The blame shift: Robot service failures hold service firms more accountable

Yuhosua Ryoo, Yongwoog Andy Jeon, Woo Jin Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article reports findings from four studies examining blame attribution following service failures perpetrated by frontline robots or human service providers. Findings show that when human service providers make mistakes, customers blame the human employees, but when robot service providers make the same mistakes, they blame the associated firm instead. Perceptions that robots lack controllability over their actions mediate the negative spillover effect on firms. Robot humanness and type of intelligence appear to moderate the effect. That is, when robots are highly humanized or have analytical intelligence, participants perceive that the robots have high controllability and therefore blame them as if they were humans. In contrast, robots that are non-humanized or show mechanical intelligence are perceived as lacking controllability and culpability. As a result, firms deploying these robots are blamed for their poor service and experience negative spillover effects in the form of decisions to withdraw patronage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114360
JournalJournal of Business Research
StatePublished - Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Inc.


  • Attribution theory
  • Robot humanization
  • Robot intelligence
  • Service failures
  • Service robots


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