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Exploring Solo Consumption Experience in Service Settings
Authors: Chen-Ya Wang (National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan), Laurie Wu (Temple University, USA), Khoa T. Do (National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan)
There has been the trend of living alone around the world and the rise of singledom has received attention as it can have various impacts (e.g. sociological, economical, environmental and psychological well-being) on the society. In the context of service consumptions, the popularity of single lifestyle may possibly (though not necessarily) indicate that the number of solo customers will be increasing in service consumption settings, since single people might not always have “default” companions for activities. To put it in another way, the term “solo customer”, which refers to any customer consuming service as a unit of one, can be an important customer segment for companies to target at. As many service consumptions are social by nature, customers with or without companion(s) may differ in their behavior and evaluations of service experiences in many aspects, such as the choice of consumption places, content of purchase, and emotions experienced. Yet extant marketing and service literature provides only a partial picture of this solo consumption phenomenon in service settings, mostly about the solo customers’ shopping experience, tipping behavior and dining experience in restaurants.
The objective of this study is to investigate solo customers’ experience in the marketplace. Solo consumption could be disliked or desired by consumers and thus we focus on consumers’ both positive and negative solo consumption experiences. Through eight in-depth interviews and nearly two hundred respondents in data collected via the critical incident techniques (CIT), we develop an understanding about solo customers’ experiences in various service settings, types and attributes of service events that may lead to satisfying or dis-satisfying solo experiences. The findings suggest that solo consumers are situational rather than a static group to target at. A comfortable atmosphere and adequate amount of attention are what solo customers hope for during service encounters. Furthermore, managing other customers in the service setting may be equally important for solo customer’s experience as other customers’ possible stereotypes toward those being alone is fearsome for people to engage in solo consumptions. Meanwhile, as solo customers are not really seeking a place for solo only, managing an environment that can cater to both customers in solo and in groups may require extra efforts. With these insights, companies may better manage services toward solo customers.