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Frontline robots in tourism and hospitality: service enhancement or cost reduction?

Daniel Belanche (), Luis V. Casaló () and Carlos Flavián ()
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Daniel Belanche: University of Zaragoza
Luis V. Casaló: University of Zaragoza

Electronic Markets, 2021, vol. 31, issue 3, No 3, 477-492

Abstract: Abstract Robots are being implemented in many frontline services, from waiter robots in restaurants to robotic concierges in hotels. A growing number of firms in hospitality and tourism industries introduce service robots to reduce their operational costs and to provide customers with enhanced services (e.g. greater convenience). In turn, customers may consider that such a disruptive innovation is altering the established conditions of the service-provider relationship. Based on attribution theory, this research explores how customers’ attributions about the firm motivations to implement service robots (i.e. cost reduction and service enhancement) are affecting customers’ intentions to use and recommend this innovation. Following previous research on robot’s acceptance, our research framework analyzes how these attributions may be shaped by customers’ perceptions of robot’s human-likeness and their affinity with the robot. Structural equation modelling is used to analyze data collected from 517 customers evaluating service robots in the hospitality industry; results show that attributions mediate the relationships between affinity toward the robot and customer behavioral intentions to use and recommend service robots. Specifically, customer’s affinity toward the service robot positively affects service improvement attribution, which in turn has a positive influence on customer behavioral intentions. In contrast, affinity negatively affects cost reduction attribution, which in turn has a negative effect on behavioral intentions. Finally, human-likeness has a positive influence on affinity. This research provides practitioners with empirical evidence and guidance about the introduction of service robots and its relational implications in hospitality and tourism industries. Theoretical advances and future research avenues are also discussed.

Keywords: Service robots; Human-likeness; Affinity; Customer attributions; Customer behavioral intentions; Hospitality industry (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: L83 M31 O32 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1007/s12525-020-00432-5

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