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The proliferation of conversational agents (CAs) promises efficiency and quality improvements while enabling a more seamless integration of technology into service encounters. However, it remains unclear how CAs should be designed to provide the optimal experience for the key users: clients and frontline employees. Based on qualitative research with those key users, this study delivers a vision of an adaptable CA. It proposes a differentiated approach toward the design of CA: there is no "one-size-fits-all" design regarding the level of social presence, autonomy, or agency. The analysis reveals three tensions in user expectations leading to inconsistent design requirements for CAs. To resolve those tensions, CAs should be adapted to the changing context of a service encounter considering the appropriate level of autonomy, task complexity, interpersonal intimacy, and social role of the CA. The study contributes three design principles emphasizing the importance of the context for which a CA is designed.



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