Understanding Customer Forgiveness of Service Transgressions

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Yelena Tsarenko of Monash University, Yuliya Strizhakova of Rutgers University, and Cele C. Otnes University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They recently published an article in Journal of Service Research entitled “Reclaiming the Future: Understanding Customer Forgiveness of Service Transgressions,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivation and impact of this research:]

When customers are wronged, a diverse array of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses can result. Noticeably absent in prior marketing research, however, is the study of customer forgiveness as a viable response to transgressions. Forgiveness, a moral concept with religious overtones, has not been perceived as relevant to the secular world of business and marketing. However, business transgressions are inevitable and, just like human transgressions, customers apply forgiveness to these transgressions. Business success further hinges on understanding customer forgiveness and its impact on subsequent customer-provider relationships. Grounding our investigation in interdisciplinary research on forgiveness and self-determination theory we analyze 34 in-depth interviews with customers who experienced transgressions in the healthcare, financial, and retailing sectors. Our findings show that forgiveness is both internal and intrinsically driven process that releases the emotional burdens weighing on consumers after they experience a transgression by a service provider. Furthermore, businesses can foster forgiveness through service-recovery efforts, and seek to restore customers’ violated needs for autonomy, relatedness and competence.

We demonstrate that the interplay between customers’ motivation to forgive and their internal reconciliations of the transgression supports four pathways to forgiveness: transgressor’s atonement (driven by feelings of justice and the transgressor’s repentance and service-recovery efforts), disillusionment (driven by (in)equality and marketplace constraints), self-healing (driven by personal growth and the customer’s desire to heal), and grace (driven by humanity and empathy). Whereas some pathways of forgiveness offer the potential to restore damaged relationships and enable continued patronage, others require transgressor efforts that extend beyond compensation, to open an avenue for relational repair. However, other cases of forgiveness may never result in relationship restoration, but nonetheless can improve customer well-being, and even positively impact consumers’ mental, physical, and relational states. We further encourage future research on this transformative concept of customer forgiveness.

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When Leadership Powers Team Learning: A Meta-Analysis

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Mieke Koeslag-Kreunen of Zuyd Hogeschool, Heerlen, Piet Van den Bossche of the University of Antwerp, Michael Hoven of Maastricht University, Marcel Van der Klink of Zuyd Hogeschool, Heerlen, and Wim Gijselaers of Maastricht University. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “When Leadership Powers Team Learning: A Meta-Analysis,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they discuss some of the findings of this research:]

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

We are fascinated why some leaders succeed and others don’t in getting the most out of their teams. Knowing that team processes determine team effectiveness we wanted to know how leadership makes a difference in teams. Keeping in mind that one of the fundamental team processes is sharing knowledge and discussing what is shared to build advanced or new knowledge that enable developing the necessary solutions as a team. We were intrigued by the question how team leaders can facilitate this process of team learning without over-structuring it and leaving no space for team members to exhibit the necessary behaviors themselves. Many different leadership behaviors can be effective, but team leaders simply cannot display all necessary behaviors by themselves. Moreover, what can you do as a team leader when your team faces a task that is unstructured or for which you also do not have the answers? What is the best advice for these team leaders? In answering this question, we wanted to identify when leadership propels teams in building new or advanced knowledge.

In what ways is your research innovative and can it impact the field?

After synthesizing the 2000+ scientific hits on the topic, we showed that encouraging, structuring and sharing team leadership behaviors all support team learning. Interestingly, we also found new evidence that the type of team task determines which leadership behaviors can best be displayed to support teams in building new or advanced knowledge. As a consequence, the advice for team leaders is to vary their behavior depending on the team task and to ascertain the specific team situation in their choice. If pioneering ideas and new products of teams are aimed for, team leaders should mainly invest in building trust, creativity and enthusiasm, and not inhibit teams from learning by putting too much emphasis on the task. If advancing existing knowledge and adaptation of the products is enough to reach team success, team leaders who focus on the task, methods and outcomes are beneficial because such behaviors reinforces using known protocols.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

It would be interesting to dig into the reciprocal effect of the team process and leadership behavior, as well as how leadership behavior may shift in style and source over time. We mainly found cross-sectional studies that covered just one or two types of team leadership behavior and examines its influence on team learning behavior. Experimental and longitudinal studies on this topic may bring new perspectives on how team leaders can vary their behavior, what kind of effect that has on team learning, and what team leaders can do to use that information in future team interactions, subsequently.

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Argument Complexity and Discussions of Political/Religious Issues

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Dr. Lyn M. Van Swol of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Dr. Cassandra L. Carlson-Hill Carolina of Coastal Universit, and Dr. Emily Elizabeth Acosta Lewis of Sonoma State University. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “Integrative Complexity, Participation, and Agreement in Group Discussions,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Van Swol discusses some of the findings of this research:]

SGR_72ppiRGB_powerpointPolitical and religious issues can be difficult to discuss in a group, and it can be especially difficult to convince others who disagree with your viewpoint. This paper examined the role of complexity of arguments in a group discussion of a political/religious issue. Groups discussed whether or not the words “under God” should be in the United States Pledge of Allegiance. We had hypothesized that group members whose opinion were more similar to their fellow group members would increase the complexity of their contributions to the group when they were exposed to group members with more fringe opinions, but this was not supported. However, members with more fringe opinions in the group were more successful in influencing the group towards their opinion when they used more complex arguments. Argument complexity did not matter for group members with more mainstream views in terms of how much they influenced the group decision. Because group members with more fringe and discrepant opinions cannot appeal to their opinion being normative and aligned with the majority in the group, it may be important for them to have complex arguments to be persuasive. Complex arguments tend to be more nuanced and less dogmatic, which may make someone with an opinion more different from others in the group seem more flexible and informed. Finally, arguments used by members in the group discussion were more complex when the group had a longer discussion. This highlights the benefits of extending group discussion to let more nuances of the topic of discussion get expressed.

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How Satisfied Are Team Members Individually?

[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to welcome Jose M. de la Torre-Ruiz who collaborated with Vera Ferron-Vilchez and Natalia Ortiz-e-Mandojana on their article “Team Decision Making and Individual Satisfaction with the Team” in the April Issue of Small Group Research.]

SGR_72ppiRGB_powerpointThe main reason justifying this work was the necessity of analyzing in depth individuals’ affective reactions toward being involved in team-decision making processes. Although team decisions have shown some advantages compared with decisions made by only one person, team decision-making process can be complex and generate some negative reactions by part of team members. For this reason in this paper we paid attention to some specific factors that may influence the satisfaction of individuals with the team. We specifically focus on some personality traits (collectivism orientation and self-efficacy for teamwork), on the individuals’ perception of team decision-making process (specifically perception of team debate and decision comprehensiveness), and on the final decision of the team.

Our work highlights the necessity of considering that team members’ satisfaction with the team may depend on factors developed at different temporal moments in the team decision-making process. These results have important implications to the extent that the handling of these factors can be different.

The fact that team debate has a negative influence on team members’ satisfaction but that the decision comprehensiveness has a positive influence is an especially interesting result. This implies that although team members are satisfied when different opinions are assessed before making the decision, they prefer to avoid possible conflicts and heated debates that can be derived from this. Thus, our result highlight the necessity of studying in depth the decision-making process and try to understand when team members can be more or less comfortable in the team.

Read “Team Decision Making and Individual Satisfaction with the Team” for free from Small Group Research by clicking here. Make sure to click here to sign up for e-alerts and read about all the latest from Small Group Research.

José M. de la Torre-Ruiz is an assistant professor in the business and management department at University of Granada, Spain, where he received his PhD. His primary research interests are human resource management and team management.
8046194838_6240affd16_mVera Ferrón-Vílchez is an assistant professor in the business and management department at University of Granada, Spain, where she received her PhD in management. Her current research focuses on advanced environmental strategies, human resources management, and the achievement of cost leadership strategy.
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Natalia Ortiz-de-Mandojana is an assistant professor of organization and management at the University of Islas Baleares, Spain. She received her PhD from University of Granada. Her research focuses on environmental management and corporate governance.

Why Attachment Security Matters

Martin Mende, University of Kentucky, and Ruth N. Bolton, Marketing Science Institute, Cambridge, collaborated on “Why Attachment Security Matters: How Customers’ Attachment Styles Influence Their Relationships With Service Firms and Service Employees” for the June 2011 issue of Journal of Service Research. Professor Mende Kindly provided the following responses to the article.

Who is the target audience for this article?

We think that our paper is relevant for service managers across industries and service researchers across disciplines who are interested in why and how consumers distinctly bond with service firms and their employees.

What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

We observed that service firms often invest in building uniform relationships with their customers without considering that consumers may have different relational preferences. For example, we (presumably) have all been approached by firms asking us to join their loyalty programs or befriend them on Facebook.

There is little research that would help firms better understand customers’ relational preferences. Thus, we devised a theoretical framework of “customer attachment styles” to better explain how customers distinctly form and perceive relationships with service firms and their employees.

Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Although prior work in psychology had revealed important effects of attachment styles in romantic relationships, we were — to a certain extent — surprised by how comprehensive the effects of customer attachment styles are in commercial relationships (e.g., across dependent variables including satisfaction, trust, and affective commitment) and that they equally influence customer-employee relationships (i.e., interpersonal) bonds and customer-firm relationships.

We think it is noteworthy that some customers — who find interpersonal bonds with employees deficient — compensate for this deficiency by being more likely to bond with their service provider. Our research helps predict which customers are more or less likely to show such a “compensation mechanism”.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

We believe that service and customer relationship researchers should go beyond established marketing constructs to consider the mechanisms driving customers’ relational orientations. Our research introduces customer attachment styles and shows that attachment styles are associated with distinct levels of customer satisfaction, trust, and affective commitment. However, our work is only a first step toward incorporating the concept of customer attachment styles into Customer Relationship Management and we believe that it illustrates how attachment theory provides service researchers with many avenues for theoretical exploration. (For example, how do customer attachment styles influence customer reactions to service failures and complaining behaviors?)

Managers may find that our work offers several practical suggestions. For instance, firms can incorporate our self-report customer attachment scale into their existing market research activities to better understand their customers. We intentionally made our customer attachment scale brief and easy for customers to understand, so that companies could easily incorporate the scale into their marketing research programs. They could include customer attachment measures with other market segmentation variables and use them to enrich existing customer segmentation approaches, better allocate resources, and tailor marketing activities.

How does this study fit into your body of work/line of research?

Both authors are interested in service marketing and customer relationship management. As service scholars, we want to know how firms can build and maintain long-term relationships with customers in ways that are mutually beneficial. We want to discover new ways that help firms understand their customers’ profiles when it comes to building relationships.

How did your paper change during the review process?

The editor and three reviewers provided extremely helpful and productive feedback that helped us communicate our major logic and findings more clearly and succinctly and to address theoretical and managerial implications of customer attachment styles for service scholars and managers. We hope the readers will enjoy the article.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could go back and do this study again?

We are happy with this study, but we have thought of an important next step. Our research uses cross-sectional survey data. It would be interesting to try a longitudinal research design in which we would follow customers over time in a service relationship or, if possible, across multiple service relationships. Such a design would allow us to make cross-company and cross-industry comparisons and offer insights into how customer attachment styles might vary between service settings or over time, and why.

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Tourists’ Loyalty to Mauritius

Girish Prayag, SKEMA Business School, and Chris Ryan, Waikato Management School published “Antecedents of Tourists’ Loyalty to Mauritius: The Role and Influence of Destination Image, Place Attachment, Personal Involvement, and Satisfaction”  in the May 2011 issue of the Journal of Travel Research.

Proferrsor Prayag provided some background information concerning the recent article.

Who is the target audience for this article?

Both academics and practitioners who are interested in understanding tourist loyalty in a small island developing state (SIDS). Destination marketers, with often limited budget, can understand how important the place experience is essential in generating positive word of mouth and revisit intentions among visitors.

What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

Island destinations often convey images of paradise and we wanted to see why international visitors to the island of Mauritius come back and how they develop attachment to the place, and their level of involvement in the destination experience.

Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Indeed, in the tourism literature the relationship between destination image and place attachment was not tested in a SIDS. Our findings clearly shows that this is the case and that repeat visitation is often tied to the personal involvement, image, attachment and satisfaction of visitors. Understanding only one aspect of visitors’ experience such as the image perceptions can lead to inappropriate strategies for generating repeat visitation. Once we understand how involvement can influence the process, a destination is better able to manage visitors’ experience.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

The model we propose should be tested in other destinations and other antecedents such as motivation can be included to further understanding of tourist loyalty. Destination marketers should look also at how destination branding and positioning can influence personal involvement and place attachment of visitors.

How does this study fit into your body of work/line of research?

There are many studies on destination image and we wanted to extend these studies by looking at the influence of the former, as well as place attachment and personal involvement, on tourist loyalty. We think there are many antecedents of tourist loyalty that have not been studied and often other fields of study such as leisure and recreation can offer insights for tourism scholars. Adopting inter-disciplinary approaches often allow for better conceptualization of a tourism phenomenon.

How did your paper change during the review process?

There was a body of knowledge on heritage sites that existed and the reviewing process enabled us to better understand some of the similarities that existed between place attachment for heritage sites. We used this to better conceptualise our own paper. Also, the reviewers made good suggestions for improving our SEM modeling.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could go back and do this study again?

We would also look at how motivation influences visitors place attachment and perhaps go back and reconceptualise personal involvement in the context of tourist destinations. Existing scales of personal involvement have limited application to tourist destinations.

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