The Use of Chatbots Within Organizations
A chatbot is a computer program used to simulate and process online human conversations via text or speech. Chatbots typically allow human users to interact with software as if they were communicating with another person. Firms and organizations have increasingly invested in chatbots to improve their customer service. The use of chatbots has changed the way employees interact with customers and respond to customers’ questions. As such, employees can take advantage of chatbots to improve their job performance.
We recently published a paper explaining how chatbots can boost customer service performance. It posited that marketing employees can use chatbots innovatively to improve customer service. In our view, the key driver of the use of chatbots is employees’ trust in chatbots, which can be created through two primary features: knowledge support and work–life balance. I would like to elaborate on employee trust in chatbots and those two important features of chatbots within organizations.
Employee Trust in Chatbots
We posit that trust in chatbots represents employees’ beliefs and perceptions about the use of chatbots within organizations. We further argue that trust in chatbots is a multidimensional concept that includes trust in functionality, trust in reliability, and trust in data protection. These three dimensions can capture the primary attributes of chatbots. They also help us understand how employees develop trust in chatbots. Below, I will elaborate on each of the three dimensions.
“Trust in functionality” refers to employees’ expectations that chatbots’ functions can meet the requirements of their tasks and support their responsibilities. For example, one’s primary responsibility is to provide customer services. When chatbots can facilitate customer services, chatbots’ functions are aligned with the employee’s work responsibilities, thus supporting that employee’s trust in functionality.
“Trust in reliability” deals with one’s expectation that chatbots can provide support and function consistently. For example, when chatbots can always provide accurate answers to customers’ common questions, employees perceive that chatbots always perform effectively, thus developing their trust in chatbot reliability.
We define “trust in data protection” as one’s expectations that the technology can protect customers’ data and respect customers’ privacy. For example, when chatbots can protect customers’ data effectively, employees can feel more comfortable with further integrating chatbots into their work and use chatbots innovatively.
Chatbots can effectively identify and retrieve information from their interactions with human users. They can establish ongoing communications with customers while collecting and cataloging information about customers’ requirements, expectations, and preferences. As demonstrated in the recent insights, there are two main types of chatbots: task-oriented chatbots and data-driven and predictive chatbots. Both can provide knowledge support that may improve employee performance.
Further, chatbots provide additional resources for employees to acquire information and knowledge. Chatbots can provide employees with knowledge support in several ways. For instance, chatbots can strengthen knowledge creation, storage, and dissemination. These capabilities can generate useful knowledge. Chatbots can also perform superior analysis and prediction. These features can support knowledge building and allow employees to gain new knowledge.
Work–life balance refers to one’s perception of the appropriate balance between work and personal activities. It can be enhanced by reducing three common work factors: time, training, and behavior. Chatbots can improve employees’ work–life balance by mitigating conflicts associated with those three factors. More specifically, chatbots can reduce time commitment to work. They can also reduce job overload and improve job flexibility. This resolves time-based, strain-based, and behavior-based conflicts.
For example, chatbots are available 24/7, and they can answer customers’ routine questions outside working hours, thereby reducing the burden on service employees. By relying on chatbots to provide customer services late at night or on weekends, employees can perceive that work activities will not interfere with their personal activities outside working hours. These features can help employees achieve better work–life balance.
In summary, that employees build trust in chatbots via enabled knowledge support and work–life balance. When employees have a higher level of trust, they are more likely to use chatbots innovatively for customer service. Chatbots represent great opportunities for organizations to enhance their customer service performances.
Dr. Xiaolin Lin
Assistant & Gensler Professor of Computer Information Systems