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Trust me, I'm a bot – repercussions of chatbot disclosure in different service frontline settings

Nika Mozafari (Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany)
Welf H. Weiger (College of Business, Alfaisal University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) (Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany)
Maik Hammerschmidt (Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 17 June 2021

Abstract

Purpose

Chatbots are increasingly prevalent in the service frontline. Due to advancements in artificial intelligence, chatbots are often indistinguishable from humans. Regarding the question whether firms should disclose their chatbots' nonhuman identity or not, previous studies find negative consumer reactions to chatbot disclosure. By considering the role of trust and service-related context factors, this study explores how negative effects of chatbot disclosure for customer retention can be prevented.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper presents two experimental studies that examine the effect of disclosing the nonhuman identity of chatbots on customer retention. While the first study examines the effect of chatbot disclosure for different levels of service criticality, the second study considers different service outcomes. The authors employ analysis of covariance and mediation analysis to test their hypotheses.

Findings

Chatbot disclosure has a negative indirect effect on customer retention through mitigated trust for services with high criticality. In cases where a chatbot fails to handle the customer's service issue, disclosing the chatbot identity not only lacks negative impact but even elicits a positive effect on retention.

Originality/value

The authors provide evidence that customers will react differently to chatbot disclosure depending on the service frontline setting. They show that chatbot disclosure does not only have undesirable consequences as previous studies suspect but can lead to positive reactions as well. By doing so, the authors draw a more balanced picture on the consequences of chatbot disclosure.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This is a submission for the JOSM special section on “Living and Working with (Ro)bots – The Impact of (Ro)bots on the Service Frontline”.

The authors thank Thorsten Hennig-Thurau, Michael Paul, Tillmann Wagner, Gianfranco Walsh, and all participants of the 2019 and 2020 Research Bootcamp on Marketing for their valuable feedback on earlier drafts of the manuscript.

Citation

Mozafari, N., Weiger, W.H. and Hammerschmidt, M. (2021), "Trust me, I'm a bot – repercussions of chatbot disclosure in different service frontline settings", Journal of Service Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOSM-10-2020-0380

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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