The influence of chatbot humour on consumer evaluations of services

Hyunju Shin, Kennesaw State University
Isabella Bunosso, Fisher College of Business
Lindsay R. Levine, Georgia Southern University


Technological advances have enabled firms to automate customer service by employing artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots. Despite their many potential benefits, interactions with chatbots may still feel machine-like and cold. The current study proposes the use of humour by chatbots as a gateway to humanizing them and thereby enhancing the customer experience. Across three experimental studies, the results reveal that (i) the use of humour enhances service satisfaction when it is used by a chatbot but not when it is used by a human agent, (ii) this chatbot humour effect is serially mediated by enhanced perceptions of anthropomorphism and interestingness of the interactions with the chatbot, and (iii) whilst both positively and negatively valenced chatbot humour may enhance the interestingness of the interactions, socially appropriate (i.e., affiliative) humour as opposed to inappropriate (i.e., aggressive) humour leads to enhanced service satisfaction. This study extends the understanding of the humanization processes of chatbots and provides guidelines for how firms should use chatbot humour to positively influence consumers' service satisfaction.