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From third party to significant other for service encounters: a systematic review on third-party roles and their implications

Liliane Abboud (Alliance Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Nabila As'ad (INESC TEC and Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal)
Nicola Bilstein (Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany)
Annelies Costers (Faculty of Economics and Business, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)
Bieke Henkens (Marketing, Innovation and Organisation-Center for Service Intelligence, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Katrien Verleye (Marketing, Innovation and Organisation-Center for Service Intelligence, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 9 December 2020

Issue publication date: 10 June 2021

1302

Abstract

Purpose

Dyadic interactions between customers and service providers rarely occur in isolation. Still, there is a lack of systematic knowledge about the roles that different types of nontechnological third parties – that is, other customers, pets, other employees and other firms – can adopt in relation to customers and service providers during encounters. The present study aims to unravel these roles and highlight their implications for customers, service providers and/or third parties.

Design/methodology/approach

This research relies on a systematic review of literature in the Web of Science using a search string pertaining to the research study’s objectives. In total, 2,726 articles were screened by title and abstract using clear inclusion and exclusion criteria, thereby extracting 189 articles for full-text eligibility. The final sample consisted of 139 articles for coding and analysis.

Findings

The analyses reveal that other customers, pets, other employees and other firms can adopt five roles: bystander, connector, endorser, balancer and partner. Each role has different implications for customers, service providers and/or third parties. Additionally, the five roles are associated with distinct constellations of the customer, the service provider and the third party. These roles and constellations are dynamic and not mutually exclusive.

Originality/value

This research contributes to the service encounter literature by providing a thorough understanding of the various third-party roles and their implications for customers, service providers and/or third parties during encounters. As such, this research sheds light on the conditions under which third parties become “significant others” in service encounters and identifies avenues for future research.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Bart Larivière, Paul Gemmel, Wafa Hammedi, Sertan Kabadayi and Annouk Lievens – the organizing committee of Let's Talk About Service (LTAS) 2018. Additionally, the authors would like to thank Bram Roosens and Jingjing Liu for their support in early stages of this research project. Authors are listed in alphabetical order, as they contributed equally to this article.Funding: Annelies Costers is grateful for financial support from the Research Foundation – Flanders (SB/151556). Bieke Henkens is funded by BOF Starting Grant of Ghent University (01N04118), Belgium. Nabila As’ad thanks the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 642116 and the ERDF – European Regional Development Fund through the Operational Programme for Competitiveness and Internationalisation ‐ COMPETE 2020 Programme, and the National Funds through the Portuguese funding agency, FCT ‐ Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia within project POCI-01-0145-FEDER-029725 for financial support.

Citation

Abboud, L., As'ad, N., Bilstein, N., Costers, A., Henkens, B. and Verleye, K. (2021), "From third party to significant other for service encounters: a systematic review on third-party roles and their implications", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 32 No. 4, pp. 533-559. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOSM-04-2020-0099

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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