Listening Quality of the Point of Service Personnel (Psps) as Impulse Trigger in Service Purchase: A Research Framework

Article excerpt

As most services are purchased in an interpersonal dyad, the role of the point of service personnel (PSPs hereafter), especially in how do they listen to the visiting service customers (VSCs) is potentially significant. PSPs can trigger an impulse buying among the VSCs. An increasing number of services are presently bought on impulse. Accordingly we propose a research framework to help test empirical linkages, if any, between the listening quality of the PSPs and impulse buying of services. The framework focuses on three listening quality parameters - Attentiveness, Perceptiveness and Responsiveness as the projected triggers for an impulse purchase of service products. The attempts are designed to spur serious research in impulsive buying of services as well as the listening quality of the point of service personnel.

Impulse buying behavior has been an area of reasonable research in the decades of eighties and early nineties (Rook, 1987; Fisher, 1995; Dittmar, 1995) although the concept dates back to the fifitees. Described as extremely hedonic buying and control-loss buying behavior, the construct of impulse buying refers to 'a purchase that a buyer did not plan before he or she purchased' (Rook 1987).

Existing literature on impulse buying is exclusively focused on physical products - the goods. Impulse buying of the services has hardly been explored (Agrawal & Bapat, 2000). In the best of our research, there is really little that investigates impulse buying of services. It is hugely surprising, since services are the growth engine of our times. Our conjecture at this stage among many others explain the low order of research in the impulse buying of services that there are few worthwhile ideas, new perspectives and research frameworks.

Our framework proposed here, is thus a modest effort in this important field of consumer behavior. It traces impulse buying of services to the listening quality of the point of service personnel (PSPs). The context of listening quality of the point of service personnel is invoked here because 'service buying occurs in an interpersonal, dyadic environment (Gronroos, 1990). The framework organizes itself under three sections: Section I reviews existing literature on impulse buying; key differences between services and goods, and listening quality. Section II models research propositions and hypotheses. The third and final section offers a research instrument.

SECTION I

Impulse purchase

As a general understanding, impulse purchase is an unplanned purchase. Buying a chocolate bar while waiting to check out the shopping cart; making a telephone call to a friend sighting a public telephone, or agreeing to fill out an application for a new discount card while waiting to be served in a bank illustrate the concept of impulse purchases in goods or services (Agrawal and Bapat, 2000). A decade ago, Rook (1987) posited that impulse buying happens 'when consumers experience a sudden and often powerful and persistent urge to buy something immediately.' Through an exploratory study, Rook analyzed the phenomenology of consumers' impulse-buying episodes and identified three aspects of impulse buying. They were: 'subjective experiences distinguishing the onset of the buying impulse'; 'ways through which consumers cope with the impulsive urges to buy', and the 'negative consequence consumers incur as a result of impulsive buying'. The study listed the following seven behavioral features of impulse buying meriting the attention of marketers:

* Excitement and stimulation

* Synchronicity

* Product animation

* Hedonism

* Conflicts between the good and the bad

* Conflict between control and indulgence

* Disregard for consequences.

Rook (1987) concluded that buying impulses vary in perceived intensity and that the impulse buyers differ in their ability to control the impulses. A decade later, Fisher (1995) empirically examined the normative aspects of impulse buying. …