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Reducing deviant consumer behaviour with service robot guardians

Paula Dootson (QUT Business School, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Dominique A. Greer (QUT Business School, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Kate Letheren (QUT Business School, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Kate L. Daunt (Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 28 April 2022

Issue publication date: 28 February 2023




The purpose of this research is to understand whether service robots can safeguard servicescapes from deviant consumer behaviour. Using routine activity theory, this research examines whether increasing the perceived humanness of service robots reduces customer intentions to commit deviant consumer behaviour and whether this negative relationship is mediated by perceived empathy and perceived risk of being caught.


Five hundred and fifty-three US residents responded to a hypothetical scenario that manipulated the humanness of a service agent (from self-service technology, to robot, to human employee) across seven conditions and measured the likelihood of deviant consumer behaviour, empathy towards the service robot, perceived risk of being caught and punished and negative attitudes towards robots.


The results indicate that replacing human service agents with different types of service robots does inadvertently reduce customer perceptions of capable guardianship (i.e. the human element that deters potential offenders from committing crimes) in the servicescape and creates conditions that allow customers to perpetrate more deviant consumer behaviour.

Practical implications

When investing in technology such as service robots, service providers need to consider the unintended cost of customer misbehaviour (specifically deviant consumer behaviour) in their return-on-investment assessments to optimise their asset investment decisions.


Moving beyond research on customer adoption and use, this research examines the unintended consequences that might arise when deploying service robots in a technology-infused service environment. Humanised service robots offer more guardianship than self-service technology but do not replace human employees in preventing deviant consumer behaviour, as they remain more capable of deterring customer misbehaviour.



The authors would like to acknowledge the QUT School of Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations’ Services Innovation Research Program for funding the research. The authors would also like to thank the Editor and reviewers for their time and contributions to shaping the publication.


Dootson, P., Greer, D.A., Letheren, K. and Daunt, K.L. (2023), "Reducing deviant consumer behaviour with service robot guardians", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 37 No. 3, pp. 276-286.



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