The Department of Communication and Cognition at Tilburg University is looking for a PhD researcher within the NWO-funded project “Smooth Operator. Development and effects of personalized conversational AI”.
We offer a fully funded, 4-year project in which the candidate will design and evaluate personalized conversational AI (chatbots) in a customer service setting. In this project knowledge will be obtained on the effects of various technical, visual, and textual chatbot designs to personalize chatbot conversations on objective (e.g., the success rate of conversations), and subjective measures (e.g., customers’ experience).
The position is hosted at Tilburg center for Cognition and Communication (TiCC), and will be supervised by dr. Christine Liebrecht and dr. Emiel van Miltenburg (daily supervision) and prof. dr. Emiel Krahmer (promotor).
Conversational AI is increasingly being deployed by organizations in customer service settings and designed to perform simple tasks, such as sending airline tickets, as well as more complex tasks, such as providing shopping advice. The Gartner Hype Cycle predicts that by 2021, 15 per cent of all customer service interactions will be completely handled by AI.
However, organizations experience skepticism in adopting chatbot technology in customer service. Chatbots could trigger unrealistic expectations about their capabilities, customers perceive conversations with conversational AI as unnatural and not cooperative, and valid metrics are lacking to properly evaluate the technology. These issues entail several scientific challenges the “Smooth Operator” project aims to address.
The project’s goal is to obtain a better understanding on the evaluation and effects of personalized and cooperative conversational AI by developing and examining several technical, visual, and textual characteristics of chatbots on both customers (who approach them for customer service questions) and service employees (who will work together with them). We therefore take a multidisciplinary perspective with a mixed-methods approach (i.e., corpus analysis, Natural Language Processing, interviews, field experiments, conversation design).
The “Smooth Operator” project consists of two PhD projects; one located at Tilburg University and one located at Utrecht University. Although the PhD candidates will work on related but different sub-projects, a close collaboration is important for successful completion of the project. The Utrecht PhD started last April under daily supervision of dr. Charlotte van Hooijdonk and dr. Florian Kunneman (VU University Amsterdam) and promotors prof. dr. Hans Hoeken and prof. dr. Hedwig te Molder (VU University Amsterdam). Moreover, eight private partners are involved (AI developers and conversation designers, companies that use AI in their customer service). More project information can be found on www.conversationalagentsresearch.com.
In this PhD position, you will:
- participate in an enthusiastic multidisciplinary group of scholars and familiarize yourself with human-AI communication;
- (further) develop customer service chatbots and conduct different types of research;
- write four journal manuscripts which together will form the core of your PhD thesis;
- give presentations about study results on a regular basis on workshops and conferences, and co-organize project workshops;
- participate in all project related activities including valorization activities;
- get involved (to a limited extent) in teaching activities in our Bachelor’s and Master’s program Communication and Information Sciences;
- participate in the Graduate Schools’ education program.
- To apply for this position please submit a motivation letter, CV, thesis and/or an individual assignment, publications (if any), grade list, and names of two references.
- The only way to apply is online.
- Deadline for applications: June 11.
- Interviews are expected to take place in the last two weeks of June.
Further information on the job opening can be found here.