Solo consumption has become an emerging trend in recent years. However, the service experiences of solo customers with the growing adoption of frontline humanlike robots remain unclear, particularly in direct comparison with joint customers. Building on the literature of anthropomorphism and information processing theory, this study examines whether and how frontline anthropomorphized robots (FAR) might improve the service experiences of solo customers relative to their joint counterparts. Data from four studies, including field and online experiments, reveal that solo customers are more likely than joint customers to perceive FAR as offering rapport but also as being eerie, leading to different service evaluations (both attitudinal and behavioral outcomes). Nevertheless, as parallel mechanisms, these levels of social rapport and eeriness are contingent on features of the FAR, the service delivery process, and customers’ consumption goals. The rapport (eeriness) mechanism is strengthened (weakened) when the robot is of in-group favoritism, the service process deprives customers of control, and customers have a hedonic consumption goal. With the boom in adopting frontline humanlike robots in hospitality services, this study offers managerially relevant implications for serving solo customers as an emerging segment along with the traditional segment of joint customers.
- frontline anthropomorphized robots
- information processing
- social rapport
- solo and joint consumption