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How word of mouth communication varies across service encounters

Bodo Lang (The University of Auckland Business School, Department of Marketing, Auckland, New Zealand)

Managing Service Quality: An International Journal

ISSN: 0960-4529

Article publication date: 15 November 2011




Word‐of‐mouth (WOM) communication, satisfaction and service quality are inextricably linked. However, despite much research, the shape of the satisfaction‐WOM relationship is not known. At present, three relationships are supported. This paper aims to develop and test a model of how the satisfaction‐WOM relationship varies depending on the type of service encounter, thus reconciling past conflicting findings.


A number of service quality indicators are manipulated and a fully factorial 2×3 experiment is conducted to test the hypotheses on 281 respondents.


All four hypotheses are supported; in certain types of service encounters high levels of satisfaction lead to greater WOM activity than low levels of satisfaction (positivity bias) and this relationship is reversed in a second type of service encounter (negativity bias).

Research limitations/implications

This research shows that relationships between constructs are highly context dependent and can change dramatically. Future research would do well to test the framework developed in this paper with different respondents and different types of encounters.

Practical implications

To best benefit from WOM, practitioners are advised to vary their management of service quality and customer satisfaction, depending on the type of service industry they operate in.


This paper reconciles three conflicting streams of research. This is also the first paper to empirically test a service taxonomy developed by Price et al. and to demonstrate consumers' vastly different reactions to the resulting two extreme types of services.



Lang, B. (2011), "How word of mouth communication varies across service encounters", Managing Service Quality: An International Journal, Vol. 21 No. 6, pp. 583-598.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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