Examining Process and Moderating Effects of Customer-Created Guilt in a Service Context: An Abstract
Guilt has been identified as a key consumption emotion and is often experienced in interpersonal interactions, making it an interesting emotion to examine in a service context. This work examines customer-created guilt in the context of a service experience. Service scripts offer a set of norms or expectations for routine service encounters between customers and service providers. Consistent with the notion that a violation of social norms induces guilt, a customer’s negative deviation from the service script can induce customer-created guilt.
This work assesses the potential mediating role of affective and normative commitment and the potential moderating role of commercial friendship in examining the relationship between consumer-created guilt and repatronage intention. It is expected that customers who have a strong commercial friendship with their service provider are likely to increase their affective commitment toward their service provider when they feel guilty. On the other hand, it is expected that normative commitment, rather than affective commitment, will be a facilitating mechanism between guilt and repatronage intention for those in weak commercial friendships.
The main study was online survey-based, and the sample consisted of 342 adult respondents that were recruited using a snowball approach. Respondents were randomly exposed to and read one of the three scenarios depicting consumer norm violations that were based on a pilot study: (1) cheating on a service provider (e.g., “I just wanted to try someone new.”), (2) withholding information from a service provider (e.g., “I left without explanation.”), and (3) role failure, or failure to engage in expected behaviors associated with the exchange (e.g., complaining).
Structural equation modeling was used to analyze the data. A measurement model that included the items of the non-moderating constructs was assessed using AMOS 22.0.0, and the results suggested a good-fitting model. Multi-group analysis was used to test the hypotheses that commercial friendship moderates the mediating effects of affective and normative commitment. The results indicate that affective commitment fully mediates the effect of guilt on repatronage intention in the strong commercial group but does not mediate the effect of guilt on repatronage intention in the weak commercial group. In addition, results indicate that normative commitment does not mediate for either the weak or strong commercial group.
This research offers implications for marketing managers. Specifically, this work suggests customer-created guilt does not negatively impact the customer-service provider relationship and outcomes. Rather, for those with weak commercial friendships, guilt positively affects repatronage intention. For those with strong commercial friendships, not only does guilt increase repatronage intention, it also has an additional benefit of strengthening the relationship via affective commitment.