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The impact of employee conspicuous consumption cue and physical attractiveness on consumers’ behavioral responses to service failures

Laurie Wu (School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Kevin Kam Fung So (School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA)
Lina Xiong (Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Warner College of Natural Resources, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA)
Ceridwyn King (School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 14 January 2019

Abstract

Purpose

There is a growing trend that hospitality brands are allowing employees to personalize their workplace display. Following this trend in practice, this paper aims to examine the influence of employees’ conspicuous consumption cues (ECCCs) on consumer responses toward service failures in luxury dining.

Design/methodology/approach

Two experiments were conducted. Study 1 adopted a 2 (ECCC: present vs absent) × 2 (employee physical attractiveness: control vs high) between-subject experiment to test the effect of ECCCs in interactional service failures. Study 2 tested the hypotheses in core service failures.

Findings

The results of Study 1 indicate that the presence of ECCCs lowers consumers’ negative behavioral intentions in interactional service failures when employees are highly attractive. When employees’ attractiveness is not distinctive, however, ECCCs lead to higher levels of negative behavioral intentions. Mediation test results demonstrate that perceived employee service competence drives this effect. Results of Study 2 show that the joint effect of ECCCs and physical attractiveness is attenuated when core service failures are not attributable to the service employee.

Research limitations/implications

Extending previous research, this study reveals the impact of employees’ physical characteristics on consumers’ post-failure responses. In addition, the effect of ECCCs on consumers’ post-failure responses was driven by the psychological process of perceived competence.

Practical implications

Findings of this research emphasize the importance for hospitality brands to practice tight control over employee esthetics. For hospitality brands that embrace individuality in the workplace, results of this research highlight the importance of service training in customer interactions.

Originality/value

This research examines an underexplored phenomenon in the hospitality service setting: employees’ display of conspicuous consumption cues and its impact on consumers’ responses to service failures.

Keywords

Citation

Wu, L., So, K.K.F., Xiong, L. and King, C. (2019), "The impact of employee conspicuous consumption cue and physical attractiveness on consumers’ behavioral responses to service failures", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 21-40. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCHM-08-2017-0500

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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