The Robotic-Human Service Trilemma: the challenges for well-being within the human service triad

Chelsea Phillips, Rebekah Russell–Bennett, Gaby Odekerken-Schröder, Dominik Mahr, Kate Letheren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose: The human service triad (i.e. the relationship between the customer, frontline employee (FLE) and managerial employee) experiences a range of well-being challenges when faced with the introduction of service robots. Despite growth in service robot scholarship, understanding of the well-being challenges affecting the human service triad remains fragmented. Hence, the purpose of this paper is to synthesise the literature and offer a research agenda aligned with the proposed Robotic-Human Service Trilemma. By taking a job performance approach (which considers the actions, behaviours and outcomes linked to organisational goals), the Robotic-Human Service Trilemma conceptualises three well-being challenges (intrusion, sideline and interchange). These challenges are realised via the realistic capabilities and constraints of service robot implementation. Design/methodology/approach: This research relies on a systematic review of all disciplines concerning service robots. In total, 82 articles were analysed using thematic coding and led to the development of the Robotic-Human Service Trilemma and research agenda. Findings: The analyses reveal the Robotic-Human Service Trilemma consists of three challenges: intrusion, sideline and indifference. The findings demonstrate that FLEs are required to counterbalance the constraints of service robots, leading to an uneven well-being burden within the human service triad. This paper suggests a research agenda for investigation of the challenges that underpin the Robotic-Human Service Trilemma. Originality/value: Through the conceptualisation of the Robotic-Human Service Trilemma, this study is the first to explore how states of well-being equilibrium exist within the human service triad and how these states are challenged by service robots. The authors present a balanced centricity perspective to well-being that contrasts previous trade-off approaches and that enhances the body of service robot literature with a well-being lens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)770-805
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Service Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2023
Externally publishedYes


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