The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on customer-robot engagement in the Chinese hospitality industry. Analysis of a sample of 589 customers using service robots demonstrated that the perceived risk of COVID-19 has a positive influence on customer-robot engagement. The positive effect is mediated by social distancing and moderated by attitudes towards risk. Specifically, the mediating effect of social distancing between the perceived risk of COVID-19 and customer-robot engagement is stronger for risk-avoiding (vs. risk-seeking) customers. Our results provide insights for hotels when they employ service robots to cope with the shock of COVID-19 pandemic.
Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; customer engagement; protection motivation theory; risk perception; service robot; social distancing.