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EMAC 2020 Annual Conference

The service robots have already arrived: Virtual agent features and behaviors that boost customer satisfaction in the service encounter

Published: May 27, 2020


Magnus Söderlund, Stockholm School of Economics; Eeva-Liisa Oikarinen, University of Oulu; Teck Ming Tan, University of Oulu


Encounters; Satisfaction; Agents


Virtual agents (VAs) are already used as representatives of the firm in service encounters, and this study of customers’ interactions with existing VAs explores a set of VA features and behaviors with respect to their potential to influence customer satisfaction. The study also examines perceived VA humanness as a mechanism (i.e., a mediating variable) for this influence. The results show that a set of VA features and behaviors that are typical for human employees contributed to ascribing humanness to VAs, and perceived VA humanness mediated the impact of both features and behaviors of VA on customer satisfaction. Thus, what has been learned during several decades of research on the satisfaction-boosting potential of the human frontline employee appears to be useful points of reference for those who are concerned with understanding and designing VAs appearing in service encounters.