Research Papers

Abstract

Conversational agents (CAs) have attracted the interest of organizations due to their potential for automated service provision combined with the feeling of a human-like interaction. Emerging studies on CAs indicate a positive impact of humanness on customer perception and explore approaches for their anthropomorphic design, comprising both appearance and behavior of the agent. While these studies provide valuable knowledge on how to design human-like CAs, we still lack an understanding of the limited conversational capabilities of this technology and their impact on user perception. Oftentimes, these limitations lead to frustrated users and discontinued CAs in practice. We address this gap by investigating the impact of response failure, understood as the inability of a CA to provide a meaningful reply, in a service context drawing on Social Response Theory and the Theory of Uncanny Valley. By means of an experiment with 169 participants, we find that (1) response failure is detrimental to the perception of humanness and increases feelings of uncanniness, (2) humanness (uncanniness) positively (negatively) influences familiarity and service satisfaction, and (3) the negative impact of response failure on user perception is significant yet it does not lead to a sharp drop as posited by the Theory of Uncanny Valley.

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