ServiceFriday: Smart to Be Skeptical? Why Consumers Resist Smart Services

– Written by Jack Lechich for the Center for Services Leadership

Compete Through Service Symposium attendeesShortly after arriving at ASU, I met one of my most quirkiest and hilarious friends who also happens to be Sparky. Obviously I cannot divulge the identity of our favorite Sun Devil, but I will let you know one thing about him: when he’s not sporting the stylish pitchfork, he wears an Apple watch. At first, I was a bit baffled by this because I was skeptical of the watch’s performance and the price tag that with came with it as I usually am with new smart devices. I may not have been alone as researchers have recently begun studying the various factors of why people are resistant to smart services, including skepticism.

A study recently published in the Journal of Services Marketing investigated factors that reduce as well as increase consumer resistance to smart services. Smart services, as defined by the researchers, describes services that integrate Internet of Things (IoT) devices in support of service delivery in many domains (e.g. smart homes, IoT banking). Prior to the study, researchers identified three lifestyle-related factors that they believed impacted consumer resistance to smart devices: individual “mobiquity”(mobility + ubiquity), technological innovativeness, and self-image congruence. They also incorporated perceived security risk, complexity, government surveillance and the aforementioned skepticism as potential factors.

Researchers used an online survey to collect their data from the banking sector which was chosen due to its history of using technology in service encounters. A French panel was tasked with watching a video that gave an example of applications of smart services in banking. A total of 653 participants completed the online survey and the questionnaires were subsequently analyzed using previously established scales from prior service industry research.

The results showed that both individual mobiquity and self-congruence had a significant negative influence on consumer resistance to smart services. However, there was no significant impact of technological innovativeness. Perceived security risk, complexity, and government surveillance all had a significant positive impact on consumer resistance. It turns out I was really not alone as skepticism was indeed found to be a reliable predictor of consumer resistance.

Managerial implications

“For managers, we recommend implementing a strategy to strengthen and highlight factors ‘against resistance’ and reduce factors ‘for resistance.’”

Strengthening factors against resistance can be done in a variety of ways and the researchers suggest that the advertising of smart services should aim to make consumers feel that smart devices are compatible with their behaviors and habits. For commercial strategy, they suggest that companies develop their IoT-based services by focusing on devices already owned by consumers such as smartphones, smartwatches, etc.

To reduce the perception of factors for resistance, researchers recommend companies wanting to offer smart services reinforce security based on the technical capabilities of IoT devices. To counter the factor of perceived complexity, they suggest working on the design of IoT devices to simplify installation and set-up procedures.

To read the full article, go to the Journal of Services Marketing. (A fee may apply.)

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