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Customer deference to service providers in ordinary service encounters

Apiradee Wongkitrungrueng (Mahidol University International College, Nakorn Pathom, Thailand)
Krittinee Nuttavuthisit (Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration of Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand)
Teodora Szabo-Douat (Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business, The City University of New York (CUNY), New York, New York, USA)
Sankar Sen (Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business, New York, New York, USA) (Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration of Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand)

Journal of Service Theory and Practice

ISSN: 2055-6225

Article publication date: 7 August 2019

Issue publication date: 21 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature of customer deference to service providers in service encounters, and articulate its chief antecedents, experiences and consequences.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were collected in Thailand, using critical incident technique. A total of 253 subjects share their experiences of being “deferential” (i.e. “kreng-jai” in Thailand) during everyday service encounters.

Findings

The findings indicate that in cultures in which the cultural norm (i.e. kreng-jai) is to be considerate of others, customers often become deferential of the service provider during service encounters, especially when customers perceive that the service provider’s well-being is compromised. However, customer deference involves aversive feelings which lead customers to devise coping strategies and avoid future contact with a company.

Research limitations/implications

Using a specific cultural norm, the findings challenge prior finding that people from collectivist culture are more likely to tolerate and be satisfied with service encounters, and document the role of previously unexamined customer-related factors in driving satisfaction in ordinary service encounters.

Practical implications

The findings recommend service providers to preempt customers’ deference by establishing and communicating the role and acceptable behaviors, managing physical distance with customers, and monitoring customer non-verbal behavior and facial expressions to detect the customers’ true feelings.

Originality/value

No prior research has comprehensively examined the phenomenon whereby consumers seek to benefit service providers at the expense of their own well-being. This study demonstrates that customer deference degrades customer satisfaction even in ordinary service encounters.

Keywords

Citation

Wongkitrungrueng, A., Nuttavuthisit, K., Szabo-Douat, T. and Sen, S. (2019), "Customer deference to service providers in ordinary service encounters", Journal of Service Theory and Practice, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 189-212. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSTP-02-2018-0031

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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