You've already chosen your study programme? Apply online now.

Artifiticial Intelligence: How the humanoid robot Pepper change the service industry

  -   19. March 2017
Source: imjanuary/

Can Pepper create customer experience?

This is truly a challenging, but yet exciting time for consumer oriented companies. Technology and Innovations change consumer expectations, but also how consumers perceive Customer Experience. Customers can choose from a range of differentiated services:

  •  bundled services/unbundled services according to their preferences and needs,
  •  shared service/full service.

The demand for individual high quality products and services is constantly rising and puts pressure on the competitiveness of companies. This in turn forces companies to restructure their strategies to meet customer expectations. What possibilities are available to create customer experience? What output do companies gain? The Japanese multinational telecommunication cooperation Softbank Group released the world’s first humanoid robot in 2014.

“Pepper” is a communication robot, which is capable to react and understand human principle emotions. It offers personalized services on basis of Data collection. It can recognize your voice and cheer you up when you sound sad. It can recognize your face and give you information. Pepper enables companies to react on consumer expectation and increase customer experience.

Can Pepper add value to the service and increase customer satisfaction?

Companies always have to adapt to changing environment. Innovation enables to create new ways of processes. Companies, which fail to adapt will lose their competitiveness.

Imagine you can choose between a

  • Hotel without any technological devices


  • Hotel with a robot like Pepper, which greets you by name due to facial recognition, gives you information about the weather in Berlin (because it knows that you booked a flight to Berlin).

According to Skift’s 2016 In-Destination Traveler Behavior Survey, traveling ia an emotional journey. Therefore, customers will feel attracted to customer experience with a personal touch and choose innovative companies. The survey also questioned customer satisfaction in different travel stages.

The results of the survey shows, that companies do not exploit the maximum potential of satisfaction. The Customer Experience Impact (CEI) Report 2011 (IBM, 2017) showed that 86 % consumers would pay more for a better customer experience. One approach could be to use Pepper as value added service in the middle of the trip and collect data of customer preferences to specialize services the next time. The higher the individualized service Pepper offers, the higher the customer experience and therefore the possibility to gain customer satisfaction.

What is Softbank’s “Robot Creator Community”?

Innovations need creativity and new impulses/ideas. Softbank created the Developer Program (Softbankrobotics, 2017). Users can develop, submit, validate, publish and sell robotics applications. In the short term, users will have access to development tools and enable users to interact with other users. Softbank launched “Pepper Creator Certification” to authorize qualified creators. This Robot Creator Community is open for newcomer’s as well existing users. The “Pepper Pioneer Club” sells applications for Pepper service. This creative atmosphere motivates users to develop new innovative user generated applications for Pepper. Softbank holds “Pepper’s Creators Contest” to reward the winner for the best application and keep competition going.

Why did previous humanoid robot developer fail?

There are many humanoid robots, for example Junko Chihira, Actroid-DER2. They are all designed to look like humans and have facial expressions like humans. They are not capable of facial recognition or voice recognition and do not have the ability to identify emotions. Pepper has these features and is successful. He is 121m tall and looks like a robot. The developers are convinced, that imitating human facial expressions will make robots look like zombies. For human – robot interaction the robot does not have to be a true ‘humanoid’.

The Softbank group established Softbank Robotics to focus solely on Pepper business. As a 100 % subsidiary of Softbank Group Pepper business benefits from existing sale and distribution channels. Pepper was used in Japanese stores of Softbank and saved promotion costs. The key success factor was the outsourcing of Peppers production. These cost advantages enabled the affordable price for Pepper: 20,000 USD for usage of Pepper for 3 years.

What challenges does Pepper face?

Customer Experience can also include negative experiences. Pepper is not intended as replacement for human service providers. Pepper adds value and helps assisting. The human interaction between customers and ie. Receptionist is still crucial.

Many consumers are curious about Pepper and like the idea of robots assisting. But on the other hand many consumers have many open questions ie. about security. How long will Pepper save data? Who has access to my data? What about Privacy? Which Rights or Duties does Pepper have? As Artificial Intelligence is a quite new innovation, many questions stay open. The European Parliament identified the rising importance of Artificial Intelligence and Robots. They submitted a recommendation to the European Commision about Legal Rights and Rules on Robots (European Parliament, 2016).

Pepper won’t be the last Innovation. But one thing is for sure: Artificial Intelligence and robot services will become more important and will revolutionize industries.

Who wrote it?

Dung Le

Dung Le studies at the European Management School in Mainz.


Van Nguyen
22-03-2017 20:52

I also do agree that Artificial Intelligence will become more important in our life. And you have got your point that it will not be a replacement for human service providers. For service industries, empathy plays an important role to satisfy customer's expecations, what you cannot expect of a robot. Since the robot pepper is only there to assist and help the actual service provider to offer an improved service, I don't see anything wrong here. But people should not try to develop robots to the extent that it will exceed the human being.

Silas Nikolaus
22-03-2017 20:30

The humanoid robot "Pepper" from Japan is similar to the Asus Zenbo which is made for home usage in particular only. And while Zenbo is rather a driving Ipad that rolls around the house as a little companion of the family, Pepper has a more human appearance. However, the developers decided to not include facial expressions which Zenbo is partly able to. But Pepper still has more human features like arms and 121cm tall while Zenbo rather looks like R2d2 from Star Wars. I personally still have to get used to the fact that we might be surrounded by robots in the future but I think it will play an important role, especially in the industry sector.

Sandra Bleher
22-03-2017 13:55

In terms of humanoid robots I think Pepper is a step in the right direction. Because as you mentioned it, other companies focused on making their robots look like humans, which is kind of funny at first but then rather creepy. So having a robot which actually looks like one makes interacting with it more pleasant. However I have to agree to Theresa. I'm sure in many industries artificial industry might become more and more important, but for the tourism industry I can't see that. At least not for leisure tourism. In a good hotel the employees will also recognize your face, maybe not your name, but they will always treat you kindly and respectfully. And isn't that what I want when I'm on holidays instead of talking to a robot who only gives standardized answers? For business tourism this might be different. Because you don't really have the time for small talk, you just need quick informations to simple questions and Pepper can provide that. However a Smartphone is able to do that as well. So it will be interesting to see what happens in Peppers future.

Theresa Möhn
21-03-2017 14:46

I am still skeptical about the use of robots in tourism, that is meant to be a service-orientated industry. Sure the service can be delivered digitally or computerized mediums. The question I am asking myself: Is it really worth it? Pepper, like many other technological product innovations, is reducing labour cost in the hospitality sector and therefore has an immense impact on society. Personalized travel experiences are a huge trend and is probable the future of tourism. But do I really want a robot following me around in my hotel room? Or do I want to escape our fast-moving, digitalized and marketing overloaded world? Maybe I am too old-fashioned, but right now I am still appreciating friendly, polite hotel staff.

Katharina Blanckart
20-03-2017 12:22

Humanoid robots are nothing new by now and as you pointed various companies have tried to enter the market with their product. It appears that sooner or later these robotic technologies will enter our lives, let it be work, daily routines or vacation. I agree with Beate in term of cultural differences regarding the acceptance of humanoid assistants. Everybody wants change and technological progress but when it comes to the question of who wants to actually use it most people stay silent. You mentioned the tourism area for implementation and what immediately crossed my mind was the topic of jobs. In many countries or regions the population relies on tourism as this creates an enormous number of jobs which enables the people to make a living. What will happen if certain jobs will be executed by robots? Are there any alternatives for these people? These are question which should be considered in my opinion when thinking of how robots will be implemented in our lives.

Marie Schubert
20-03-2017 11:35

I totally agree that artificial intelligence and probably also robot services are going to become even more important. Pepper sounds as a really funny and interesting gadget, but I cannot imagine including this robot seriously in my life. I would like to see how it works and which abilities this robot has, but on the other hand I think that it is kind of scaring. Talking to a robot – I mean something out of plastic, metal and electronic technology, should be someone or better something cheering me up when I am sad? I am not sure if I want to get used to this thought. In addition to that, I can seriously imagine that robots are replacing human beings more and more in the future. Yes of course it can simplify things, might reduce costs and also might increase consumer convenience to some extent, but I do not want technology to get such a big importance in our lives. To my point of view it should not exceed the human beings and reading about artificial intelligence and robot services seems to do so, on the long run. It is always a question of the right balance and the definition of the right balance. I am not totally against this innovation, but I think that advantages and disadvantages should be perfectly balanced without replacing the human being as such too much.

Beate Gaitzsch
20-03-2017 10:59

In my opinion assisting robots will become far more important in the future. But depending on which countries they are used in, speed of development will vary. As Pepper shows, Asian countries are more likely to accept robots in their daily environment. In my opinion, it will take longer for western countries, as many people are more concerned about the negative factors at the moment. If the companies can show them that e.g. data is not stored in the long run, that they don't completely replace humans and that they can't be used as a tool for spying, they might be more in favour of them. But it's also clear, that we need companies like Softbank to show us the opportunities this technology presents.



Corporate Partners


European Mangement School © 2018 | Imprint | Data Protection