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Get Close to the Robot: The Effect of Risk Perception of COVID-19 Pandemic on Customer–Robot Engagement

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on customer–robot engagement in the Chinese hospitality industry. Analysis of a sample of 589 customers using service robots demonstrated that the perceived risk of COVID-19 has a positive influence on customer–robot engagement. The positive effect is mediated by social distancing and moderated by attitudes towards risk. Specifically, the mediating effect of social distancing between the perceived risk of COVID-19 and customer–robot engagement is stronger for risk-avoiding (vs. risk-seeking) customers. Our results provide insights for hotels when they employ service robots to cope with the shock of COVID-19 pandemic.
Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic / service robot / risk perception / customer engagement / protection motivation theory / social distancing

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