In our Research Society conference paper ‘Robot Wars’, we set out to measure how people respond to identical research questions asked via chat, voice and a traditional online survey. We were interested to see how members of Lewers online community, PurplePatch, are currently engaging with chat and voice technology and how well they would respond to chat and voice-based research in a randomised study, controlled against a traditional online approach.

One of the things we learned is that, even though over 90% of respondents claim to prefer completing 5-10 questions via an online survey to either chat or voice, when we randomly allocated them to chat, completion rates were almost identical to online (in fact slightly higher). Not only that, but ease and satisfaction with chat were extremely high, and responses to a range of questions about alcohol and exercise were likewise comparable between chat and online.  

So what? I hear you asking, 90% of them are happy with a static online survey, why use a chat bot? Well there are a whole lot of reasons. Firstly, potential for engagement is much greater. Sentiment around the question ‘Do you have any further comments you wish to make about this survey?’ were significantly positive. People said things like:

I thought this was a really fun and quirky way to complete a survey.

A nice change to the usual old format.

Yep. I have now changed my mind about the question re how you want to complete surveys, love this new way.

Wow! Cool, cool, great, different, interesting, newer, up-to-date-with-it survey. Great good-flowing survey. Thank you.

Beyond being engaging and appealing (and the potential for this to translate into higher response rates) the Research by Bot platform allows us to utilise a number of AI tools which will make research better and smarter over time – like prompted follow-ups and even expression analysis using the phone’s camera right within the chat. The familiar format is easy to launch on any device with one click, making it perfect for in-the-moment surveys such as those triggered by an SMS invitation, or a branded web overlay chat designed to trigger at key moments of the customer journey.

The key to effective insight gathering is to make it easy for respondents to participate in the moment by removing as many barriers as possible so that we can get greater and more representative participation. Chat-based research does this because it is familiar and easy. Your phone is never far away – it’s an appendage for many people. It has a camera and microphone and a pretty good screen from which you are highly likely to consume a lot of media.

And voice? With adoption of smart speakers in Australia at world-leading 30+% of households, we are excited by the potential. For now, it’s about using voice to solve problems that haven’t had an effective research solution. You wouldn’t (as we did for this experiment) take people from an online survey and send them out to find their way into a voice survey on a different device. What business problem would that solve? None. But it did solve an interesting research problem – how many unwilling people would comply with such a request? The answer – around a quarter.

 Consider these scenarios:

  • Would you be more inclined to tell a researcher about whether or not you shaved this morning, and why, if you had to remember to write it into a diary of some kind or if you could tell your phone or smart speaker about it while you made your morning coffee?
  • What about what sort of hair day you’re having or if you washed it this morning?
  • What about what your nine-year-old had for breakfast and why.
  • And that website visit – what were you looking for? Did you find it? What did you end up buying?
  • And your council recycling bin, just two quick questions…

The fact is bots can go where humans cannot. That’s not to say they can do what humans can do. Bots are not better than human researchers, not even close. And humans on their own aren’t as capable as humans with machines. But together humans plus machines that combination is more powerful than either on their own. That’s why Research by Bot was created.

It’s a proprietary platform, developed by Lewers, that the team at Lewers can use to find truth in the moment. It brings together the best of research know-how and machine capability.

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