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Keywords:

  • virtual customer service agent;
  • social presence;
  • personalization;
  • online service encounter;
  • friendliness;
  • expertise;
  • smile

Abstract

By performing tasks traditionally fulfilled by service personnel and having a humanlike appearance, virtual customer service agents bring classical service elements to the web, which may positively influence customer satisfaction through eliciting social responses and feelings of personalization. This paper sheds light on these dynamics by proposing and testing a model drawing upon the theories of implicit personality, social response, emotional contagion, and social interaction. The model proposes friendliness, expertise, and smile as determinants of social presence, personalization, and online service encounter satisfaction. An empirical study confirms the cross-channel applicability of friendliness and expertise as determinants of social presence and personalization. Overall, the study underlines that integration between technology and personal aspects may lead to more social online service encounters.