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Customers' contamination concerns: an integrative framework and future prospects for service management

Simon Hazée (Université catholique de Louvain, LouRIM, CCMS, Mons, Belgium)
Yves Van Vaerenbergh (KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 1 April 2020

Issue publication date: 8 February 2021




Customers might become concerned about getting contaminated and adapt their behavior accordingly, which is of critical concern for service managers. The purpose of this paper is threefold. First, this paper synthesizes the extant body of research within psychology and marketing into an integrative framework that helps understand the current state of knowledge on contamination. Second, this review summarizes evidence-based managerial recommendations on how to deal with customers' contamination concerns. Third, this paper provides guidance for future research by proposing several ways in which those concerns might influence service management.


This paper conducts an integrative literature review of over 30 years of psychology and marketing research on contamination concerns.


The paper reviews physical and metaphysical contagion models, the situational cues that may activate customers' contamination concerns, the psychological mechanisms that underlie the relationship between contamination and customer outcomes and the individual characteristics that influence customer sensitivity to contamination cues. Moreover, this review identifies actions that service managers can take to prevent customers' contamination concerns. Finally, still much has to be learned about how organizations should deal with fear of contamination by the time a next pandemic breaks out.


This paper develops an integrative framework that serves as a structured knowledge map onto the contamination phenomenon and paves the way for future service research.



This paper forms part of a special section “The Coronavirus Crisis and Beyond: Implications for Service Research and Practice”, guest edited by Prof. Volker G. Kuppelwieser and Dr. Jörg Finsterwalder.


Hazée, S. and Van Vaerenbergh, Y. (2021), "Customers' contamination concerns: an integrative framework and future prospects for service management", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 161-175.



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