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Customer Reactions to Conflict Management: A Review and Empirical Evidence from Two Service Industries

Review of Marketing Research

ISBN: 978-1-78190-760-3, eISBN: 978-1-78190-761-0

ISSN: 1548-6435

Publication date: 13 June 2013


Purpose – This study draws on conflict management literature to examine service recovery by service organizations and its effect on the important marketing outcomes of customer perceptions of service quality (satisfaction, trust, attribution/praise, and value) which influences customer retention rate (loyalty) and thus firm profitability.Design/methodology – Data from 412 banking customers are first employed to test the study’s model, and the results are subsequently cross-validated using a sample of 421 health-care customers.Findings – In services marked by moderate to low customer contact (i.e., task oriented) such as banking, effective conflict management tends to increase customer satisfaction, trust, and perceived customer value. It also has a positive effect on customer loyalty, albeit mediated by the above three variables. However, in high contact service contexts (i.e., personal oriented) like health care, conflict management seems to have relatively weak direct and indirect effects on customer loyalty.Research limitations/implications – The single country (Malaysian) origin of the present study’s data suggests the need for corresponding research in a Western context, where customers likely have different service expectations. Additionally, the research scope could be extended to focus on the relational nature of conflict management (the way in which a conflict is framed and resolved) in service recovery and how this moderates the relationship between perceived service quality and customer loyalty. The bi-industry approach taken in this research could also be extended to other low- and high-contact service sectors.Practical implications – Service organizations may benefit from training their employees on conflict management, honing skills in sensing and halting potential customer conflicts, and instituting a rapid and procedurally robust conflict resolution mechanism.Value/originality – This research is the first to examine firm’s conflict management across two service sectors. It contributes to theory by situating conflict management at the crux of the service failure/recovery relationship quality debate and underlining its relevance for a range of desired outcomes namely, customer satisfaction, customer trust, customer value attribution or customer praise, and customer loyalty.



Oly Ndubisi, N., Malhotra, N.K. and Miller, G.L. (2013), "Customer Reactions to Conflict Management: A Review and Empirical Evidence from Two Service Industries", Malhotra, N.K. (Ed.) Review of Marketing Research (Review of Marketing Research, Vol. 10), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 63-96.



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