Customer Cafe Podcast

Conversation Design with Hillary Black: Customer Café Podcast

Hillary Black is a conversation designer, thinker, content creator, community host, career coach and a well sought-after speaker. She is the Head of Marketing and Conversation at Mav and Founder of Conversation Designer Jobs.  

In this episode of Customer Café, we could’ve continued the conversation for hours. You can and should tune in wherever you listen to podcasts including Spotify, Apple, or here.

We’ve captured some of the highlights here: 

What is conversation design?  

Content or UX design for conversational interfaces. “Anything where a user is interacting with an automated message. Anytime that you are chatting with a robot, there is a person who is writing and directing what the robot is saying.” It is the creation of the experience of the user with chatbots. 

Will AI put us all out of jobs? 

ChatGPT [and AI] cannot do whatever whenever perfectly. We have seen in many TV commercials and ads that this is not entirely accurate. That is something to keep in mind if you are a person who is concerned about keeping their job. As with anything that might seem easier…It’s not like once Canva was created every graphic designer was put out of a job. There still needs to be human intervention. You can’t just kind of give a computer the controls and allow them to do and say anything.” People are needed for strategy, design, language models, etc. “AI is meant to be used as a tool, not a replacement.” 

Conversation design done well frees up time for those in sales to attend to tasks that cannot be done in an automated fashion. “I’d like to think that we are making it possible for SDRs to enjoy their jobs a little bit more.” The chatbot can save SDRs from wasting time on dead leads.  

How is conversation design used? 

For Hillary, 100% of her design and work is sales focused. Customer support, via phone, website, and apps is also exceedingly popular. Conversation can also be designed for retaining clients or for marketing purposes.  

Similar to how social media is a tool, automated conversation is a tool. Companies employ the tool to meet their wants and needs.  

Are Siri and Alexa part of the conversation design world?  

Siri and Alexa are using a lot of AI driven experiences because every response in the world can’t be created. When you’re talking about an IVR [on the phone] you are getting back to the basics of how the field of conversation design was born. Those are rule based experiences which contrast with your AI experience ala Siri or Alexa.  

How do you not turn off clients with chatbots? 

“You don’t like it when it doesn’t work as intended.” Companies need to invest to make sure that the experiences are data driven and allow the user to get what they want. Bad experiences “are forcing you to go down a path that are not what you want.” One major faux pas? Requiring the user to repeat that that is what they want. The current technology tends to be glitchy and only creates animosity.  

How did chatbots become your “thing?” 

Smarter Child, the AOL chatbot. “That began my interest. The funny thing about Smarter Child is…we are acting like ChatGPT is the biggest thing, and that was the same thing! It’s a similar concept. Keep that in mind when you think that this technology is as advanced as it will ever be. Because. It’s not.” 

Earlier in her career Hillary was knee deep in the field of social media with a mix of content. Following a layoff from the app Vine when it closed, she decided to go freelance as a social media consultant. One of her clients asked for help with a chatbot. She jumped right in designing a chatbot.  

As the demand increased Hillary decided to self-educate with books. Eventually she wanted to build a community to benefit her work and the field. She started the Conversation Designers Internet Club, and it rapidly grew over the years.  

Is conversation design sales? 

It is more marketing, branding and creative than sales. Of course, there is always an overlap and relationship between all of these departments.  

What part of the sales funnel can a chatbot handle? 

Some of this depends on what platform your chatbot is on. A widget, for example, will only take you so far. Hillary designs for SMS. SMS allows you to continue the conversation for longer since you aren’t closing a website browser, you continue to carry your phone with you.  

You can obviously use your chatbot for the top of funnel, but as questions become more specific you will need human interaction. Nonetheless, you can use the functionality of a chatbot to remind clients of their interest in your product or company in addition to nurturing the relationship.  

Do you need collaboration for chatbots? 

Yes! You need to be able to collect information, common needs, wants, complaints, etc to allow the chatbot to save time and customers.  

You WANT your chatbot to accurately represent your company’s brand, supporting your customers, and properly integrate the knowledge from all departments into creating an ideal chatbot and user experience.  

What are the KPIs for a chatbot? What does success look like?  

Standards for:  

  • How many conversations were had?  
  • How many messages were sent?  
  • Number of messages per conversation.  
  • How long does it take customers to convert?  
  • What is your conversion rate?  
  • How many completed your experience and had an outcome?  
  • What is the outcome rate and failure rate are also key indicators of performance? 

How can someone learn more about Conversation Design and grow in the field professionally? 

Participate in communities and learn from peers: Women in Voice, Conversation Designers Internet Club 

Peer membership communities: Conversation design mentors on ADPlist + ADPlist blog 

We also recommend following Hillary!  

Want more? You’ll have to tune in! Customer Café by Collabria is available wherever you listen to podcasts including Spotify, Apple, or here.

Want to build a strong team and collaborate smoothly and easily with your colleagues? Get started as a beloved beta user! You and your colleagues will have free access for at least one year, and we will send you some swag!   

Looking for more to listen to? Join Menachem Pritzker and Sharon Weiss-Greenberg, hard core Collabrians, as we drink coffee and learn from collaborative leaders in sales, customer success and account management.   

Ready to get started? Customer Café by Collabria: Sales Collaboration Tips for Pros is available wherever you listen to podcasts.


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