Chatbots in the tourism industry: the effects of communication style and brand familiarity on social presence and brand attitude

Charlotte van Hooijdonk, C. Liebrecht

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Text-based chatbots are increasingly being implemented in the tourism sector to supplement online customer service encounters. However, customers often perceive conversations with chatbots as unnatural and impersonal. Therefore, we investigated whether a humanlike communication style enhances users’ chatbot and brand perceptions. Two experiments were conducted in which the effects of informal language (vs. formal language) and invitational rhetoric (present vs. absent) were examined separately. In both experiments, participants engaged in conversations with a customer service chatbot in the tourism sector after which they evaluated social presence and attitude towards the brand. Also, brand familiarity was included as a factor in both experiments as users’ brand familiarity affects their perceptions of the communication style in human-to-human interaction. The results showed chatbots using informal language or invitational rhetoric increase one's brand attitude via social presence. Moreover, brand familiarity only moderated the findings when the chatbot used invitational rhetoric: participants who were familiar with the brand experienced more social presence when the chatbot messages contained invitational rhetoric. We conclude that the perceived humanness of chatbots can be increased by adopting a communication style consisting of informal language and invitational rhetoric. Implications for the design and evaluation of chatbot messages are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages375-381
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • tone of voice
  • brand familiarity
  • social presence
  • brand attitude

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