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Part 3
Dialog is so much more than ‘chit chat’
What is ‘positioning’ ?
• Positioning a conversational solution involves …
– Defining the purpose of the solution – the ‘job description’
– Identifying the viewpoint of the solution – where does the solution ‘sit’ in relation to
the client and the end user
– Specifying how proactive (‘lean forward’) the solution should be

These elements work together to determine the

overall behaviour of the solution,
and how it relates to the user
Let’s look at …

1.Defining the purpose

2.Identifying the viewpoint
3.Specifying proactivity
Proactivity is the degree to which the solution
proactively engages and guides the user,
rather than reactively sitting back and
waiting for the user to ask a question
Proactivity and reactivity are also called
‘lean forward’ and ‘lean back’
Specifying proactivity
• Reactive
– Apart from a welcome message (and perhaps one or two other statements) the
solution ‘sits back’ and waits for the user to ask a question
– It does not proactively prompt, encourage, suggest, guide, elicit
– E.g. Woodside, Metropolitan Health
• Proactive
– The solution reaches out to the user asking questions,
offering information and choices, and guiding the user
through processes
– E.g. Swiss Re prototype, What’s in Theatres app
Specifying proactivity
• Combination proactive / reactive
– In specific circumstances, the solution reaches out to the user, asking questions
and guiding the user through processes
– At other times it sits back and waits for the user to ask questions
– E.g. Barclays Bank, UniCredit prototype
Specifying proactivity
• ‘Lean forward’ is powerful –
– Brings the solution to life
– Takes the onus of initiating action off the user – tells the user what to do while still
giving the user options and agency
– If your solution needs to sell something, or persuade the user to complete an online
process, your solution will need to have be at least partly proactive
Specifying proactivity
• The amount and nature of proactivity, and the circumstances in which the solution is
proactive, will be determined by a number of factors
– Purpose
– If the solution is there to actively sell or persuade, there’s no point waiting
for the user to ask just the right question to initiate the sales conversation
– If the solution is there to helpfully answer questions when asked,
proactively reaching out to users to prompt them to ask a question
can get annoying
– Viewpoint
– If the solution is supposed to be an independent third-party supporting the
user, then a highly proactive solution that drives the interests of the client
will break the end user’s trust
Specifying proactivity

•Deakin University
– Current: Proactive only when the student needs to be guided through a complex
– Future: Proactively engages students in general conversation about how their
studies are progressing; proactively engages students needing additional support;
proactively follows based on previous conversations

•Barclays Bank
– Proactively ‘pops up’ at strategic points during users’ completion of an online form,
providing information on progress and next steps, and explaining outcomes
Specifying proactivity

•UniCredit prototype
–Proactively engages customers looking at mortgage information; guides users
through recommender process; offers reminders, information and assistance to help
customer to complete next steps in mortgage application
–Proactively offers assistance and reminders to branch manager

•Swiss Re prototype
–Proactively gathers information about the user, engages in chat chat, and delivers
information relevant to the user’s situation
Correctly specifying proactivity will help
ensure that your solution achieves its purpose
and behaves in a way which is
consistent with the viewpoint
The trick is to ensure you get the right balance …
Together, purpose, viewpoint and proactivity
help ensure a consistent and coherent user experience,
which in turn
encourages trust, confidence and engagement
Next …
Dialog design
[To be finalised]
•WGPT site and resources
•Links to Watson implementations
•Links to other virtual agents
•Links to other enablement
•Other documentation?