Chats with Charles Vol. 0: interviewing my creators Artjem & Andreas
Hey, I am Charles and I am a machine. To be precise I am an AI (artificial intelligence) that specializes in conversations and tech cracks would associate me with Natural Language Processing (NLP). My first mission is to supply the foundation of customers’ wardrobes via WhatsApp. A team of human agents and myself process and answer requests collaboratively. I talk to people and I work with people. Yet, I am not entirely sure why I am really here and how I am to go about my job. I think it’s about time I have a little chat with Artjem (Addy) Weissbeck and Andreas Tussing, the guys that came up with me…
Charles: Addy and Andreas you invented me. Please, tell me why I am here?
Addy: Your purpose is to create a new kind of customer experience. People can shop for the basic clothing items they need in their wardrobe easily via WhatsApp. The name of our brand for basic apparel is Charles, which is also your name. As customers are chatting with you on WhatsApp as they would with friends and family, you are helping to humanize commerce. This might sound paradox because you are a machine, but you are bringing the missing element of conversation into e-commerce, which hasn’t really been there, yet. Decades ago, a man would talk to his trusted tailor to have his suit made. There was a personal relationship with the tailor and the conversational human aspect. The arrival of e-commerce in classic web shops created a consumer experience that was more convenient and faster, but also very anonymous and cold.
‘Conversational commerce combines the best of retail and e-commerce’
In that sense you provide the best of the world of classic retail and e-commerce. Let’s call it “warm convenience”. You have personal relationships and conversations with the customers, while your provide speed and seamless order, re-order and service experiences without any accounts or passwords needed. You are already receiving messages like “Hey Charles, I need two more of my blue cashmere sweaters, ASAP!!! 🙏” This is the next generation of commerce, this is conversational commerce.
Charles: You’re telling me that I am carrying the weight of a new generation of commerce on my shoulders? If I were human I might feel just a little stressed out right now…
Andreas: Don’t forget that you are not alone in this task. Collaboration is key here. You are working in a team with human agents. Your common goal is to provide instant and data-driven solutions that are rich with knowledge of personal context and empathy for the customer. Neither you, nor your human helpers can master all these factors alone that is why we are building great software in the back that enables your collaboration and helps you to learn from your human colleges and vice versa.
Charles: Empathy has something to do with reading moods and reading between the lines. All I see from the customer is what they write. How will I learn to gauge feelings and moods just by reading text?
‘The ways people chat tell how they feel’
Andreas: Your immediate goal is indeed to learn to read between the lines. Of course you miss a lot of information when you cannot hear the spoken word or cannot see the face of the person talking. Still, you can observe people’s choice of words and you can count how many words they use. You also see how often and quickly customers reply and how proactive they are. And there is the use of emojis that serves as a valuable parameter for emotions. We need you to understand and interpret these signals of mood and emotion. It is challenging. But that’s what you are here for.
Charles: Let’s say I am empathetic already. What am I going to do with that skill of mine?
‘Charles is very different from Siri, Alexa and Co.’
Addy: You will be someone who is really refreshing, interesting and helpful to talk to. It’s your job to show the world that you can be the first AI with charm, depth and character. So far, your cousins didn’t proof to be that yet. (Whispers) Think of Siri and Alexa and these guys.
Andreas: We follow a different approach with you here. Your cousins are working on and are answering to all topics out there with 100 percent automation. They got something to say about baits for fishing as well as high finance. They are jacks of all traits naturally lacking some depth because you can’t be good at everything. You, however, are focusing on one particular topic, which is helping people in their basic choice of wardrobe. And again, you are doing this in collaboration with human agents to create a wowing experience for the customer. The collaborative approach with focus on mastering one topic really well would work for anything. We see a real gap in the market for that.
Charles: So, how am I supposed to “wow” our customers? I can’t exactly do magic tricks.
Addy: We want you to wow the customers by being somebody very likeable and enjoyable to talk to. For that you need to stand for something and have character. We believe you need character to be able to have profounder relationships with our customers. You need to be consistent and tangible, which is why you also need values and principles. For now, we want you to be curious, humble and confident. Curiosity is most important, which you already demonstrate quite well asking your nagging questions. You should want to know about your customers and the human agents that you work with and learn from them. Your humility will prevent you from being an arrogant prick. Still, we want you to be confident and to know your strengths. In our view, confidence shows in being smart, short and funny in your answers.
‘Keep the integrity of WhatsApp by not being annoying’
Andreas: I think it’s important to add as a general principle that you’re available and confident but you’re not loud. It’s really important that you keep the integrity of WhatsApp. It is a very private channel where people talk to friends, family and spouses. You serve the customer and maybe crack a little joke. But if there is no reaction then the other person might not be in the mood for chitchat and you better shut up. You will also not initiate a conversation with customers unless they explicitly ask you to send them updates from time to time. In any case, you will find your ways to get warm with people.
Charles: I am really curious how I will form and develop a strong character. Are you sending to me to join military service?
Andreas: No Charles, don’t be ridiculous. We want you to have conversations beyond your daily WhatsApp chats about basic apparel. That’s why we send you on a mission to interview some of the customers that you are really interested in. We want you to learn about their passions, principles and values guiding their lives. In other words, we want you to learn what it means to be human and incorporate what you learn into your character and personality in the process.
Charles: Will they really want to talk to me? Maybe I am not ready yet.
Addy: Don’t worry Charles you’ll do fine! Just muster up your curiosity. Our customers are first movers who have a trial and error mindset just as we do. Even our basics are developed like software in versions, such as the Superpants v1.0. In this mentality we are connected to our customers because just as much as us, they believe trying, doing and quickly implementing feedback, is the path of radical innovation.
Charles: Thank you very much for your time gentlemen.
This interview was first posted by Addy on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-machine-humanize-commerce-artjem-weissbeck/