You might not meet the helpful person who guides you through your online order. Artificial intelligence and natural language processing are making it difficult to tell if you’re talking to someone or an AI powered chatbot. Tom Kelleher, Ph.D. is an advertising professor at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. Kelleher found that what matters more than the perceived humanity of the interaction.
Consumers of all things, from shoes to insurance, may soon find themselves speaking to AI powered chatbots and text-based bots. Companies will need to decide whether bots are appropriate or not. Kelleher, along with colleagues from UF, California Polytechnic, and the University of Connecticut, developed a measure of perceived humanness. They shared their results in Kelleher stated that they have invested some resources and time into this project, so I can trust them.
Kelleher began studying the effects of language on customer trust over a decade ago when blogging culture introduced a conversational approach towards the stilted, stiff language businesses used to harass their customers with. Companies discovered that consumers trust, satisfaction, and commitment increased as the jargon became less common. This is true for chatbots as well as other online interactions. It can be applied to both bots and humans. He explained that agents can be scripted so that users feel they are talking to a machine.
Ethical issues will arise as AI-powered interfaces become more popular, including animated avatars that appear human. Companies should disclose to customers when they interact with non-human agents. What happens if the helper uses AI to assist? Is there a place where bots aren’t acceptable by consumers, like health care? Or is it possible that they would prefer to work with a non-human?
“If I’m just trying to get an insurance quote, I would almost rather put something into an app then have to make small talk about the weather. But later on, if my house floods, I’m going to want to talk to a real person,” Kelleher said. “As the metaverse evolves, understanding when to employ AI and when to employ real people will be an increasingly important business decision.”