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Individual differences in perceptions of service failure and recovery: the role of race and discriminatory bias

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Abstract

This article investigates the role of contextual cues in the evaluation of a service failure. Empirical data demonstrates that although discrimination is a factor in the evaluation of a service failure for black (vs. white) customers, contextual cues also play a role in the evaluation of the encounter. When a black customer experiences a service failure, the failure will be evaluated more severely when no other black customers are present. In addition, the context of the event differentially affects the negative emotions generated by the service failure and results in racially driven differences in the amount of remuneration perceived as necessary to successfully recover from the failure. The implication is that when serving customers, the race of both the customer and other customers can provide service providers with information relative to the appropriate service recovery effort to implement.

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Notes

  1. There is a great deal of controversy concerning the use of the terms “race” and “ethnicity.” Bhopal (2004) defines race as having to do with “physical features such as skin colour and hair texture” (p. 444) and ethnicity as a social group with which a person identifies which can be derived from “a mix of cultural and other factors including language, diet, religion, and ancestry” (p. 443). As we are primarily concerned with an identifiable characteristic we have chosen to use the term “race” and variations of it. Furthermore, while we recognize that race can include any number of groups, in this research we have chosen to focus on blacks and whites.

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Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge funding received for this research from the Mini-Grant program at Clemson University.

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Correspondence to Thomas L. Baker.

Appendix

Appendix

Participant instructions:

Most of the questions contained in the survey will be based on the scenario and pictures below. Please be sure to carefully read the scenario and look at the pictures before going to the next page. Remember, you will not be able to come back to this page once you have gone to the next page.

Scenario

Vonessa and Darnell Williams (see picture below), arrived at a restaurant for dinner on a Saturday evening. Below is a picture representing what they saw upon entering the restaurant (this sentence was omitted in the ‘no mention of other customers’ condition). The hostess sat them at a table in the corner of the restaurant and informed them that their waitress (see picture below) would be there to serve them in a minute or two. The waitress did come to take their order after about 10 min. After doing so she left the table and walked towards the kitchen. After 40 min the waitress finally brought the food to Darnell and Vonessa after everyone who had been seated at the approximately the same time had been served their meals. Both Darnell and Vonessa were extremely upset at what they described as “horrible service.” In fact, they asked for the manager and made a formal complaint regarding their “shabby treatment.”

No other black customers present:

Mix of black and white customers:

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Baker, T.L., Meyer, T. & Johnson, J.D. Individual differences in perceptions of service failure and recovery: the role of race and discriminatory bias. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 36, 552–564 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-008-0089-x

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