Service providers often recommend unnecessary and expensive services to unsuspecting consumers, such as recommending a new part when a simple fix to the old will do, a phenomenon known as overprovisioning. The purpose of this paper is to examine to what extent consumers tend to defer their decisions should they suspect that sellers are overproviding services to them and they cannot prevent the sellers from doing so (they lack personal control); and how proper market signals can mitigate such suspicions, restore personal control and reduce deferrals.
The paper conducts three laboratory experiments. The experiments expose the participants to hypothetical repair scenarios and measure to what extent they suspect that sellers might be overproviding services to them and they feel that they lack the personal control to prevent the sellers from doing so. Thereafter, the experiments expose them to two different market signals, one conveying that the seller is providing quality services (a repair warranty; quality signal) and the other conveying that the seller is taking away any incentives their agents (technicians) may have to overprovide services (the technicians are paid a flat salary; quantity signal). The paper examines how these quality/quantity signals are able to reduce overprovisioning suspicions, restore personal control and reduce decision deferrals.
The paper has two main findings. First, the paper shows a mediation process at work i.e. suspecting potential overprovisioning by sellers leads consumers to defer their decisions indirectly because they feel that they lack personal control to prevent the sellers from doing so. Second, the paper shows that the quantity signal (flat salary disclosure), but not the quality signal (warranty), is able to mitigate suspicions of overprovisioning, restore personal control and reduce decision deferrals.
The paper suggests that although buyers may rely on quality signals to assure them of superior service, these signals do not guarantee that the quantity of service they are receiving is appropriate. Therefore, sellers will have to send a credible quality signal and a credible quantity signal to the consumers if they wish to tackle suspicions about service overprovision and service quality.
The paper is original in two ways. First, the paper theorizes and tests a mediation process model whereby quality/quantity signals differentially mitigate overprovisioning suspicions, restore personal control and reduce decision deferrals. Second, the paper speaks to the necessity of expanding the traditional signaling literature, designed primarily to detect poor quality hidden in the products/services of lower-quality sellers, to include detecting/solving overprovisioning often hidden in the services provided by higher-quality sellers.
Chatterjee, S., Mishra, D.P., Lee, J.J. and Shibly, S.A. (2021), "Suspecting service overprovisions: how market signals help restore personal control and reduce decision deferrals", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCM-12-2020-4280
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