How live chat assistants drive travel consumers' attitudes, trust and purchase intentions : the role of human touch

McLean, Graeme and Osei-Frimpong, Kofi and Wilson, Alan and Pitardi, Valentina (2020) How live chat assistants drive travel consumers' attitudes, trust and purchase intentions : the role of human touch. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 32 (5). pp. 1795-1812. ISSN 0959-6119 (

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Purpose: By adopting a social presence theory perspective, this study aims investigate the influence of perceived usefulness of live chat services and of their unique human attributes on customer attitudes, beliefs and behaviours in the context of online travel shopping. Design/methodology/approach: Based on a cross-sectional survey research involving 8 travel provider websites and 631 travel consumers, this work applies structural equation modelling to analyse the data. Findings: The results illustrate that the perceived usefulness from the communication with a human live chat assistant positively influences customer attitudes and trust towards the website as well as increasing purchase intention. The findings further illustrate the role of the human social cues conveyed by live chat facilities, namely, human warmth, human assurance, human attentiveness and human customised content in positively moderating this effect. Research limitations/implications: The study is limited to specific human attributes. Future research could investigate the role of other human characteristics as well as assess the ability of artificial intelligent powered chatbots in replicating the human elements outlined in this research. Originality/value: The study provides a unique contribution to the travel literature by offering empirical insights and conceptual clarity into the usefulness of human operated live chat communication on travellers’ attitudes, trust towards the website and purchase intentions.