Meet Phony, from GlamPhone

One of the things I like best in the conversation design community, is that its’a lively bunch of people who are eager to learn, share knowledge, and share a laugh. And every conversation designer I know likes to fantasize about a horrible and egoistic chatbot once in a while.

A chatbot that scolds back?

One that doesn’t shrug off abuse from users, but scolds back. One that blames users when it doesn’t understand them and misdirects them for fun. One that advises a drunken customer to sleep off their intoxication before bothering the chatbot with stupid and incoherent sentences. One that laughs at a customer for wanting to buy a certain kind of product, etcetera.

In other words: all those things no conversation designer I know would ever do in a real bot because everyone really wants to help customers as best as they can.

Serious stuff first

On the 8th of June, a colleague and I organized a session on the benefits of adding transactionality to your chatbot. We talked about the definition, looked at the advantages of transactional dialogues and the biggest challenges of implementing them. We had some lively discussions about different chatbot cases – from different perspectives: that of a customer, that of a chatbot team (which could consist of conversation designers, AI trainers, UX-designers, developers), and that of a legal team.

Saving the best for last

Heading toward the end of the session and nearing the time for drinks and snacks, we ended the afternoon with two staged, fictional customer journeys. In the first, my colleague put on a wig and played a municipality chatbot, named Loes. I played the role of a customer. Everyone would have believed us if we had told them that Loes really existed – and was the chatbot for municipality X.

For the second, I’d decided to create a slightly more risqué persona. This was a chatbot with a very strong, over-the-top personality and the imaginary company it worked for was… a little shady perhaps.


When practicing earlier that week, the verdict of my oldest daughter was “Ew, Grinch!”. And my youngest was clearly embarrassed for me. Given my theater background, both were quite relieved that I didn’t end up as a professional actress. Luckily my conversation design colleagues took another view: they seemed to enjoy it as much as I did.

Phony, the chatbot from GlamPhone

Case: Forgot phone PIN code – slightly sassy transactional dialogue between chatbot Phony from provider GlamPhone and customer

Phony: Hello hello there! I’m Phony, the chatbot from GlamPhone. How can I make you smile today?

Customer: I forgot my PIN code and now I can’t access my phone anymore!

Phony: Darling, what a hassle! But no worries, we’ll fix that in no time. If you just log in through this button, I’ll reset your PIN.
Phony pulls out a button (made of sturdy paper) from behind and holds it aside.

Customer clicks on the button. Customer logs in (pretends to type in the air).
Customer: name… password… okay.

Phony casually tosses away the button.
Phony: Ah, great! Now you can enter 4 new digits.

Customer thinks for a moment and then types 4 digits.
Customer: asterisk asterisk asterisk asterisk.

Phony: Okay. Repeat them one more time for security.

Customer: asterisk asterisk asterisk asterisk.

Phony: Andddd done! May I ask you a cheeky question before you go?

Customer: Uh, okay?

Phony: Awesome! I see that you’ve been running out of data for a while and buying additional gigs. That’s not what you should be doing, darling! It costs you heaps of money. That’s why I have a hot deal for you. If you upgrade your bundle to 10 gigs right now, you’ll only pay 2 euros more per month. Sounds like a plan?

Customer: Oh, that sounds good.

Phony: Shall I apply it for you right away?

Customer: Uh, yes, please.

Phony: Okay, HOT DEAL for 10 gigs starting from July 1st. Only 2 euros extra. 1 click on the button, and it’s yours!
Phony brings out a button again (made of sturdy paper).

Customer clicks on the button.
Phony: Baby, IT’S A DEAL!
Sorry, I got carried away there, I always get so excited about this.
Was that it, or can I help you with anything else?

Customer: No, that was it.

Phony: Okay, enjoy the deal and don’t be a stranger!

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