The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Excellence

Chatbots: the latest addition to our qual toolkit?

Let's talk chatbots. The technology around this computer program, designed to simulate human conversation, has seen significant growth in the past 12 months. Brands are developing chatbots to help consumers with everything from finding their nearest store right through to ordering pizza.

Their potential has also been recognised in our industry. For many years, brands have been using rudimentary versions to assess customer satisfaction via text message. Now, we’re seeing organisations tapping the latest platform for chatbots, Facebook Messenger, to run more extensive quantitative surveys.

But this may be only the tip of the iceberg. At present, most chatbot functionality is limited: they’re restricted to providing set responses to a fixed number of questions. As such, they’re only suitable for quantitative research. But as they grow more sophisticated, using AI to learn and respond intelligently to the inputs they’re given, their use could well extend to qualitative research.

An AI-powered research chatbot could tailor the questions it asks based on a respondent’s previous answers, allowing it to gain real depth of insight. This would be a transformational development. We don’t see chatbots replacing humans for depth interviews just yet, but they could be used in other types of qualitative research, particularly as they become consumers’ preferred method for interacting with brands.


Emma Muckersie
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, April 2018
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2018