’s emotions. So you want to avoid saying things like the examples below:


Empathy is about feeling understood and validated. Knowing that somebody is listening and sincerely cares about your situation is worth much more than a chatbot simply guessing your emotions.

Another wrong example:


Here is how it should be done:


The difference between the two is obvious: the second has way more empathy. By repeating what the user says, we make him feel like we are truly listening and that we understand his situation. This allows us to proceed with finding a solution. True empathy is much better than guessing the user’s feelings – and we are not even discussing the complex dialogue we may possibly have if we get the feelings wrong.

So there are two great benefits to designing for true empathy:

  1. By repeating what the user wants and getting him to confirm, he feels understood and we know for certain what his intent is. We can, therefore, trigger the right dialogue with more confidence and influence the behavior through good conversation design.
  2. By making the user feel understood, he will have more trust in us and more confidence that we can provide the right solution. You will see conversion rates go up on possible solutions that you provide.

Step 3: show the personality of your bot persona

There are many use cases that are simply transactional. We need to do our best and ensure that users get from A to B as fast as they can. But there are also more complex situations, where people need more guidance and comfort. Where people need more empathy and need to know that we are there for them. These are the situations where we can use our bot persona and empathy, to create extra value, and to build deep and meaningful relationships.

The key is to really know your bot persona. As you write these dialogues, you want to get into their character and discover how they would deal with the situation. Stay away from feelings, and figure out how they would take the edge off. How they would ensure the user feels understood and heard, how they would take out the emotion and get people to feel comfortable and motivated enough to continue the conversation towards a resolution.

Final words

When you are there for people in a human way by using empathy and sticking with your bot persona, you are developing a deep and meaningful relationship that will provide value for both you and your user. And it allows you to develop a true relationship that creates trust for years to come. Want to dive deeper into this subject and learn how we create a bot persona? Make sure to check out the online conversation design course at the Conversational Academy!