Study: Extra Rewards Make Customers Feel Guilty

It’s generally a great idea to “wow” your customers with unexpected benefits and perks–but a new study finds there’s also an unexpected downside to such preferential treatment.

Anna S. Mattila of The Pennsylvania State University, Lydia Hanks of The Florida State University, and Lu Zhang of The Pennsylvania State University published “Existential Guilt and Preferential Treatment: The Case of an Airline Upgrade,” forthcoming in the Journal of Travel Research (JTR) and now available in the journal’s OnlineFirst section. The abstract:

jtrUsing the context of an unexpected airline upgrade, we examined factors that influence an individual’s reaction when they are overrewarded compared to others: guilt-proneness and relationship to the other, underrewarded, individuals. Results demonstrated that for individuals high in guilt-proneness, satisfaction with the upgrade and behavioral intent may be qualified by a feeling of existential guilt when they receive benefits that others do not, particularly if they have a close relationship with those others. Our results extend the research in advantageous inequality by showing that people high in guilt-proneness tend to have a heightened sensitivity to such injustices. Our findings also have important implications for the hospitality, airline, and travel industries: for customers high in guilt-proneness, receiving an expected upgrade may, in fact, have unintended negative results. Managers can use this information to make employees aware of the potential detrimental effects of rewarding or upgrading only one member of a party.

Click here to continue reading, and follow this link to learn more about the Journal of Travel Research, which provides up-to-date, multidisciplinary research on behavioral trends and management theory for one of the most influential and dynamic industries. Don’t forget to sign up for e-alerts to stay informed!

This entry was posted in Hospitality Management, Rewards, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , by Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, Management INK. Bookmark the permalink.

About Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, Management INK

Founded in 1965, SAGE is the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. Known for our commitment to quality and innovation, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students across a broad range of subject areas. With over 900 employees globally from principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, and Washington DC, our publishing programme includes more than 560 journals and over 800 books, reference works and databases a year in business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. Believing passionately that engaged scholarship lies at the heart of any healthy society and that education is intrinsically valuable, SAGE aims to be the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. This means playing a creative role in society by disseminating teaching and research on a global scale, the cornerstones of which are good, long-term relationships, a focus on our markets, and an ability to combine quality and innovation. Leading authors, editors and societies should feel that SAGE is their natural home: we believe in meeting the range of their needs, and in publishing the best of their work. We are a growing company, and our financial success comes from thinking creatively about our markets and actively responding to the needs of our customers.

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