Chatbots as open-ended questions in surveys

Chatbots as open-ended questions in surveys

The use of chatbots is exploding. Chatbots are showing up everywhere, from Facebook to Slack. There are chatbots for customer service, shopping, and travel planning, among many other applications. Chatbots are here, and they are revolutionizing digital marketing and the online experience. They are so prevalent that Forbes has dubbed 2016 “the year of the chatbot.”

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is an artificially intelligent software program that uses natural language processing to hold a conversation with end-users. They are programmed to interpret and understand natural language to complete common tasks. Many experts see the digital marketplace shifting from app-based to chatbot-based. This is because:

  • Chatbots live on servers. Users don’t have to install an app to interact with them. They work on the web or within social and messaging apps that people are already using (especially Millennials).
  • Natural language conversations are more personal interactions that are more interesting and engaging. Instead of conducting an internet search, users will converse with a chatbot to help make travel arrangements or order pizza for delivery. Interacting with a chatbot is a more intuitive and natural experience because users can communicate in the same manner that they communicate with people on a daily basis.
  • Chatbots are easy to make. (Well, DUMB chatbots that are designed for a single specific task are easy to make.)

Using chatbots in surveys

How will chatbots impact the world of market research? Specifically, how can chatbots work in an online survey? In most surveys, open-ended response questions are minimized, because respondents generally don’t answer them. If there are too many open-ended questions, it can lead to abandonment or poor data quality. At the very least, you can expect that responses will be much shorter for the later questions than they were for questions that appear earlier.

This is because typical survey questions feel very impersonal, and do not elicit strong engagement. Interacting with a chatbot, however, is a different experience. It feels more personal because the interaction is responsive, like a conversation, where the answers given can change the direction of the conversation. This gives respondents what gaming calls “player agency”–a sense that they have control over decisions in the game, and that those decisions have meaningful consequences within the game world. In the context of a survey (the “game world”), it means that they feel that how they answer questions (their “decisions”) has an impact on how the survey proceeds (the “consequences”).

Chatbots can replace open-ended response questions in surveys. It’s relatively simple to build simple chatbots for the following:

  • Unaided awareness. A chatbot can easily probe respondents about what they are aware of and record responses. It can also engage in conversation, asking followup questions about their response.
  • Yes/No. The natural language processing to understand and distinguish between a “yes” and a “no” response is pretty well-defined and straightforward. These types of responses can be easily parsed with great accuracy.
  • Measuring sentiment. Using natural language processing, a chatbot can measure the intensity of feeling in a response. This can give a sentiment score to each response, and then use the sentiment to control the conversation or direct survey flow based on the sentiment of the response.
  • Price sensitivity. A chatbot could make the standard van Westendorp questions more conversational, guiding respondents through the process.

Coming soon to Datagame…SurveyBot!

That’s right, Datagame is developing a chatbot that can be integrated with your traditional online surveys as a module similar to our other games. SurveyBot will make it easy to include a chatbot in your surveys to engage with respondents, record open-ended response data, and direct interview flow based on the sentiment of responses. Using standard question types and interview templates, SurveyBot will make it easy to create your own chatbot for surveys and integrate it with your existing surveys.

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