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A Friend Laughs at Your Jokes When They're not so Good, and Sympathizes with Your Problems When They're not so Bad. The Effects of Perceived Service Failure Severity, Emotional Contagion Susceptibility and Interpersonal Relationship on Anger and Service Quality Inferences to Service Failure Depiction in Facebook Posts.
Authors: Svenja Widdershoven (Zuyd University Of Applied Sciences), Josée M.M. Bloemer (Radboud University), Mark Pluymaekers (Zuyd University Of Applied Sciences)
Service failures are known to evoke anger, an emotion that typically associated with negative behavioural responses. A negative behavioural response customers often display in this day and age is to use social networking sites to inform friends, acquaintances and others about the service failure they experienced (social eWOM), thereby attempting to persuade their network not to engage with the service provider. Service providers, knowing the influence that negative eWOM can exert on fellow consumers’ service quality inferences thus fear the effects that these negative messages can have with regards to those inferences.
According to the literature, two routes can be distinguished through which a message describing a service failure can influence fellow consumers’ service quality inferences: the direct, cognitive, route and the indirect, affective, route. Fox et al. (2018) demonstrated the existence of the two routes for negative eWOM spread via review sites, but did not look at negative eWOM spread via social networking sites (social eWOM). Generally speaking, research on the effects of negative social eWOM is scarce, which is rather surprising since 1) social networking sites (SNS) have become an increasingly popular platform for sharing negative eWOM, and 2) the literature suggests that the mechanism through which negative eWOM affects service quality inferences may differ depending on the characteristics of the medium used. This is particularly the case for the affective route to service quality inferences, which is believed to rely on a process of emotional contagion.
The current study investigates the two routes from negative social eWOM to service quality inferences. Furthermore, we add the interplay between personal and interpersonal relationship factors, which, according to Kimura et al. (2008), influences the emotional contagion process and thereby possibly also the affective route to service quality inferences. The research questions we aim to answer are:
(1) How does a negative eWOM message on a social networking site in which a customer expresses anger about a service failure, affect the service quality inferences of fellow consumers?
(2) How does the interplay of the interpersonal factor ‘interpersonal relationship’ and the personal factor ‘emotional contagion susceptibility’ affect the impact of perceived severity of a service failure on anger and (consequently) service quality inferences of fellow consumers?
To answer these questions, a scenario-based experiment was conducted in which participants were shown a Facebook post describing a service failure. The results indicate that the cognitive route is more prominent for negative eWOM posted by a stranger, whereas the affective route is more prominent for negative eWOM posted by a friend. Moreover, the pervasiveness of emotional contagion depends mainly on emotional contagion susceptibility if the negative eWOM is posted by a stranger, which is not the case when the post is written by a friend.