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A Preliminary Investigation Into Service Failure and Recovery in a Collaborative Consumption Context
Authors: Tom Baker (University of Alabama, USA), Kristina Lindsey-Hall (Louisiana State University), Christine Ringler (University of Alabama)
Over the past decades, service researchers have learned a great deal about managing service delivery including best practices for recovering from service failures. However, with the development and continued growth of collaborative consumption (CC) there is reason to question the extent to which our current understanding of failure/recovery practice is applicable in this collaborative exchange context. The primary reason has to do with the fact that, to date, service research has largely focused on dyadic exchange relationships while CC is characterized by at least triadic relationships consisting of platform providers (e.g., Airbnb), contributors (e.g., apartment owners), and consumers. As movement towards CC continues, there has been little research designed to assess how current service marketing thought translates to this new economic model.
Therefore, the goal of this research is to provide an initial investigation into service failure and recovery in a triadic CC context. We propose that when failures occur in a collaborative exchange the additional actors involved in the service delivery will lead to consumers having greater degrees of “attributional ambiguity” concerning the failure, which will manifest itself in consumers having lower levels of confidence in their attributions regarding the failure. Furthermore, we suggest the lower level of confidence will be driven by perceptions of greater psychological distance. Here we draw on construal level theory (CLT) which proposes that consumers use higher levels of construal as objects become more distal. As this distancing occurs, and consumers think of objects at a higher level of construal, the object Is considered in more abstract terms with features being omitted compared to objects perceived to be near. This results in low-level construals characterized by perceptions of using more concrete features. It should be noted that CLT suggests there are four types of distance: temporal, spatial, social, and probabilistic.
Preliminary results provide support for the notion that when compared to dyadic exchange relationships, consumers have greater attributional ambiguity and lower confidence when involved in CC (triadic) exchanges. Our next series of studies will investigate how psychological distance helps explain this finding and which of the four types of psychological distance plays the greatest role. Finally, we will investigate how CC platform providers (e.g., Airbnb) should work to overcome the unique nature of service failures that might occur within a CC context.
We believe our research has the ability to make a significant contribution to our understanding of service failure/recovery within a CC/triadic exchange context by providing insights into how consumers view these failures differently from more traditional dyadic exchanges. In addition, our research has the potential to provide guidance to companies involved in this new form of exchange regarding how they might alter responses to service failures.