Papers Under Review
Today more than ever before, online text-based interactions have become a common means of communication between consumers and companies. The current research investigates how one common feature in text communication—typographical errors (“typos”)—can humanize a communicator (e.g., a customer service agent). Across six experiments (N = 2,727) that used ambiguously humanlike conversational counterparts (i.e., customer service agents who were either chatbots or real humans), participants perceived agents who made and subsequently corrected a typo to be more human than agents who made no typos or made but did not correct a typo. Moreover, perceiving an agent as more human led participants to form a more favorable perception of the agent (e.g., as being warmer and more helpful) and to be more willing to reward and engage with the agent. These findings provide novel insights into how conversational features influence customers’ perceptions of online agents, with implications for the agents’ corresponding brands. The current research also provides theoretical implications for anthropomorphism and human-computer interaction, as well as practical and ethical considerations for companies wishing to humanize their online customer service agents.
Modern and gig economy businesses collect voluntary contributions (i.e., tips) from consumers via screen-based payment systems (i.e., $1, $2, $3; 10%, 15%, 20%). The use of these systems has been criticized by the popular media for forcing consumers to leave large tips in contexts where they previously would have left small tips or where tips were not required. The authors employ a multi-method approach, including an analysis of secondary data (N = 51,825), a field experiment (N = 1,810), and laboratory experiments (N = 2,321) to show that an absolute dollar frame (vs. percentages) leads to higher tip payments especially for low bill amounts. These effects are attenuated when (1) absolute options are presented in cents (e.g., $0.50), leading consumers to infer that small tip amounts are acceptable and, (2) absolute options start at high levels. Countering conventional wisdom, the authors further show that open-ended formats can lead to higher tip payments compared to closed-ended response formats in specific conditions. Theoretically, these results add to the behavioral pricing, prosocial behavior, and labor economics literatures. Managerially, the results are relevant for decision makers in the multi-billion-dollar digital service industry.