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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-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
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Service Management
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)770-805
Number of pages36
Publication statusPublished - 27.06.2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Challenge
  • Human service triad
  • Service robot
  • Systematic literature review
  • Trilemma
  • Well-being


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