There is a growing demand for chatbots, aka machine agents, serving as a means for direct user/customer engagement through text messaging for customer service or marketing purposes, bypassing the need for special-purpose apps or webpages. Today, chatbots represent a potential shift in how people interact with businesses online.
The current interest in this technology is spurred by recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. In 2016, Facebook and Microsoft started providing resources to create chatbots integrated into their respective messaging platforms – Facebook Messenger and Skype. Within a year, more than 30,000 chatbots went live on Facebook Messenger alone. This exponential growth followed in other messaging platforms, including Slack, Kik, and Viber, which have also seen a substantial increase in chatbots.
Chatbots serve a broad range of purposes, such as customer service, social and emotional support, information, and entertainment. In particular, they are seen as a promising alternative to traditional customer service. They serve as virtual assistants, helping users perform specific tasks, such as booking a taxi, ordering food for delivery, etc. In most scenarios, chatbots are the preferable means of assistance, compared to a phone call or web search, due to their convenience and immediacy.
In this article, we explore the key motivational factors for people to use chatbots. The most frequently reported motivational factor is productivity since chatbots help users obtain timely and efficient assistance or information. Beyond productivity, people also use chatbots for entertainment, social and relational purposes, and eve out of curiosity to know the novel phenomenon.
We hope to provide insight into why people choose to interact with automated agents online and help developers facilitate better human–chatbots interaction experiences in the future.
As mentioned earlier, most people use chatbots for better productivity because using chatbots is easy, fast, and convenient while looking for assistance or information. Chatbots provides the answers users looking for, quickly and accurately. It avoids the hassle of having to place a call, wait to speak to a person, and then try to get the necessary information. It also saves time in having to look through tons of text to find answers. Chatbots are as fast as searching on the internet. The chatbots can answer basic questions and are ready 24/7 whenever the user needs a solution.
Many people use chatbots for positive and entertainment value, and they describe chatbots as “fun” and “entertaining.” People like chatbots that have funny things to say, and they like to ask a question and be entertained with an answer. Others use chatbots to kill time when bored, have nothing to do, or want to talk to someone.
Social and relational purposes
Social and relational purposes are the third most frequently reported reason for people to use chatbots. It is noteworthy that chatbots can enhance interactions between humans and provide potential social and relational benefits such as avoiding loneliness and fulfilling a desire for socialization. Chatbots can also improve the social experiences with other individuals, especially in a group chat, using a chatbot with a child, or to improve one’s conversational skills. They are like personal assistants, and it is almost like you are talking to a real person.
Novelty and curiosity
The fourth reason is the novelty and curiosity to explore chatbots and the limits of their abilities. Some people want to understand what’s unique about the user experience provided by this new technology and feel how natural and efficient it is than interacting with a mobile app or person as they look for answers.
Here are some of the essential strengths of chatbots for both users/customers and businesses:
- 24/7 customer service and support (anytime/anywhere)
- Direct customer contact points and one-to-one conversation on personal devices
- Time and cost-savings
- Better personalization and offers based on user preferences
- Better automation of communication
- Better data collection and high amount of personal user/usage data
- Better user experience through human-like conversation
- Efficient service provisions, security, and privacy