The Bright & Dark Sides of Smart Service (Technologies)



Smart service is service delivered to or via connected devices with the ability to sense their surrounding and circumstances (e.g., Allmendinger and Lombreglia 2005; Wünderlich et al. 2015). Such smart service is thus enabled by different technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), robots, self-service devices, virtual reality (VR), or augmented reality (AR), all of which have begun to radically transform individuals, markets, businesses, and societies (e.g., Gummerus et al., 2019; Kunz et al., 2019; Langley et al., 2021; Porter and Heppelmann, 2014; Rauschnabel, 2021; Wirtz et al., 2018). Despite some excellent, early work on this topic, we are only at the beginning of understanding both positive and negative consequences of smart service for consumers, service providers and society at large (Goncalves et al. 2020).

Prior work mainly emphasizes the bright side of smart service technologies (i.e., benefits and value-creating potentials) such as increased customer satisfaction (e.g., Gäthke, 2020), convenience (Lau et al., 2018), and independence (Kim et al., 2015). Recent studies report first evidence that engagement with smart services may contribute to consumer well-being through higher perceived self-efficacy (Henkens et al., 2021), and reduced levels of embarrassment for certain service contexts (Pitardi et al., 2022). Future research may want to contribute to this research stream, by providing further insights on how smart service (technologies) can be a means to address aspects of the focal challenges of our times (e.g., climate change, demographic change, or social change) and thus create transformative value (Bilstein et al. 2022). Future service research potential emerges also around the possibilities of smart services to shape the well-being of individuals and collectives (e.g., robotic transformative service research; Henkel et al., 2020a).

However, the dark side of smart service technologies requires much more investigation because they also involve potential threats and value destructing potential. One prominent example of the dark side of smart service is consumer privacy concerns, though their impact on the adoption of smart service is not clear and seems to vary for both consumer- and technology-related characteristics (e.g., Lau et al., 2018). In the context of smart glasses, Rauschnabel et al. (2018) found that the threat of other people’s privacy rather than own privacy concerns negatively affects purchase intention. Thus, despite an overwhelming consensus on the centrality of consumer privacy concerns when it comes to smart service (technologies), future research should seek to provide a more fine-grained understanding of when and how they influence consumer behavior. Moreover, future research should shed more light on negative psychological consequences resulting from the usage of smart service technologies such as the potential threat of becoming detached from reality when using AR or VR technologies, rising technostress for consumers and employees due to an overrepresentation of technology in their (work) lives, increasing vulnerability (e.g., due to data misuse) or rising inequality (e.g., access to technology not granted for everyone independent of money or education) among consumers.

To allow such a more thorough understanding of bright and dark sides of smart service,  we call for service-oriented research from various disciplines to enhance prior insights on smart service (technologies). For example, an information systems (IS) perspective may emphasize the role of emotions in smart service interactions (e.g., Henkel et al., 2020b) or scrutinize the drivers of data literacy as prior studies reveal that consumers may suffer from an incomplete understanding of privacy risks (Lau et al., 2018). Scholars from the marketing discipline might build up on recent discussion on product transformation salience (Winterich et al., 2019), to reveal how smart service may inspire consumers to behave more sustainably and environmentally friendly by making the consequences of their behavior more salient. One of many potentially important contributions from an organizational perspective could be a deeper understanding of when and how smart services can augment service employees (Henkel et al., 2020b) or even have direct well-being-relevant features (e.g., Bromuri et al., 2021). Research on social robotics may add by studying consumer well-being outcome variables in robotic service consumption (for an overview, see Blaurock et al. 2022). Finally, future research from an innovation perspective could enhance recent discussions on service design (e.g., Gustafsson et al., 2020), by examining how and when service design principles can inform innovation processes of smart services.

Scope of the special issue

The objective of this special issue is to address the diverse landscape of smart service by investigating its bright and dark sides for users, service providers and society at large. With this Special Issue, we seek to stimulate the discussion on the bright and dark sides of smart service by involving a variety of disciplinary vantage points, including business, management, psychology, and information systems.

This special issue welcomes novel research about the future potential of smart service. In this multidisciplinary special issue, we call for high-quality submissions that scrutinize innovative topics related to bright or dark sides of smart service and connected technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, robotics or augmented reality (AR). We invite conceptual as well as empirical (qualitative and quantitative) articles with a strong theoretical foundation. We encourage particularly multidisciplinary research that addresses the topics from different perspectives.

Indicative list of topics

Topics of interest to the Special Issue are multidisciplinary and include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Co-creation and co-destruction of value by smart service (technologies)
  • Transformative potential of smart service (technologies) fostering well-being while avoiding ill-being of individuals and society
  • Positive versus negative user emotions in the context of smart service
  • Smart service (technologies) to promote sustainability and sustainable consumer behavior without harming others (i.e., third-parties)
  • Technostress and negative psychological consequences of smart service (technologies) at work
  • Benefit and threats of working in heterogenous teams (i.e., robots and humans)
  • Benefits and challenges in smart service innovation and service design
  • Legal challenges connected to smart service innovations
  • Drivers and barriers of smart service use with a focus on collective value creation in contrast to individual value creation

About the journal

Journal of Service Theory and Practice aims to publish research in the field of service management that makes a theoretical contribution to the service research literature, as well as positively impacting on industry practices by offering specific recommendations and action plans. The Journal’s 2020 Clarivate Impact factor is 3.415. More information about the journal on this link:  


Guest editors

Nicola Bilstein,
University of Bayreuth, Germany

Alexander Henkel,
Open University of the Netherlands, Heerlen, The Netherlands

Kristina Heinonen,
Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland

Submission to the special issue

Submission to the special issue should be made through the JSTP submission system here. All submissions will go through double-blind peer review process followed by this journal. For any enquiries about this special issue, please email the guest editors.

Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see here.
Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key Dates: 

Open Date: 1st July 2022
Close Date: 8th February 2023


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