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Service robots: value co-creation and co-destruction in elderly care networks

Martina Čaić (Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands)
Gaby Odekerken-Schröder (Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands)
Dominik Mahr (School of Business and Economics and Service Science Factory, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 13 March 2018

Issue publication date: 16 March 2018



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the potential roles for service robots (i.e. socially assistive robots) in value networks of elderly care. Taking an elderly person’s perspective, it defines robot roles according to their value co-creating/destroying potential for the elderly user (i.e. focal actor), while acknowledging consequences for a network of users around the elderly (i.e. network actors).


This qualitative, interpretative study employs in-depth phenomenographic interviews, supported by generative cards activities (i.e. Contextual Value Network Mapping), to elicit an elderly person’s tacit knowledge and anticipate the effects of introducing an automated actor on institutionalized value co-creation practices.


The proposed typology identifies six roles of socially assistive robots in an elderly person’s value network (enabler, intruder, ally, replacement, extended self, and deactivator) and links them to three health-supporting functions by robots: safeguarding, social contact, and cognitive support.

Research limitations/implications

Elderly people have notable expectations about the inclusion of a socially assistive robot as a new actor in their value networks. The identified robot roles inform service scholars and managers about both the value co-destruction potential that needs to be avoided through careful designs and the value co-creation potential that should be leveraged.


Using network-conscious phenomenographic interviews before the introduction of a novel value proposition sheds new light on the shifting value co-creation interplay among value network actors (i.e. elderly people, formal and informal caregivers). The value co-creation/destruction potential of socially assistive robots and their corresponding roles in care-based value networks offer insights for the design of meaningful robotic technology and its introduction into the existing service networks.



This project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 642116. The information and views set out in this study are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein. The authors acknowledge the elderly care units of Zorgcentrum Hoogstaete, Zuyderland Zorgcentra (the Netherlands), Cáritas Diocesana de Coimbra (Portugal), and the GrowMeUp project ( for their assistance in recruiting elderly informants. The authors particularly thank Roy Beumers, Carina Dantas, Charlotte Gijzen, Leonne Hollanders, Ana Luίsa Jegundo, Noémi van Nie, Flávia Rodrigues, Romy Schurgers, Mark Steins, and Rachelle Wintjens for their support during the data collection.


Čaić, M., Odekerken-Schröder, G. and Mahr, D. (2018), "Service robots: value co-creation and co-destruction in elderly care networks", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 178-205.



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