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I can’t always get what I want: low power, service customer (dis)engagement and wellbeing

Liliane Abboud (Surrey Business School, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)
Helen L. Bruce (Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Jamie Burton (Alliance Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 25 January 2023

Issue publication date: 27 November 2023




This paper aims to examine experiences of low customer power in service interactions and the impact of those experiences on customers’ engagement and disengagement towards a firm. It subsequently identifies how such experiences may affect customers’ wellbeing.


The authors conducted visual elicitation interviews with 30 customers of a range of services. Data were analysed thematically using abductive reasoning.


Low customer power is influenced by several factors perceived by customers as associated with the firm and/or the context of the customer–firm relationship. Results show that low power drives negative customer engagement and may result in behavioural disengagement. Low customer power, negative engagement and disengagement can have negative implications for customers’ eudaimonic (physical and financial) and hedonic wellbeing.

Research limitations/implications

Future studies might explore specific service contexts and power dynamics across service ecosystems and should further analyse the implications of these relationships on firms’ strategic organisational responses.

Practical implications

Firms should monitor customer power and explore means of enhancing the wellbeing of their customers through strategies designed to increase customer power, thus, reducing negative customer engagement and avoiding detrimental impact on customer wellbeing.


This study reframes discussions on low customer power in relation to firms and its impact on firms and customers. It identifies low customer power as a key variable in the study of customer engagement, disengagement and wellbeing.



The authors would like to sincerely thank the guest editors, the anonymous reviewers and Professor Sabine Benoit for their valuable feedback and comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.


Abboud, L., Bruce, H.L. and Burton, J. (2023), "I can’t always get what I want: low power, service customer (dis)engagement and wellbeing", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 57 No. 10, pp. 2713-2736.



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