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Cheerful Chatbots Don’t Necessarily Improve Customer Service

Research from Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business professor Han Zhang finds AI chatbots expressing positive emotions do not affect a customer's impression of customer support.
Cheerful Chatbot

Imagine messaging an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot about a missing package and getting the response that it would be “delighted” to help. Once the bot creates the new order, they say they are “happy” to resolve the issue. After, you receive a survey about your interaction, but would you be likely to rate it as positive or negative?

This scenario isn’t that far from reality, as AI chatbots are already taking over online commerce. By 2025, 95% of companies will have an AI chatbot, according to Finance Digest. AI might not be sentient yet, but it can be programmed to express emotions.

Humans displaying positive emotions in customer service interactions have long been known to improve customer experience, but researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business wanted to see if this also applied to AI. They conducted experimental studies to determine if positive emotional displays improved customer service and found that emotive AI is only appreciated if the customer expects it, and it may not be the best avenue for companies to invest in.

“It is commonly believed and repeatedly shown that human employees can express positive emotion to improve customers’ service evaluations,” said Han Zhang, the Steven A. Denning Professor in Technology & Management. “Our findings suggest that the likelihood of AI’s expression of positive emotion to benefit or hurt service evaluations depends on the type of relationship that customers expect from the service agent.”

The researchers presented their findings in the paper, “Bots With Feelings: Should AI Agents Express Positive Emotion in Customer Service?,” in Information Systems Research in December.

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Han Zhang
Steven A. Denning Professor in Technology & Management

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