Research study by the world’s largest Conversational AI company reveals
67% users prefer virtual assistants with a ‘friendly’ personality in terms of comfort level, efficiency, and likelihood of re-engagement

Haptik, the world’s largest Conversational AI platform, has published a research study on  “Virtual Assistant Personality Preference Among Urban English Speakers”. The study was conducted by  Brinda Mehra, a Psychology student investigating the effects of inserting personality in chatbots and virtual assistants, and its influence on customer experiences primarily across three domains- likelihood of re-engagement, comfort levels and estimation of productivity and efficiency.

The research paper is available for download here.

As a part of the study,  Haptik conducted experiments using bots with three distinct personality types:

  • Transactional bot (impersonal and serious bot solely focused on efficiently completing tasks).

  • Prosocial bot (attempts to mimic a ‘helping hand’, engaging in social niceties and easing users through task completion).

  • Friendly bot (emotional and energetic bot that uses slang and pop culture references, simulating conversations between close friends).

The study revealed that urban English speakers overwhelmingly prefer virtual assistants that exhibit a friendly personality - rating them higher than more impersonal, purely ‘transactional’ assistants when it comes to factors such as comfort level and efficiency while completing tasks. They were also more likely to re-engage with ‘friendly’ assistants.

In the first experiment, participants, aged between 18-50, were asked to order food using each of the three bots. Although their ages varied drastically, their demographics were  roughly the same. All participants had completed or were completing some level of tertiary education, had access to a smartphone or laptop (if not both) and were fluent English speakers living in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Hong Kong.

They were then asked to rate each of the three bots on a Likert scale, on three parameters - likelihood of re-engaging with the bot, their comfort level with the bot, and the efficiency with which the bot completed the task at hand.

The results of the experiment were as follows:

  • 40% of participants said that they felt extremely comfortable interacting with the friendly bot.

  • Participants were nearly three times more likely to state that they would definitely want to interact with the friendly chatbot again, as compared to the transactional bot.

  • The friendly bot was nearly four times more likely to get the highest rating for productivity and efficiency, as compared to the transactional bot.

  • The average ranking of the friendly chatbot was around 22% higher than that of the transactional bot.

The overwhelming preference for the friendly personality was further validated by the second experiment, with participants being asked to rate the three types of personalities based on viewing an interaction with a chat-based dictionary. The participants of the second experiment were aged 11 to 15, indicating that the preference for the friendly bots applies across age groups. The findings revealed that 67% of participants expressed a preference for the friendly bot, over the prosocial and transactional types. Qualitative feedback collected from the participants indicated that the friendly bot made them “feel like they were talking to another human being”. The use of gifs, slang and emojis by this bot also appealed to them.

What this means for the future of user engagement?

The one-of-its-kind study by Haptik has revealed interesting insights that can have far-reaching effects on how we understand man-machine engagement today.  “The popularity of the friendly bot gives enterprises a new perspective to look at conversational AI solutions,'' said Prateek Gupte, VP - Product at Haptik. “The evolution of virtual assistant personalities is currently enjoying the beginning of its golden age.  This study is an important contribution to the literature on the subject. At Haptik, we have continuously stressed on building bots that have both a distinct personality along with targeted utility.  Chatbots and virtual assistants, after all, are essentially the 24x7 voice of enterprises and brands to engage with end-users. Therefore, they are best served to have bots which can make conversations fun for users and something to look forward to."

Interestingly, Haptik has been doing significant work in the field of enhancing user experience in chatbot engagement. Its research team conducts extensive, granular level analysis of each element involved in chatbot conversations, such as the font, sound design, tonality of conversation, length of sentences, and even the emoticons used.

Kartik Poddar, Haptik’s Business Head, also commented on the study by saying “While there have been previous studies on bot personality, they have largely focused on general conversation chatbots like Mitsuku or Xiaoice. Our study is a rare experimental investigation on the role that personality plays in the context of enterprise virtual assistants. It will certainly inform our approach to designing superior conversational experiences for our partners - by enhancing our understanding of how to make human-to-machine interactions a lot more engaging, while still keeping our partners’ unique brand voice and personality in mind."

For those looking to get a more in-depth understanding of the research process and the insights obtained, download the research paper here.

About Haptik

Haptik is one of the world’s largest Conversational AI companies, having reached over 100 million devices, and processed over 2 billion conversations till date. The company has been the recipient of several industry accolades, including the Frost & Sullivan Award for Conversational AI Company of the Year 2018, and recognition as one of the Top 25 AI Companies in the World 2018 by AI Time Journal. Haptik’s leading clients and enterprise partners include Samsung, Oyo Rooms, KFC, Coca-Cola, Tata Group, Club Mahindra among others. Haptik is a part of the Reliance Jio group of companies, which acquired a majority stake in the company in a $100 million deal in April 2019.

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