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Session Overview
09-05: Shuping Chen
Saturday, 20/Jul/2019:
11:00am - 11:25am

Seminar Room 2-5

Chair: Nancy Wong

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What Makes ‘God’ Turn Into‘Devil’? The Effect of Customer Engagement Behavior on Customer Misbehavior——Based on Moral Licensing Theory

Authors: Shuping Chen (Sun Yat-sen University Business School, China), Xiaoyun Han (Sun Yat-sen University Business School, China), Shujie Fang (Sun Yat-sen University Business School, China)


In today’s world, the development of internet makes it possible for customers to frequently interact with organizations and other customers. Since that, customer engagement behaviors(CEBs) become very important. CEBs refer to customer behaviors which are beyond purchases(Van Doorn et. al., 2010.There are both positively-valence and negatively-valence CEBs(Azer & Alexander,2018). Positively-valence CEBs have long been considered as an important impetus of firm’s development. However, we aim to explain why and when positively-valence CEBs will be followed by customer misbehavior.

Moral licensing refers to a phenomenon that after doing something socially desirable, people will feel more comfortable doing something socially undesirable later(Miller & Effron, 2010). We draw on moral licensing theoryto propose that by displaying engagement behaviors, customers will be apt to deliberately or unintentionally disrupt service in a manner that negatively affects the organization or other customers, which is called customer misbehavior(Lovelock,1994). Furthermore, CEBs trigger customer misbehavior by increasing a sense of psychological entitlement. Being kind to do something may benefit service providers produces “a sense of entitlement to some moral laxity”(Zhong, Liljenquist, & Cain, 2009). We then theorize the moderating effect of psychoolgical distance. The closer psychological distance that customer perceive, the more misbehavior will be conducted under the impact of psychological entitlement.

Design/methodology/approach & Findings

In order to test the research hypotheses, we conducted 3 studies. In study1, we tested the relationship between positively-valence CEBs and customer misbehavior which is mediated by psychological entitlement in a scenario-based experiment with data collected from 65 students from a university in China. In study 2, we also conducted a scenario-based experiment but extended the scenario from hotel industry to catering industry, collecting data from 67 students. We tested the moderating mediation effect besides what we tested in study 1. Finally, in study 3, we used a field survey to improve external validity. Ultimately, results across the three studies supported our theoretical model.

Practical Implications

The findings of this paper suggest that service providers should be aware of the potential cost of CEBs, learning to manage the relationship with engaged customer especially the one who contributes to firm performance beyond purchase.


This research contributes the literature in following aspects. First, we extend moral licensing theory by lending support to its predictions regards the relationship between customers and service providers. Besides, we enrich moral licensing theory by demonstrating one of the possible underlying mechanisms. Second, the results of our studies extend the literature on the consequences of positively-valence CEBs. Third, we develop a moderated mediating model by exploring the boundary condition under which customer are more likely to conduct misbehavior when their psychological entitlement is activated.

Keywords: Moral Licensing, Customer Engagement Behavior, Customer Misbehavior, Psychological Entitlement, Psychological Distance

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