Emotional communication by service robots: a research agenda

M. Becker*, E. Efendic, G. Odekerken-Schroder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose Many service industries are facing severe labor shortages. As a result, service providers are turning to new sources of labor, such as service robots. Critics however often point out that service robots lack emotional communication capabilities without which they cannot be expected to truly replace human employees and fill the emerging labor market gaps. Here, a research agenda for the investigation of the role of emotional communication by service robots and its effects on customers and their service experience are laid out. This paper aims to propose that research in this area will further understanding of how service robots can add value to service frontlines, engage customers, increasingly replace service employees and ultimately help overcome pressing labor shortages. Design/methodology/approach A research agenda structured around the three-step emotional communication process (i.e. read, decide and express) and the four emotional communication strategies crucial for service interactions (i.e. mimicking, alleviating, infusing and preventing) are conceptualized. Findings Three contributions are made. First, the importance of emotional communication by service robots during service interactions is highlighted. Second, interdisciplinary research priorities and opportunities in this emerging field are mapped out. Third, a theoretical structure to connect the findings of future studies is provided. Originality/value Service research investigating the role and implications of emotional communication by service robots is scarce. A research agenda to guide the exploration of this crucial, yet underresearched component of customer-robot service interactions is structured and mapped out.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-687
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Service Management
Issue number4/5
Early online date29 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2022


  • Service robots
  • Emotions
  • Emotional communication
  • Social robots
  • Research agenda
  • Experiential communication
  • CARE

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