Well-being impacts for frontline employees in robot service environments

Project dates: 01/03/2021 - Ongoing

Service robots present a new frontier for the services industries, having already been deployed into hospitality, tourism, and healthcare settings. However, while practitioners and scholars excitedly project widespread use of this innovative technology, previous and (often) optimistic implementations have seen practitioners have to mitigate detriments of well-being for customers and FLEs due to consistent failings of service robots.

What did we do?

Through three studies, we seek to understand how frontline employee well-being is impacted due to changed job performance by working alongside service robots. In particular, we seek to identify the tasks to be allocated between FLEs and service robots in a way that minimises negative well-being impacts for the FLE, customer, and managerial employee.

What did we find out?

The first study conceptualised the Robotic-Human Service Trilemma, which combines the three core challenges of well-being experienced by the three actors of the human service triad (customer, frontline employee, managerial employee). In particular we found:

  • The Intrusion Challenge occurs when the long-standing human connection within the customer-FLE relationship has been altered (impacted social and purpose well-being)
  • The Sideline Challenge is where the longstanding exchange of job security, status, sense of value and valued skills is disrupted between the FLE and managerial employees (impacted financial and purpose well-being), and
  • The Indifference Challenge is where the customer-managerial employee relationship is rendered transactional and at-arms’-length due to lack of human engagement with the organisation due to the service robot

These challenges reflect the interconnected states of well-being equilibrium between customers, frontline employees, and managerial employees, when a service robot is introduced. This is an important framework as it provides much needed understanding for the specific and collective well-being impacts for actors within the human service triad from a job performance perspective. Upcoming studies will investigate the presence of the Human-Robotic Service Trilemma across three field settings in hospitality, education, and healthcare.

Chief Investigators