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Cyborgs as frontline service employees: a research agenda

Tony Garry (Department of Marketing, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)
Tracy Harwood (Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)

Journal of Service Theory and Practice

ISSN: 2055-6225

Article publication date: 28 October 2019

Issue publication date: 21 November 2019

1042

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to identify and explore potential applications of cyborgian technologies within service contexts and how service providers may leverage the integration of cyborgian service actors into their service proposition. In doing so, the paper proposes a new category of “melded” frontline employees (FLEs), where advanced technologies become embodied within human actors. The paper presents potential opportunities and challenges that may arise through cyborg technological advancements and proposes a future research agenda related to these.

Design/methodology/approach

This study draws on literature in the fields of services management, artificial intelligence, robotics, intelligence augmentation (IA) and human intelligence to conceptualise potential cyborgian applications.

Findings

The paper examines how cyborg bio- and psychophysical characteristics may significantly differentiate the nature of service interactions from traditional “unenhanced” service interactions. In doing so, the authors propose “melding” as a conceptual category of technological impact on FLEs. This category reflects the embodiment of emergent technologies not previously captured within existing literature on cyborgs. The authors examine how traditional roles of FLEs will be potentially impacted by the integration of emergent cyborg technologies, such as neural interfaces and implants, into service contexts before outlining future research directions related to these, specifically highlighting the range of ethical considerations.

Originality/value

Service interactions with cyborg FLEs represent a new context for examining the potential impact of cyborgs. This paper explores how technological advancements will alter the individual capacities of humans to enable such employees to intuitively and empathetically create solutions to complex service challenges. In doing so, the authors augment the extant literature on cyborgs, such as the body hacking movement. The paper also outlines a research agenda to address the potential consequences of cyborgian integration.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This paper forms part of a special section “Services marketing for impact; ANZMAC 2017 Conference Special Issue”.

Citation

Garry, T. and Harwood, T. (2019), "Cyborgs as frontline service employees: a research agenda", Journal of Service Theory and Practice, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 415-437. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSTP-11-2018-0241

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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