The technological revolution in the service sector is radically changing the ways in which and with whom consumers co-create value. Social robots—defined as fully or partially automated technologies that co-create value with humans through their social functionalities—represent a rapidly growing element of service industries. Robots have moved from industrial settings (e.g., factories) to public (e.g., retail, healthcare) and private (e.g., homes) user settings. Designing future robots to match user values (e.g., through increasing value co-creation and decreasing value co-destruction) and enhance users’ well-being thus represents a top priority for both academics and practitioners alike.
A social cognition perspective can reveal how humans perceive their human-like robotic counterparts in terms of two overarching dimensions that emerge during social interactions: competence (being skilful or efficacious) and warmth (being helpful and caring). The experiential, idiosyncratic nature of value demands accounting for both benefits of value co-creation (e.g., feeling of security, prolonged independence), but also risks of value co-destruction (e.g., lack of personal touch, privacy intrusion); which in turn could explain people’s lack of willingness to accept social robots. The complexity of value, together with the disruptive nature of social robots, creates unique challenges to existing service processes. So far, no research details how service providers can leverage robot’s affective and cognitive resources and design for effective human–technology interactions ensuring value realizations for multiple stakeholders.
The current study addresses this research gap by employing a social cognition lens, with two major contributions. First, our proposed conceptualization of social robots in services and their value propositions advances understanding of technology-enabled services. Extant research primarily emphasizes the appearance or feature-related characteristics of robots, such as their morphology and assistive tasks. In contrast, our value centric conceptualization introduces four robot types (i.e., mechanic, thinking, and feeling robots, and robo-sapiens) that distinguish affective and cognitive resources necessary for collaborative value realizations.
Second, this article argues that the acceptance of human-like technologies is determined by how value is proposed and realized through interactions of service actors and social robots. Our iterative framework proposes that prior personal values become salient during context-specific user-robot interactions before users assess the robot’s value co-creation/destruction potential. Integrating both advantages and disadvantages of technologies for different service actors addresses recent calls for better understanding of the influence of social robots on value co-creation.
In this paper, we present an illustrative case demonstrating our value-centric framework. In that way, we substantiate our conceptualization with the empirical data from the elderly care setting. Our data supports the process of personal values activation by the robot’s value proposition and the trade-offs of positive (i.e. value co-creation potential) and negative (i.e. value co-destruction potential) elements.
Keywords: Social robots in services, Social cognition, Cognitive and affective resources, Value co-creation/destruction potential