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A cognitive social capital explanation of service separation distress

Sigi Goode (Research School of Management, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 1 April 2021

Issue publication date: 20 July 2021




Service separation distress arises when service consumers worry that a useful service may become unavailable. This paper aims to integrate two theoretical explanations of ongoing service use, being service continuance and relationship commitment and a common foundation of cognitive social capital.


This study conducts an online survey of 245 cloud service consumers, which we use to test our research model.


This paper finds that relationship commitment mediates the service continuance explanation in explaining service separation distress.

Research limitations/implications

While service features are important, they are less important than the consumer’s perceived relationship with the service in promoting perceived service separation distress. Contrary to expectations, the finding identified the service relationship as the dominant explanation for service separation distress.

Practical implications

Jeopardy to the consumer-provider relationship can create greater anxiety and distress to consumers than a disruption that threatens service features alone. Adding service features may not reduce customer separation distress regarding the service.

Social implications

The unified cognitive social capital lens on service separation suggests that consumers value service provider relationships (e.g. commitment and trust) over service features. A stronger social relationship with the consumer, in turn, strengthens the perceived service offering.


This is among the first studies to unify two explanations of service continuance using social capital and to empirically identify how this explanation affects service distress.



Goode, S. (2021), "A cognitive social capital explanation of service separation distress", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 35 No. 4, pp. 487-504.



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