Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Customer Dissemination of Negative Word-of-Mouth: Influence of Expected or Unexpected Events

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Customer Dissemination of Negative Word-of-Mouth: Influence of Expected or Unexpected Events

Article excerpt

We examined how expected or unexpected costs affect restaurant customers' attitudes toward the dissemination of negative word-of-mouth (WOM) when service failure occurs. A 2 (customer punishment: expected and unexpected) x 3 (relationship type: encounter, pseudo, and intimate) mixed factorial experimental design was adopted to examine the dissemination of negative WOM. The results indicated that service failure exerted significant and nonsignificant primary effects on expected punishment and relationship type, respectively. A significant interaction was observed between expected punishment and both encounter and intimate relationship types, but not between expected punishment and the pseudo relationship type. In sum, expected punishment and relationship type influenced negative WOM.

Keywords: service failures, cost expectations, customer punishment, word-of-mouth, encounter relationship, pseudo relationship, intimate relationship.

In today's competitive environment, delivering high-quality service is vital to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. Many researchers have indicated that customers' satisfaction leads to their sharing experiences with others (van Haaften, 2011; Zairi, 2000; Zeqiri, 2011). However, compared with satisfied customers, dissatisfied customers are more likely to share their experience with a greater number of people who have had related experiences using the product or service (Angelova & Zekiri, 2011). Customer service, therefore, is a key factor for enhancing service quality, customer satisfaction, and, ultimately, business competitiveness in the rapidly expanding service industry. Customers magnify instances of service failure. Service quality that results in customer dissatisfaction results in negative impressions and word-of-mouth, which subsequently affect corporate image. The Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association (2009) defined word-of-mouth (WOM) as "the passing of information from person to person by oral communication." In contrast to tangible products, services are characterized by intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity, and perishability (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1988), and service personnel play a crucial role in providing service to customers. Service failure may occur at any time during service provision and all service processes are at risk of service failure.

Fram (1997) asserted that, from a sales perspective, customer punishment refers to the scenario in which customers are requested to pay unexpected costs and, further, stated that customer punishment is a common phenomenon in airlines, rail service providers, banks, child daycare providers, credit and debit card providers, cruise and tour operators, hotels, restaurants, retail stores, car dealers, car rental firms, cellular phone providers, and universities, as the 13 primary industries of the service sector. In numerous studies, researchers have verified the effectiveness of customer punishment as well as its negative effects, such as customer complaints (Blodgett, Wakefied, & Barnes, 1995; Nyer, 2000) and negative WOM (Alicke et al., 1992; Anderson, 1983; Singh, 1988). Although customer complaints and negative WOM can provide useful information for businesses, they also reduce the probability of potential clients making a purchase (East, Hammond, & Lomax, 2008) and may even be destructive to client trust in the business (Lau & Ng, 2001). Because of the trend of increasing customer awareness, understanding and effectively addressing customers' reactions to service failure are critical objectives that managers of firms must consider to improve management.

Hedrick, Beverland, and Minahan (2007) asserted that, because the relationships among customers and service providers differ, when a service failure occurs, the solutions offered by service providers affect customer attitudes and purchase behavior. Customers often subject restaurant staff to accusations of poor service, and these are primarily attributable to expected and unexpected costs. …

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