An Exploration of Customer Roles and Experiences in the Context of Tourism Self-Service Technology Usage

Document Type

Working Paper


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Business and Management.


The use and development of self-service technologies (SSTs) continues to underpin the Irish and international travel and tourism sector. Tourism SSTs include express ‘bag and tag’ kiosks at airports, self-service passport control, mobile applications (apps), hotel self-check-in, and interactive travel guides. The SST literature has to date examined customer benefits of SST usage such as increased convenience and flexibility, and time and cost savings, whilst the service provider has profited by lower operational costs, increased productivity rates and higher levels of customer satisfaction (for example, Collier and Kimes, 2013; Lee, Castellanos and Choi, 2012; Lin and Hsieh, 2006; Bitner, Ostrom and Meuter, 2002). Furthermore, the literature has concentrated on the drivers of customer SST usage, such as demographic variables (e.g. age, gender, income and education), trust, perceived risk, perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, technology readiness and preference for personal contact (Kelly, Lawlor and Mulvey, 2011).

However, there is a gap in the literature with regard to the nature of customer roles in SST usage and their experiences. For example, SST usage requires the customer to collaborate and work with the service provider in order to generate a successful service encounter. As such, the customer is being required to assume an active role in the delivery of the core service offering (Rosenbaum and Wong, 2015), or more specifically one of co-creation (Polo Pena, Frias Jamilena and Rodriguez Molina, 2014; Grissemann and Stokburger-Sauer, 2012).

Whilst the concept of customers as co-creators has been addressed in a general service context (e.g. Moeller, Ciuchita, Mahr, Odekerken-Schroeder and Fassnacht, 2013) and in specific contexts, such as health (McColl-Kennedy, Vargo, Dagger, Sweeney and Kasteren, 2012), the tourism literature has not yet explored the concept and nature of customer value co-creation pertaining to the use of SSTs in a tourism context. Therefore, in order to understand the customer perspective of value co-creation in SSTs in tourism, this paper presents findings from a study which explored customer perspectives on their roles in SST encounters in a tourism context, through the theoretical lens of the Service-Dominant Logic framework (Vargo and Lusch, 2004). The study utilised short qualitative interviews with 133 airline passengers at an international airport, with a view to exploring their perspectives on the nature of roles that they undertake when planning and consuming tourism experiences. This research indicates that customers assume six roles in a tourism SST encounter, namely, the customer as convenience seeker, judge, motivated worker, enforced worker, unskilled worker and assistance provider. A key contribution of this study is its identification and exploration of the roles reflecting the creation and delivery of value by the customer in the SST encounter.

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