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The power of information on customers’ social withdrawal and citizenship behavior in a crowded service environment

Shuqin Wei (College of Business Administration, Texas A&M University-Central Texas, Killeen, Texas, USA)
Tyson Ang (College of Business Administration, Texas A&M University-Central Texas, Killeen, Texas, USA)
Nwamaka A. Anaza (College of Business Administration, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, USA)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 5 September 2018

Issue publication date: 14 February 2019

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747

Abstract

Purpose

Crowding in service environments is a constant concern for many firms due to the negative consequences it has on consumers and companies alike. Yet, scant empirical research exists on firm-generated initiatives aimed at improving customer service experiences in crowded situations. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how information, a managerially actionable variable, influences social interactions (in the form of customer social withdrawal and citizenship behavior) and service experience.

Design/methodology/approach

Two experimental studies were conducted using an extended service context.

Findings

This research demonstrates that receiving information about crowds in advance results in heightened social withdrawal, which improves customer service experience. However, providing consumers with a platform to share crowding information increases customers’ citizenship behavior toward service employees and other customers, which, in turn, improves customer service experience.

Practical implications

For extended service encounters (e.g. air travel) where social interactions are inevitable, companies should encourage customers to share their real-time experiences with other customers in hopes of creating more positive social interactions (e.g. citizenship behavior) within the crowded environment.

Originality/value

Existing investigations of crowding stem from an overemphasis on the physical and atmospheric aspects of the environment by treating crowds as a “fixture” in the servicescape, rather than as “active participants” involved in the crowding environment. While the mere presence of crowds alone has negative effects, this research takes it a step further by examining interactions among and between customers and service employees within the crowded service environment.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Eric Van Steenburg and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive and helpful comments on previous versions of this paper.

Citation

Wei, S., Ang, T. and Anaza, N.A. (2019), "The power of information on customers’ social withdrawal and citizenship behavior in a crowded service environment", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 23-47. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOSM-10-2017-0274

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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