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December 4, 2018

UX of conversational agents and chatbots: Crédit Agricole's testimonial on the conversational myth

Chatbots, killer feature or ultimate marketing trend? Crédit Agricole's UX team wanted to benchmark conversation-based approaches during bank account subscription, from the users' point of view! We had already addressed this matter from the perspective of chatbot user tests. Crédit Agricole’s Technologies & Services team was kind enough to share the results of this study with 60 other advertisers at a Ferpection conference.

User lessons on chatbots and Ethical Design bonus

To understand the key issues at stake, you can watch Marie Petit's video interview, Head of UX at Crédit Agricole Technologies & Services:

And as a bonus, we also welcomed Karl Pineau for an introduction to Ethical Design:

Crédit Agricole's action

To know more about this action, you can watch the video or read the questions I asked Marie Petit during this intervention.

Why did you want to undertake this study?
There is a trend for conversational interfaces, every agency offers a chatting concept, every design sprints lead to a chatbot, whatever the business issue or initial user. This is why we wanted to assess the relevance of a conversation-based approach, especially on an account opening process because it was necessary to limit the scope of the study, through a quality approach.

One of the elements that you held dear when we prepared this interview was to properly define this conversation field:
Yes, this word can imply... a human chat, with an advisor; a chatbot, both with free input and semantic analysis of the natural language, or with guided input, the possibility to choose among several suggested answers/actions; a conversational look and feel over forms, meaning a great variety of applications to be properly defined in order to speak the same language.

What methodology was agreed to meet your objective?
A quality approach to understand the reason, gather users' perceptions by having them test 4 different ways to open an account:
  • Boursorama with forms
  • Eko, a form-based Credit Agricole product with access to a mixed chat FAQ/advisor
  • Orange Bank with a combination of conversational/natural language forms
  • Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne in conversational format with access to a chat advisor
The 60-person panel was qualitatively large with 4 groups of 15 people, one group tested A then B, another group tested B then C, and so on. All this was carried out in one week via the Ferpection platform.

And following the study, what are the main findings on this field of conversation?
It is easier to implement effective practices with forms than it is to offer a truly conversation approach. In conversation processes, it is more difficult to give the user reference points, to manage backtracking
Forms bring more readiness, feedback and best practices; it is ultimately very clear and guiding for the user.

OK, this doesn't really seem to fit in with history as a teaching does it?
Conversation is not unanimous among users, it is at least very divisive (original for some, confusing for others, can be perceived as playful or superficial)
That doesn't mean that it should be totally abandoned, it's probably necessary to follow developments in usage, to continue to explore and test... but today when I work on a consumer course, whether it's for the general public or for professionals, for Crédit Agricole customers, with high business stakes, I don't give priority to automated conversation.

Coming back to the more business-oriented issues that are really at stake. Wouldn't you have a better conversion with a chatbot?
Of course, we all try to reduce our account creation and subscription processes, bearing in mind the impact on the conversion rate of an extra page, of too much information requested... nevertheless we have noticed that the perception of the "length" of a process by users is very subjective, and is influenced by:
  • Does the user know how long the process will take?
  • Does the user know at all times where he is in the process, and what the remaining steps are?
  • Is the information requested relevant, makes sense regarding the objective of the process, and allows to contextualize this service, the product that I am being offered?

And precisely, what did you do with the study results?
This study allowed us to obtain feedback on a Crédit Agricole (Eko) process, to identify best practices among 4 banking players, and to have objective criteria to choose between forms and conversations. At Crédit Agricole, we are currently working on a new way of initiating contact. Initially, we favored a conversational approach for a warmer, more user-friendly and fun aspect; finally, we switched back to classic forms and we are focusing more on the sequencing from one step to the next, the references given to the user, error management, support and reassurance messages, etc.

An Introduction to Ethical Design

Finally, we were able to dedicate a few minutes to Karl Pineau, from Ethical Designers, who enlightened us on this little-known aspect of our professions and on attention marketing:

Ethical Designers - Introducing Ferpection of Karl Pineau

The Chatbots Benchmark Conference in full

Lastly, if you wish to see or review the entire conference, you can watch our Youtube live:

Do you wish to learn more about the available user research methods to better understand your users and test your products and services? Check out our solutions and UX methods page.

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Thibault Geenen

Thibault Geenen

Thibault is fascinated by the power of UX, especially user research and nowadays the UX for Good principles. As an entrepreneur, he's a huge fan of liberated company principles, where teammates give the best through creativity without constraints. A science-fiction lover, he remains the only human being believing that Andy Weir's 'The Martian' is a how-to guide for entrepreneurs.

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