If you're curious about the research that led us to zero-in on the name "Amber" who proudly speaks to over 300,000 employees in more than 50 countries today, here it goes:
The story begins in 2016 with an engagement bot that was way ahead of its time. It was important to have a name that was:
- Neutral across genders (this was much before we developed her persona)
- Neutral across geographies, i.e., not too American, British, or Indian in terms of phonetics
- Easy to spell by a toddler
- Easy to pronounce with 2 syllables
How Amber fits the bill
- Amber is ideally pronounced as Aem-ber, a feminine name commonly used in the west. However, interestingly Amber is phonetically very close to a common gender-neutral Indian name pronounced as Umm-bur (Hindi: अंबर). That's why we never correct anyone who mispronounces her name.. because this name truly is neutral across genders and geographies.
- Not only was Amber 2 syllables but also 100% of the individuals in the initial research group could correctly spell her name in the first attempt itself.
- Since Amber predicts employees who are disengaged or at-risk of leaving, it was only fitting to have that coincide with the many Early Warning Systems used by HRBPs where they rely on a red, "amber", green signals to prevent attrition in their organisation.
- Among the other options on the table, Amber stood out as a warm and friendly name, ideal for a persona with whom employees can confide in, when it comes to opening up or sharing sensitive details.
Why is Amber's persona female
Amber is starkly different from the usual query answering bots in the market because she delivers actionable insights to business leaders, helping them take key decisions where they trust and rely on her for her predictive people analytics capabilities. All of this is possible because of her ability to have empathetic conversations with employees.
- A few months into Amber's birth, we consciously gave Amber a female persona (despite our belief in gender equality) once we found about numerous studies that suggest that bot users (in this case, employees) impose certain caring stereotypes onto machines when they're programmed with a woman's voice.
- When machines are perceived as more sympathetic, helpful, and cordial, they have a better shot at engaging people meaningfully and perhaps that's why Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Assistant all use a female persona.
- Preliminary research indicated that humans preferred or trusted a female persona over a male's when it comes to opening up or sharing sensitive details. However, we did want to challenge the notion of subservient bots being given female personas.
Amber alert vs Customers launching a bot named Amber in the US
Although it's a common question at the time of purchase, all our customers in the US have been okay with this since:
- Amber, indeed, is a common name since data says that 363,886 individuals in the US have been named Amber since 1880 and it has an 86% approval rating.
- (We strongly believe) Amber's persona should be no different from a human's and we don't hesitate to rely on this as the source of data provided above.
We've come a long way since. In retrospect (embarrassingly enough), we are happy to share the 4 options that were actually in contention based on the above criteria with some relevant responses from surveys triggered to 100+ randomly chosen individuals:
Option A: Sasha
While gender/region neutral, this was deemed as too mainstream and repeatedly misspelled as 'Saasha'.
Option B: Sam
Although it's used as a nickname in India across genders and a common name in the West, it was being associated with the infamous federal taxman, Uncle Sam.
Option C: Iris
We almost settled on Iris but we decided not to the last minute, when we were told it sounds like Siri spelt backwards.
Option D: Amber
While we've already explained the business-oriented criteria, on a personal note, some individuals do believe that she was named after Dr. Amber Volakis, an unforgettable character in the US-based TV show House MD and we let them believe that... maybe she was? :)
Option E: Veronica
Well, never-mind. All criteria failed.