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The customer socialization paradox: the mixed effects of communicating customer role expectations

Kenneth R. Evans (Michael F. Price College of Business, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA)
Simona Stan (School of Business Administration, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA)
Lynn Murray (University of Missouri – Columbia, Columbia, Missouri, USA)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 23 May 2008




Increasingly companies ask customers to participate in creating and producing services. This research aims to explore the effect that communicating role expectations to customers may have on their processing and evaluation of the encounter.


A dyadic experiment using prototypical customer‐couples and practicing insurance agents was implemented. Couples and agents were randomly assigned to dyads, which were then assigned to one of two conditions – a no‐expectations or an expectations condition. Post‐encounter, couples evaluated service quality and indicated their satisfaction, trust and anticipation of future interaction.


The study found that socialized customers relied more on service quality in evaluating the encounter than did unsocialized customers. However, socialized wives showed decreased trust, satisfaction and anticipation of future interaction than did non‐socialized wives (no significant differences for husbands).

Research limitations/implications

Expectations were simply provided to customers; and these expectations were framed to emphasize the benefits of complying with expectations may mitigate some negative effects of socialization.

Practical implications

While socialized customer outcomes declined, these customers relied more on the service quality elements of the encounter rather than peripheral elements beyond the control of the firm and the service provider. These findings highlight the caution managers must exercise as they juggle the trade‐offs inherent in communicating the customer's expanded role in the service production.


The customer's role in creating and producing service experiences has received increased attention. This research offers evidence that the benefits achieved through increased customer participation have costs to be considered.



Evans, K.R., Stan, S. and Murray, L. (2008), "The customer socialization paradox: the mixed effects of communicating customer role expectations", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 213-223.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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