Stress Out and Carry On: How Consumer Appraisals of Service Innovation Help Improve Service Relationships

Robert Ciuchita, Dominik Mahr, Gaby Odekerken-Schröder

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Research Question Consumers using digital services are faced with multiple service updates (i.e., incremental service innovations) each week if not even more frequently, with most of these changes being outside their control (i.e., consumers have to embrace the updates to continue using the services in the long run). While they might be positive, these incremental service innovations tax consumer resources, as they have to cope and learn how to use the updated services (Moeller et al. 2013). This raises the question of how incremental service innovations affect consumer experiences since they introduce changes in how consumers interact with digital services. To stay competitive, service providers who introduce incremental service innovations need to understand what type of consumer resources or strategies they should foster or mitigate so as to keep their consumers satisfied and committed to the relationship post-updates (Hennig-Thurau, Gwinner and Gremler 2002). To address these managerial challenges we examine (1) how consumers perceive the changes stemming from an incremental service innovation initiated by a service provider, (2) how consumers deal with these changes and (3) how the changes affect the overall relationship with the service provider. Method and Data 300 consumers took part in our field experiment. They were reminded of a recent service update and had to fill-out a survey on how they made sense of the update (their cognitive appraisal), how they attempted to deal with it (the coping strategies they used and the coping resources they developed), the extent to which they managed to enhance their relationship (on an affective and cognitive level), as well as their evaluation of the quality of the relationship postupdate. To increase generalizability, participants were randomly split into two groups: one focusing on the update from the classic to the timeline version of the digital socialization service Facebook and another on the update from version 8 to version 9 of the digital learning service Blackboard. Both updates were introduced roughly at the same point in time and both added functionalities and changed the design of the service. Thirteen participants had to be removed because they indicated low or no familiarity with either the service, or the update of focus. Hence, we were left with 287 usable responses (147 referring to the Blackboard update and 140 referring to the Facebook update). Summary of Findings Our results obtained from a system of Seemingly Unrelated Regressions (SUR) (Zellner 1962) show that appraising the service innovation as a threat or a challenge positively affects the employment of problem-focused, social support and emotion-focused coping strategies. However, only when participants appraise the service innovation as a challenge do they also build coping resources (i.e., situation specific self-efficacy). Nevertheless, out of the three types of coping strategies only emotion-focused coping exhibits a negative effect on self-efficacy. Furthermore, we see that social support coping and self-efficacy help enhance the relationship by making participants passionate about the updated service. On a cognitive level, more self-efficacy also leads to increased feelings of achievement, but so does the employment of emotion-focused coping strategies. In terms of relationship quality, our results show that participants more passionate about the service innovation are more satisfied with and more committed to the service in general, while participants with a higher sense of personal achievement are more satisfied with the service in general. None of the enhancement constructs directly influences the extent to which participants trust the service in general. Key Contributions First, we enrich service innovation literature (e.g., Berry et al. 2010) by conceptualizing service innovation as a stressor that can be evaluated as either something to be feared or to be pursued. In line with recent calls for research our conceptualization helps identify drivers of sustained innovation (i.e., coping strategies and resources) in a constantly changing technological environment (Ostrom et al. 2015). Second, we contribute to literature on stress stemming from consumption (e.g., Duhachek 2005) by introducing and conceptualizing social-psychology mechanisms to explain how consumers deal with stressors stemming from service innovation. Our results show that (1) consumers search for meaning when faced with service innovation, (2) try to regain mastery by employing coping strategies and building situation-specific coping resources (i.e., self-efficacy) and (3) can develop passion or enhance their own performance in the relationship. Third, we advance relationship management literature (e.g., Palmatier et al. 2006) by showing the interplay between enhancement stemming from stressor appraisal and employing coping strategies and building coping resources and relational outcomes. We show that both affective and cognitive enhancement with the service innovation can make consumers more satisfied, while only affective enhancement with the service innovation positively affects commitment to the service in general.
Titel på värdpublikationWinter Marketing Academic Conference 2016, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 26-28 February 2016 : What Happens in Marketing, Stays Digital: Rethinking Marketing in the Era of Unlimited Data
RedaktörerThorsten Hennig-Thurau, Charles F. Hofacker
Antal sidor2
FörlagAMA - American Marketing Association
ISBN (elektroniskt)978-1-5108-2367-9
StatusPublicerad - 01.01.2016
MoE-publikationstypA4 Artikel i en konferenspublikation


NamnAMA Educators Proceedings
ISSN (tryckt)1054-0806


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