Drawing on social exchange and anthropomorphism theory, this research examines the role of virtual conversational assistants (VCA) as frontline employees. Specifically, we investigate the effects of AI-derived features, such as anthropomorphism, in building Human-Machine relationships. Drawing on a qualitative interpretivist approach, 31 semi-structured interviews were conducted with global users of Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. Our findings suggest anthropomorphism is an important factor in understanding the development of trust within Human-Machine interactions. More specifically, the effects of a humanised voice, interactive communication capability and cognitive features evoke a sense of social presence that may positively or negatively impact user trust. We propose that the interplay between a user’s perceptions of the bright and dark sides of interacting with an AI-empowered anthropomorphised machine determines categories of trust and subsequent customer engagement behaviours with this embedded form of organisational frontline.
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- organisational frontlines
- virtual conversational assistant