The impact of an elevated sense of power on consumer behavioural responses toward service failures
2017-03-01T03:46:09Z (GMT) by
This study examined how a heightened sense of power affects customers’ behavioural response following a service failure. Power in the context of this investigation is defined as the subjective ‘sense of power’, which focuses more on how powerful individuals perceive themselves to be as opposed to an objective appraisal based on tangible possessions such as wealth or hierarchical status. A thorough reading of contemporary literature regarding power and its effect was synthesised into two main issues. First, current findings have not been able to definitively conclude how power impacts on behaviour in a service failure setting. Thus, a thorough investigation into this matter is required. Furthermore, contradictory evidence exists regarding whether power would bring about conciliatory tendencies such as forgiveness or encourage hostile tendencies such as revenge. As such, further investigation is needed to establish the conditions in which power would lead to these different behaviours. Secondly, the researches regarding power, its triggers, and its effect on behaviour have been largely conducted in the social psychology literature. Although the concept of power is highly relevant to marketing, its usability is still currently limited and needs further investigation. To address these issues, five experimental studies were conducted, which are described in six chapters of this thesis. The first chapter establishes the background, objectives and aims of this thesis in detail. The second chapter presents the current literature pertaining to power. Chapters Three to Five report the results of the experimental studies that have been conducted. Chapter Three is dedicated to investigating the role of power in a service failure setting. A more focused literature review is given, and two studies were conducted which found evidence that heightened power leads to lower perception of service failure severity, and higher likelihood of conciliatory behaviour such as decreased likelihood of complaining and reduced demand for compensation. Chapter Four attempts to establish a connection between the recent upsurge in studies about power in the social psychology field and the concept of consumer empowerment which exists in the marketing literature. Two studies were conducted which found that when consumers’ sense of power was managed using ways derived from the paradigm of consumer empowerment, they produced results consistent with those presented in Chapter Three, when power was activated using methods rooted in the social psychology field. Chapter Five focuses on establishing the boundary conditions determining where power would produce positive or negative effects. One study found that ego-depletion interacted with power. Powerful individuals who were not ego-depleted exhibited lower perceptions of service failure severity, consistent with the findings of studies in previous chapters. However, those who were experiencing a state of ego-depletion showed increased perceptions of severity, implying a more hostile reaction to the failure. This is aligned with conventional wisdom which often illustrates that the powerful are more hostile when dealing with conflict. The final chapter, Chapter Six, presents a summary and discussion of the findings. It will discuss the notion that, contrary to conventional perception, power does not always have a negative connotation. Second, by extending power’s usability more widely in the marketing discipline, the findings and methods developed in this thesis enable service marketers to utilize customer power advantageously when managing negative service encounters.