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The Ethics of AI Conversations: Balancing Efficiency and Empathy

Elizabeth Zink
Jul 28, 2023

Although chatbot adoption rates have increased significantly in recent years, there is still a thread of anti-chatbot sentiment that remains prevalent in society. Those who have a distaste for chatbots fall back on various reasons but, one that’s more common than others is that they lack the human touch one receives from contacting a call center.

When building a chatbot it can be difficult to strike the right balance between a dialogue that solves customer problems quickly and one that makes them feel as valued as a real human might. However, it is a worthy pursuit as accurately finding that balance will result in a chatbot that draws in new customers and retains existing customers while saving you money that would have originally been spent on your outdated call center.

So, how do you create a chatbot that is both efficient and empathetic?

Plan carefully

Benjamin Franklin once said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. This is especially true for your chatbot. Before you execute the building of your solution it is absolutely vital to ensure that you understand both the purpose of the chatbot as well what your users need. By defining the purpose of your chatbot you can begin to focus on efficient flows that won’t lead your user astray and will help them self-serve without human intervention. The purpose of your chatbot will be born out of the needs of your users and so it’s equally important to prioritize those needs.

Targeting frequent queries and pain points your customers run into with your current contact center and/or website will prove to be valuable in the long run. Providing accurate and succinct responses helps users find exactly the answers they’re looking for without causing frustration or a need for escalation.

Analyze tone

While planning can primarily aid in efficiency, understanding the tone of your user will aid in empathy. Customers that are feeling generally positive and customers that are feeling generally negative need to be treated differently. Offering multiple response types based on these emotions can establish a sense of empathy that will set your chatbot apart.

When a customer is calm or upbeat or looking for help with a basic problem it helps to offer straightforward responses that will help maintain their positive tone and help them self-serve quickly. When a customer is angry or upset or needs help with a more complex issue, answering with a more compassionate or human-like response might prove to be soothing and could be the difference between a happy outcome and escalation to a real representative.

Training your chatbot to detect and accurately respond to certain words or phrases that might indicate an emotional state will charge it with a human-like touch.

Find your personality

Your chatbot needs to have its own personality if you want it to succeed. By establishing a friendly tone from the start, your chatbot will feel more approachable. Don’t be afraid of using exclamation points occasionally to greet a user or to encourage a user. If you aren’t sure if your chatbot’s responses are too stoic or robotic, read some of them aloud and consider whether you could imagine a human saying something similar.

You can also ask for your user’s name and save that information for use down the line. This simple quality alone can turn a less than empathetic response (i.e. when you need to provide clear instructions or guidance) and make it feel more human like and warm. This could easily take a customer who’s upset or frustrated and help them feel more understood and cared for.

Continuous improvement

The work is never done. To have a chatbot that is successful you will need to be focused on continually improving it. Make sure you’re keeping an eye on the paths your users take and the feedback they provide to see where your chatbot could be doing better and where it is excelling. Be sure to include a survey or a dedicated space for customer feedback so you can collect this information easily and analyze it down the road. Additionally, conduct A/B testing to find the right balance between empathetic and efficient responses.

Listening to your customers and paying attention to how they interact with your solution will always be one of the most important things you can do to be sure you’re providing them with the experience they expect.


Chatbots don’t have to be cold and unfeeling. It is entirely possible to combine empathy with efficiency to create a customer service solution your customers will fall in love with.

When you partner with Pypestream, our team of CX experts will set to work analyzing your user base and their needs to build a chatbot that is both emotionally intelligent and efficient. We know customers and we know they deserve the best you have to offer and we build with that in mind.

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