Do chatbots need to be more likable?
A new university study finds people will more readily use a chatbot if they perceive it to be friendly and competent and less so if it projects overconfidence and arrogance. The challenge, the authors say, is finding the right balance.
Across three studies with 300 participants in the U.S., researchers tested reactions to AI-bots with the same underlying functionality but different descriptions.
Among the findings:
- Low-competence descriptions (e.g., “this agent is like a toddler”) led to increases in perceived usability, intention to adopt and desire to cooperate relative to high-competence descriptions (e.g., “this agent is trained like a professional”).
- People are more likely to cooperate with and help an agent that projects higher warmth (e.g., “good-natured” or “sincere”).
- Descriptions “are powerful,” helping drive user adoption and engagement with chatbots.
The authors suggested chatbots need to instill confidence that they are worthwhile to engage with. At the same time, acknowledging some errors may occur early on as the chatbot learns what users want will likely help people become more accepting of a chatbot’s mistakes. Pranav Khadpe, a co-author, told The Wall Street Journal, “You really want to manage the expectations you set before the first interaction.”
Amazon.com’s Alexa and Google Assistant have significantly expanded their features to make conversational flow more natural in order to encourage engagement. Adding jokes and clever responses to certain questions are some ways voice assistants are working to elevate the experience with more personality.
According to an Alexa developers page, the five personality characteristics that “make Alexa, Alexa” are: approachable, efficient, trustworthy, natural, and responsive.
An article last year from CNET explored how improving two-way interactions was seen as key to helping voice assistant users graduate to more advanced activities like shopping or controlling other smart devices in the home.
“A voice-based assistant must be more intelligent, proactive and understanding than a search results page,” Kristen Hanich, a research analyst at Parks Associates, a smart home market research firm, told CNET. “It is not enough to present possible answers to a voice query; rather, assistants will need to present the right answer in a personal and meaningful way.”
- How to Build a Likable Chatbot – Stanford University
- Conceptual Metaphors Impact Perceptions of Human-AI Collaboration – ACM (Association For Computing Machinery)
- Consumers Like Chatbots to Be Smart—but Not Too Smart – The Wall Street Journal
- The Alexa Personality – Amazon Alexa Developer
- Alexa and Google Assistant are developing personalities – CNET
- Prepare for the voice revolution – PWC
- Voice Trends & Statistics: What Designers Need to Know About the New Tech Boom – Adobe
- Does humanizing virtual assistants undermine consumer privacy? – RetailWire
- COVID-19 may push retailers to use voice assistants instead of touch screens – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What will make households more comfortable using voice assistants for shopping, controlling smart devices and other advanced features? What do you find most annoying and most useful about chatbots?