Utilizing Humanoid Robots for Customer Engagement

Benefits and Challenges, Use Cases and Industry Verticals, and Business Considerations

White Paper Details

Pages: 31
Tables, Charts, Figures: 8
Release Date: 4Q 2016


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Humanoid robots are starting to see application in customer engagement roles, armed with advanced facial recognition, emotion recognition, and speech recognition capabilities, and driven by recent improvements in artificial intelligence (AI).  This technology leap is happening against the backdrop of the smartphone, web, and social media becoming primary customer engagement channels.  Humanoid robots provide a playbook for customer engagement, and can be viewed as an evolutionary step from self-service kiosks to conversational commerce, combining the two in smart and unique ways.  Retail is not the only vertical market that is well positioned to take advantage of robots.  Financial services, healthcare, travel and hospitality, and quick service restaurants (QSRs) are all expected to see the benefits of customer engagement innovation through robots.

However, humanoid robots need to overcome a number of challenges, especially when they are being used for direct, face-to-face engagement with customers.  As these robots become more human-like, there is a danger that they could fall into the phenomenon known as the “uncanny valley”, with human likeability turning quickly from empathy to revulsion.  Social and cultural factors also need to be taken into account, with Japanese and Korean cultures being much more accepting and familiar with robots, compared to Western cultures.  Social and cultural factors also play a role in designing the best user interface/user experience (UI/UX) for robots, which would help meet business objectives.  The high cost of humanoid robots can also be a barrier to their adoption, with the right financing and leasing options being as critical as the robot itself.  With the cost of high-end humanoid robots similar to that of an entry-level sales associate, it is not hard to see why there could be fear and insecurity among existing employees.  Brick and mortar businesses need to carefully balance human labor concerns as they pilot and deploy these robots.

In order to take full advantage of robots in a customer engagement setting and enable the full suite of in-store analytics, IT integration and maintenance becomes as critical as the front-end interface.  The future adoption of humanoid robots also depends on how successfully they are able to take on the role of platforms, bringing on developers that drive unique and innovative applications.  With customer engagement being such a critical part of brick and mortar businesses, it is time for humanoid robots to start to be seen as a tool for human augmentation, rather than being viewed as an automated replacement.  Customer engagement is about connecting to the customer on a personal level, and today’s humanoid robots are capable of making that human connection.

This Tractica white paper examines the market drivers for humanoid robots in customer engagement roles, identifies some of the key challenges for robots in such roles, and explores the key use cases and industry verticals that will drive adoption for robots in customer engagement during the next several years.  The main use cases include receptionist, product hero, e-commerce, customer surveys, entertainment, counter clerk, and waiter.  The key industry verticals are retail, travel and hospitality, financial services, quick service restaurants, and healthcare.  This white paper was commissioned by SoftBank Robotics.

Key Questions Addressed:

  • What are the key market drivers for robots in customer engagement roles?
  • What are some of the main challenges for utilizing robots in customer engagement roles?
  • For which specific customer engagement use cases are humanoid robots best suited?
  • Which industry verticals will benefit from the utilization of humanoid robots in customer engagement roles?
  • What are the main business considerations organizations should consider when evaluating the use of robots for customer engagement?

Who Needs This Report?

  • Retailers
  • Travel and hospitality companies
  • Financial service companies
  • Restaurant operators
  • Healthcare providers
  • Robotic application developers
  • Service providers and systems integrators
  • Government agencies
  • Investor community

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Benefits and Challenges
    1. Market Drivers for Robots in Customer Engagement Roles
      1. Robots Are a Natural Evolution of Customer Engagement Channels
      2. Experiences Becoming the Product
      3. Bridging The Gap Between Online Customer Experience & Brick and Mortar
      4. Adding New Dimensions to In-Store Analytics
      5. Emotion Recognition and Multilingual Capabilities
      6. The Novelty and Entertainment Factor
      7. Automating Mundane and Repetitive Tasks
    2. Challenges for Robots in Customer Engagement Roles
      1. Crossing the Uncanny Valley
      2. Cost of Humanoid Robots
      3. Balancing Human Labor Concerns
      4. Backend IT Systems Integration and Maintenance
  3. Use Cases and Industry Verticals
    1. Use Cases and Industry Verticals – Market Opportunity Matrix
    2. Use Cases
      1. Receptionist
      2. Product Hero
      3. E-Commerce
      4. Customer Surveys
      5. Entertainment
      6. Counter Clerk
      7. Waiter
    3. Industry Verticals
      1. Retail
      2. Travel and Hospitality
      3. Financial Services
      4. Quick Service Restaurants
      5. Healthcare
  4. Business Considerations and Strategic Recommendations
    1. Five Key Business Considerations for Humanoid Robots
      1. Building a Business Case
      2. Identifying the Best UI/UX to Meet Objectives
      3. Off-the-Shelf versus Customized Applications
      4. Cloud versus On-Site Software Implementation
      5. Impact on Employee Morale and Company Culture
    2. Conclusion
  5. Acronym and Abbreviation List
  6. Table of Contents
  7. Table of Charts and Figures
  8. Scope of Study, Sources and Methodology, Notes

List of Charts and Figures

  • The Customer Engagement Evolutionary Cycle
  • Bridging the Physical and Online Worlds
  • The Uncanny Valley
  • Humanoid Robot – Receptionist Use Case
  • MasterCard E-Commerce Use Case for Humanoid Robots
  • Henn-na Hotel with Robot Receptionists
  • Five Key Business Considerations for Humanoid Robots

List of Tables

  • Use Cases and Industry Verticals – Market Opportunity Matrix