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Calming the customers by AI: Investigating the role of chatbot acting-cute strategies in soothing negative customer emotions

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Although intelligent chatbot has been widely used in online customer service settings in modern E-business, scholars still have little understanding of the chatbot strategies implemented in product or service failure context. Aiming at this gap, this study explored whether, how, and when two chatbot acting-cute strategies (i.e. whimsical chatbot strategy and kindchenschema chatbot strategy) could soothe negative customer emotions when product or service failure happened. By using two experimental studies, the results demonstrated that both the whimsical chatbot strategy and the kindchenschema (baby schema) chatbot strategy could placate negative customer emotions via two mechanisms. In the high product or service failure severity context, the soothing effects of both strategies would weaken, while the kindchenschema chatbot strategy weakens less. The whimsical chatbot strategy is suitable for customers with high technology anxiety while the kindchenschema chatbot strategy is suitable for those who have low technology anxiety. The whimsical chatbot strategy was more effective with male customers than with female customers, while the kindchenschema chatbot strategy had the opposite effect. Finally, the theoretical and managerial implications were discussed.

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This work is supported by the National Social Science Fund of China (22BGL118), Social Science Foundation of Shaanxi Province (2021R045), National Natural Science Foundation of China (72102107), Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (NR2021006; D5000210809), Talent Research Start-up Foundation of Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (1009-YAH21065), and Talent Research Start-up Foundation of Nanjing Normal University (184080H202A169).

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Correspondence to Chao Feng.

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Responsible Editor: Shengnan Han

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Zhang, T., Feng, C., Chen, H. et al. Calming the customers by AI: Investigating the role of chatbot acting-cute strategies in soothing negative customer emotions. Electron Markets 32, 2277–2292 (2022).

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