Service Employee Responses to Angry Customer Complaints

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[We’re pleased to welcome authors Christina Jerger of the Catholic University of Eichstaett–Ingolstadt and Jochen Wirtz of the National University of Singapore. They recently published an article in the Journal of Service Research entitled “Service Employee Responses to Angry Customer Complaints: The Roles of Customer Status and Service Climate,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Jerger reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

 

 

It is not uncommon that customers behave aggressively in service encounters, especially after experiencing a service failure. In turn, front line service employees should not retaliate this customer misbehavior to not jeopardize effective service recovery. Furthermore, service employees are requested to not discriminate customers and to treat them equal in terms of their displayed emotions as well as offered restitution in the service recovery encounter. The equal customer treatment becomes even more important in our increasingly diverse societies but is scantly researched.

This research gap spans many fruitful avenues for the research I have conducted as part of my PhD thesis. This current study examines whether a customer’s status determines how well service employees respond when they get confronted with an angry customer complaint, and whether a firm’s strong service climate can help to reduce customer status effects. Specifically, to assess employees’ emotional (i.e., expressed anger) and behavioral (i.e., restitution offered) service recovery responses, we had to develop an innovative field experimental design: We conducted role-played complaints in fast-food restaurants and observed and coded employees’ actual responses. In addition, we conducted scenario-based experiments with restaurant waiters to find out more about how the employees’ background and their personality might influence their responses to angry customers of different status.

The studies’ findings confirm that in weak service climate conditions, employees treated low-status customers significantly worse; they expressed more anger and they were less likely to offer restitution. In contrast, a strong service climate moderated the effects of customer status on employees’ response behaviors in both studies. As a result, employees’ service recovery behaviors converged at what is generally considered good practice in customer service. The strong organizational rules, routinization of recovery processes, better employee skills and knowledge, and guidance by leadership meant that employees knew what is expected from them and led to better service recovery outcomes. Importantly, employees did not treat low-status customers worse than high-status ones.

Interestingly, although it didn’t reach statistical significance in both studies, we found a tendency that low-status customers were more likely to receive restitution in a strong service climate than high-status customers. It seemed that employees made an effort to not treat low-status customers worse than high-status customers, and in the process, they overcompensated low-status customers.

Furthermore, our findings show that service climate governs both employees’ immediate affective and delayed conative recovery responses. This suggests that a strong service climate is authentic, internalized, and on a level of deep acting. Therefore, it is effective in governing employee responses in difficult situations, including in establishing emotional display rules.

One major input to building a strong service climate is training. A strong service climate seems a necessary requirement for effectively dealing with angry customer complaints. Employees should be trained in handling their feelings and how to use emotional displays in an appropriate manner. Especially for organizations with a weak service climate, this training needs to include on how to treat customers equally and independent of potential biases employees may have.

Overall, this paper offers highly valuable insights for service theory and management and helps understanding how service employees respond to angry customer complaints.

 

Christina Jerger, July 18, 2017

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Customer Service photo attributed to PublicDomainPictures. (CC)

Pedagogical Innovation and Paradigm Shift in the Introduction to Management Curriculum

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Elizabeth Christopher of Macquarie University, Joe Roberts of Webster University, and Oliver Laasch of the University of Nottingham, China. They recently published a paper in the Journal of Management Education entitled, “Pedagogical Innovation and Paradigm Shift in the Introduction to Management Curriculum,” which is free to read for a limited time. Below, Christopher and Roberts reflect on the motivation for pursuing this research:]

JME_72ppiRGB_powerpointWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

E- Identifying a need for improved introduction to management education, emerging from a complex global business environment of socio- economic challenges for managers.

J- Identifying innovative pedagogical approaches to teaching Intro to Management concepts across campus as interdisciplinary courses.

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

E- The 20th century was characterized by a resurgence of 19th-century concepts of management associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism that persists to this day. Managerialism is the organizational form of neo-liberalism that implicitly endorses the concept of educating managers to be market-led. Education along these lines is defined in terms of human capital acquisition, skilled for the economy.

If the principles of neoliberal, market led, introduction to management education are not examined, educators run the risk of overlooking contemporary demands for managerial social ethics and responsibility for the environment. This Special Issue is an attempt to respond to this challenge on behalf of university faculties and students and on behalf of curriculum designs.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

E- It is innovative in its recognition that contemporary western management thought, all too often, is based on outdated assumptions of what ‘good’ management should be, but that have become profoundly inadequate to address pressing challenges of managerial sustainability, responsibility and ethics.  The research reveals the extent of the need for new approaches to introduction to management courses. The JME is a widely read and highly regarded journal, therefore the research findings should have an impact on the field.

J- As the managerial function has become more entrepreneurial in nature the question of ethics has become extremely important and should be integrated with pedagogical approaches to teaching Intro to Management concepts.

 

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Does Public Service Motivation Always Lead to Organizational Commitment?

[We’re pleased to welcome author Wisanupong Potipiroon of Prince of Songkla University. Potipiroon recently published a paper in Public Personnel Management entitled, “Does Public Service Motivation Always Lead to Organizational Commitment? Examining the Moderating Roles of Intrinsic Motivation and Ethical Leadership,” which is free to read for a limited time. Below, Potipiroon reflects on the motivation for pursuing this research:]

PPM_C1 template_rev.inddIt is widely accepted that individuals with high public service motivation (PSM) are more likely to join, feel emotionally attached to and remain in public service organizations. Although we concur with this prevailing notion, our observations and anecdotes from street-level bureaucrats indicate that this is not always the case. Although it is true that public organizations can provide considerable opportunities to employees to do good for others and to be useful to society, we know from experience that service-minded employees often end up working in jobs that do not allow them to put their motivation to use effectively. Indeed, not all jobs are created equal: Some can be less interesting or challenging than others. This may form part of the reasons why many talented workers may decide to leave public service in the first place.

Well, this is precisely what we found in our data which were drawn from a large public organization in Thailand. We found that the relationship between PSM and organizational commitment was dependent upon intrinsic motivation—the extent to which one finds enjoyment in the work even without rewards. When task enjoyment was high, we found that the effect of PSM on organizational commitment was positive. When task enjoyment was lacking, however, the effect of PSM became significantly negative. This indicates that low levels of intrinsic motivation could undermine the achievement of the opportunities inherent in meaningful public services.

Interestingly, we also learned that highly motivated individuals put a great deal of importance on the extent to which their leaders are ethical. In particular, the highest level of organizational commitment was observed when there were high levels of motivation and ethical leadership simultaneously. This suggests that ethical leaders play an instrumental role in fulfilling employees’ needs to act on their motivation. In the public sector, ethical leaders are those who place great emphasis on making an outward, societal impact and showing concern for the common good while also providing a supportive work context that allow employees’ motivation to flourish.

Our study findings underscore the fact that PSM may not offer infinite benefits in every type of settings because PSM effects will likely depend on the whole range of contextual factors including job characteristics and leadership styles. Indeed, public managers should be aware that highly motivated workers could develop a particularly unfavorable view of their organizations if their prosocial needs go unmet.

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Do Customers Assign Different Meanings to Different Acts of Compensation?

[We’re pleased to welcome author Holger Roschk of the Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, Klagenfurt, Austria. Roschk recently published an article in the Journal of Service Research entitled “Compensation Revisited: A Social Resource Theory Perspective on Offering a Monetary Resource after a Service Failure,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Roschk reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

dollar-531639_960_720One of the many propositions by social resource theory comprises that people assign different meanings to the same action. Being a great fan of mafia movies, this idea intrigued me as it nicely reflects the popular “kiss of death” metaphor. While a kiss is usually considered as something positive, it can also — as portrayed in these very special movie situations mean that a person has fallen in disgrace.

Fascinated by this idea, we wanted to see if complainants assign different meanings to an act of service failure compensation. In service recovery research, social resource theory has been employed in promising ways such as explaining the situational desirability of recovery efforts. Accordingly, it seemed logical to take the next step and see if varying the properties of one and the same resource—in our case money—impacts recovery effectiveness.

With this purpose in mind, we also had to deal with a couple of challenges. One of them was the above mentioned issue that people attach different meanings to the same action. It is not reported in the article, but it was quite interesting. Accidentally, in one of our tests we manipulated the compensation act in such a way that respondents seemed to assign a negative meaning, eventually leading to obstructive effects which was exactly the contrary of what we wanted to achieve.

People often talk about money in terms of “money is money—so why should one care about how it is given?” Finding that complainants actually do care about how they are compensated in a recovery situation is an interesting new perspective for practitioners and researchers alike. Practitioners in particular learn about an outcome relevant property allowing to facilitate recovery outcomes without additional monetary costs. Further, they learn about an interesting side effect. Specifically, we observed that handing over the money in a personal and tangible way can be used to increase monetary returns to the firm in the form of tipping and cross-buying.

With regards to the research community, we hope that future scholars also draw on social resource theory in order to broaden our understanding of service failure and recovery, especially as SRT comprises many more propositions not yet considered.

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The Evolution and Prospects of Service-Dominant Logic Research

[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Ralf Wilden of Newcastle Business School, University of Newcastle, Australia. Dr. Wilden recently published an article in the Journal of Service Research entitled “The Evolution and Prospects of Service-dominant Logic Research: An Investigation of Past, Present, and Future Research,” which is currently free to read for a limited time.” Below, Dr. Wilden reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

02JSR13_Covers.inddService innovation is a driving force of economic growth in developed economies. Large corporations, such as BMW and IBM, increasingly define their business as service centric. For example, the BMW Group has moved away from defining their value proposition being focused on cars and motorcycles to positioning themselves as a mobility provider, thus moving away from a product-centered to service-centered narrative. The ‘servitization’ of traditional business models converges with a growing academic discourse around the emergence and evolution of the so-called ‘service-dominant logic’. Ongoing studies in this area explore the value of service in dynamic exchange systems and how managers are responding to or guided by ideas that 1) service forms the basis of all economic exchange, 2) value is always co-created between relevant actors, and 3) so-called operant resources are central to value co-creation.

In a recent study in the Journal of Service Research, an international team of researchers studied existing research to uncover core concepts and thematic shifts in the development of new knowledge in this field. More specifically, they studied how service-dominant logic advances the understanding of how value is created and service is innovated in dynamic service ecosystems. Based on a citation analyses and text mining of more than 300 key articles, the authors identify how service-dominant logic bridges traditional service research (e.g., regarding satisfaction, quality and customer experiences) with strategic and systems views. However, looking at the evolution of service-dominant logic research over time, it appears focus on strategic research has waned. Thus, the authors argue future studies should draw on several specific research areas to develop frameworks to aid managers in strategically thinking about service design and innovation.

The results from this study verify service-dominant logic is highly influential in areas such as customer engagement and value cocreation. An underlying shift towards social and systemic perspectives is also evident. However, many valuable insights emerging from the wealth of relevant studies have not yet impacted research regarding managerial decision-making and strategy development on a large scale. Furthermore, the authors identify the need to develop a stronger understanding of the way service-dominant logic can be used to inform how managerial actions and social and cultural practices influence and are influenced by a wider service ecosystem. For example, Ralf Wilden says “the way organizations engage in innovation-related activities has changed from a firm-centric model to a model that stresses the importance of knowledge in-flows and out-flows across organizational boundaries.” He adds, “despite the commonly accepted importance of services in value creation activities our knowledge about the role of open innovation in service ecosystems is limited.” The authors further stress that service thinking has benefited from interdisciplinary research in the past. Moving forward, combining service-dominant research with organizational strategy insights in the area of open innovation, dynamic capabilities and microfoundations, together with social, cultural and systems theories, can lead to developing new knowledge regarding service and drive continual improvement in service design and innovation.

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Understanding Customer Barriers and Barrier-Attenuating Practices in Access-Based Services

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Simon Hazée, Cécile Delcourt, and Yves Van Vaerenbergh who recently published an article in the Journal of Service Research entitled “Burdens of Access: Understanding Customer Barriers and Barrier-Attenuating Practices in Access-Based Services.” Below, the authors share more insight on their research in the service industry:]

What motivated you to pursue this research? JSR_16.2_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgWe are witnessing a global rise of what’s been called ‘the access economy’. This growth is yet mainly driven by an increasing supply, with lots of companies—including manufacturers like BMW or Daimler AG—offering services that grant customers limited access to goods. Although these services offer several potential advantages, convincing customers to use them remains challenging. Service innovation failures represent potential losses of revenues that can even endanger firms’ competitiveness; indicating the pressing need to understand the barriers that keep customers from participating in the access economy.

Were there any surprising findings? Customers face several important barriers for why they don’t participate in the access economy, and these barriers do not always have rational grounds. For instance, one striking observation is that customers are afraid of contamination. After all, when accessing goods, you know for sure that someone else—whom you do not know—has touched the product; this may create disgust and avoidance responses. Another surprising finding is that customers believe they must engage in a bunch of practices to attenuate the barriers themselves. For example, customers must be ready to alter or postpone their needs to counter the fact that goods might not be available when needed, an important barrier perceived by customers.
Interestingly, although engaging in such practices helps attenuating barriers, customers also consider them as burdensome.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?Our findings suggest that customers reject service innovations not only in response to numerous perceived barriers associated with the innovation but also out of consideration of the practices in which they must engage to attenuate those barriers. Prior research shows customers typically adopt and use access-based services to avoid the burdens of ownership. We show that they reject these services due to the burdens of access, which include the barriers to access and the barrier-attenuating practices. Understanding both the barriers and the practices in which customers engage is critical for theory and practice; it can reveal new ways to see, examine, and manage service innovations. In sum, the success of access initiatives is not necessarily for those service providers that show the benefits of using the service, but might be for those who are best at overcoming the barriers as well as facilitating and limiting the practices in which customers engage.

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Customer misbehaviour in the collaborative economy: Is it contagious or not?

Co-authors Tobias Schaefers, Kristina Wittkowski, Sabine Benoit, and Rosellina Ferraro recently published an article in the Journal of Service Research entitled “Contagious Effects of Customer Misbehavior in Access-Based Services.” Below is their informational video as a supplement to their article, which helps analyze how connections to a person’s community can influence behavior in the given shared space.

 

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