Abstract

A key challenge in designing conversational user interfaces is to make the conversation between the user and the system feel natural and human-like. In order to increase perceived humanness, many systems with conversational user interfaces (e.g., chatbots) use response delays to simulate the time it would take humans to respond to a message. However, delayed responses may also negatively impact user satisfaction, particularly in situations where fast response times are expected, such as in customer service. This paper reports the findings of an online experiment in a customer service context that investigates how user perceptions differ when interacting with a chatbot that sends dynamically delayed responses compared to a chatbot that sends near-instant responses. The dynamic delay length was calculated based on the complexity of the response and complexity of the previous message. Our results indicate that dynamic response delays not only increase users’ perception of humanness and social presence, but also lead to greater satisfaction with the overall chatbot interaction. Building on social response theory, we provide evidence that a chatbot’s response time represents a social cue that triggers social responses shaped by social expectations. Our findings support researchers and practitioners in understanding and designing more natural human-chatbot interactions.

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