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The Forgiving will be Forgiven: The Effect of the Provider’s Empathy for a Customer-Cased Failure on the Customer’s Forgiveness for a Provider-Caused Failure
Authors: Sunmee Choi (Yonsei University), Sooyun Kim (Yonsei University)
When sharing services with other customers in the peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing service context, peer customers play diverse roles that were traditionally performed by service employees due to non-existence of service employees during the service delivery process. Consequently, customers have become more prone to causing service failures. In the meantime, peer service providers (PSP) are not professionally trained service providers and therefore are also prone to making mistakes which cause customer dissatisfaction. Hence, it may not be rare that customers experience both types of failures, one caused by themselves and another one caused by PSP during one purchase experience. In this case, how PSP handles the situation when the PSP has to make customers realize that the failure was caused by customers might affect customer reactions to the later-occurring failure caused by the PSP. This study aims to address this situation unique to P2P sharing service and examine the effect of empathetic communication style by the PSP during the first stage of customer-caused failure on customer reactions to the second state of PSP-caused failure.
We conducted our study in two stages. In stage 1, we examined the impact of the perceived cause of service failure (customer vs. PSP) and the severity of service failure on customer’s attribution (locus and controllability) to the PSP and also to platform provider (PP). In stage 2, we tested (1) the impact of making customers aware that the cause of failure lies with the customer on customers’ reaction (anger), (2) the impact of PSP’s communication style (empathic vs. unempathic) on customer reactions (anger and forgiveness) to the subsequent failure caused by the PSP and customers’ overall responses to the PSPs (satisfaction, intention to give a good review score, intention to write a review about each failure incident, and repurchase intention). We collected data necessary to test our hypotheses through two scenario-based surveys.
This study contributes academically to the stream of research on improving sharing-service quality, on better understanding sharing-service customers’ reaction to service failure, and on developing effective coping strategies for sharing-service failure. This study is distinguished from existing studies in that this study addresses the dynamics in customer reactions to consecutive failures which are caused by different parties. Managerially, the findings of this study helps realize the importance of communication style in handling service failure situations, particularly when the failure is caused by customers.