Nav: Home

A problem shared can be a problem doubled

February 22, 2017

The train is late again, your meal at the restaurant is cold or the breakfast buffet at the hotel has already been devoured - failures are always possible in the service sector. But no service provider can afford to disappoint customers for very long. "For this reason, it is essential for them to make good their mistake quickly," says Gianfranco Walsh, Professor of Marketing at Friedrich Schiller University, Jena. However, whether and how effectively the company succeeds in doing this depends not only on the mistake that was made. "A key factor is also the way in which the consumer perceives that mistake."

Prof. Walsh's team has now been able to show in a study that customers perceive one and the same service problem very differently, depending on whether they are affected as individuals or in a group. "Service failures that affect a group of customers cause them to be more annoyed with the provider than problems that impact an individual," adds Arne Albrecht, a researcher at the Chair of General Management and Marketing and lead author of the study. "In addition, after a group service failure, customers are more likely to talk negatively about the service provider to people they know, and to complain to the provider." The researchers recently published their findings in the Journal of Service Research (DOI: 10.1177/1094670516675416).

Whose fault is it?

The study's authors, Arne Albrecht, Prof. Walsh and Prof. Sharon Beatty of the University of Alabama (USA), were initially surprised by this result. "Looked at objectively, it should not make any difference to the customer whether the problem affects him or her alone, or also affects others. The inconvenience is the same in both cases," says Albrecht. The researchers see a possible explanation for this fact in the different mechanisms for apportioning blame for the errors. "In a situation in which it is not completely clear why a mistake has occurred, customers use the other people affected as evidence that the provider is to blame for the mistake," explains Prof. Walsh. If no other customers are involved, affected customers are more uncertain as to whether they themselves might not be partly responsible for the problem. However, the marketing experts stress that the effect on an individual's personal perception is not the result of an active exchange among the customers. Instead, it is due to the simple fact that others are present.

The researchers explain this outcome through what is called the consensus effect. According to this effect, individuals are more likely to suspect that the causes of an incident lie outside their own sphere of influence if other people are also affected. As the researchers were able to show in a second step, this effect can even be observed in situations where there is clear and objective evidence that the customer is responsible for the service error, for example by failing to respect opening times.

The authors suggest that, based on the results of their research, service companies would be well-advised to pay particular attention to situations in which group service failures can arise. Prof. Walsh: "Service providers should be aware of the fact that group service failures can have particularly negative consequences. There are, however, some measures that can be taken to eliminate the customer's impression that such a group service failure has occurred. A sensible move can be to divide up groups of customers in critical situations, for example by opening another check-out or speaking to customers individually."
-end-
Original Publication:

Albrecht AK, Walsh G, Beatty S. Perceptions of Group versus Individual Service Failures: Blame Attribution and Customer Entitlement, Journal of Service Research, DOI: 10.1177/1094670516675416.

Contact:

Prof. Gianfranco Walsh, Arne Albrecht
Faculty of Economics and Business Administration of Friedrich Schiller University, Jena
Carl-Zeiß-Straße 3, 07743 Jena, Germany
Phone: +49 (0)3641 / 943110
Email: walsh@uni-jena.de, arne.albrecht@uni-jena.de

Friedrich-Schiller-Universitaet Jena

Related Marketing Articles:

Alcohol marketing in popular movies doubles in past 2 decades
Alcohol brand placements in popular movies of all ratings nearly doubled during the past two decades, new research shows, but particularly in child-rated movies.
Prescribing patterns change following direct marketing restrictions
A study of how policies restricting pharmaceutical promotion to physicians affect medication prescribing found that physicians in academic medical centers (AMCs) prescribed fewer of the promoted drugs, and more non-promoted drugs in the same drug classes, following policy changes to restrict marketing activities at those medical centers.
Food and beverage industry marketing kids to deatlh
The Heart & Stroke 2017 Report on the Health of Canadians examines how unlimited food and beverage marketing targeted at Canadian kids is negatively affecting preferences and choices, their family relationships and their health.
Computers can take social media data and make marketing personas
Computers may be able to group consumers into marketing segments in real time just by observing how they respond to online videos and other social media data, according to a team of researchers.
Does corporate social responsibility marketing work? It depends who and where you are
Consumers in dominant collectivist cultures, such as India and South Korea, are more likely to support corporate social responsibility, or CSR, initiatives from brands based in their own country as opposed to foreign or global corporations.
DFG announces winners in second round of international research marketing competition
Two universities and one non-university research institution to receive 100,000 euros to implement their strategic ideas.
Children's health and privacy at risk from digital marketing
For the first time, researchers and health experts have undertaken a comprehensive analysis of the concerning situation in the World Health Organisation European Region regarding digital marketing to children of foods high in fats, salt and sugars
An upside of marketing food to children
If you think it's too challenging to get young kids to willingly take vegetables, think again!
Why marketing and HR executives need to coordinate their activities
Chief marketing officers and chief human resource officers need to better coordinate their activities to maximize company value, according to a new paper by strategic management and marketing experts at Rice University and Kent State University.
Poor countries are hardest hit by tobacco marketing
People living in poor countries are exposed to more intense and aggressive tobacco marketing than those living in affluent countries, according to a study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization today.

Related Marketing Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".