How Observers React To Service Failures? The Impact Of Incidental Similarity
Refereed conference paper presented and published in conference proceedings
Officially Accepted for Publication


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AbstractA growing body of research has discovered that even the trivial attribute of similarity, that is, incidental similarity, will have significant favorable impact on initial social interactions (Burger et al., 2004; Guéguen, Pichot, & Le Dreff, 2005; Jiang et al., 2010; Martin & Guéguen, 2013). Incidental similarities are chance similarities between individuals, such as a shared first name or birthplace, which create a sense of association between two people (Burger et al., 2004). Prior research shows that people who perceive they share a birthday, first name, or similar fingerprints with a stranger are more likely to comply with the stranger’s request (Burger et al., 2004; Guéguen et al., 2005), are more willing to respond to the stranger’s questions on intimate topics (Martin & Guéguen, 2013), and, if the stranger is a salesperson, can increase purchase intentions (Jiang et al., 2010). Incidental similarities create a sense of connectedness between two strangers that is not shared by other people around them (Burger et al., 2004). This sense of connectedness generates a fleeting sense of liking and interpersonal attraction (Insko & Wilson, 1977).

Existing research therefore suggests that incidental similarities lead to favorable reactions to the similar other.
We propose that the effects of incidental similarities are not invariably favorable. Incidental similarities can elicit unfavorable effects, and can make an otherwise disinterested observer become involved in an exchange between a stranger and a company that (s)he merely witnessed. For example, a service failure involves the service provider and the suffering customer. From the perspective of an individual observing the failure, the nature of the effect of incidental similarities would depend on whether one feels a sense of association with the provider or the customer.
Imagine a situation in which someone observes a customer being told that a table he had reserved is actually not available. If the observer notices that customer’s surname happens to be the same as his own, he may be disposed to view the situation from the customer’s perspective and blame the provider for the failure. However, if the observer notices from the provider’s name tag that they happen to have the same surname, he may feel more similar to the provider and attributing him less responsibility for the failure.

These arguments draw on previous research of perspective taking (Galinsky & Moskowitz 2000; Frantz & Janoff-Bulman 2000). Perspective taking affects people attributional thinking. If observers take the perspective of the target, they will tend to use more situational factors rather than dispositional reasons to explain the target’s behavior (Jones & Nisbett 1971). We expect that when consumers shared incidental similarity with the service provider, they may attribute him less responsibility for an observed failure. However, when they shared incidental similarity with the suffering customer, the reverse is true.
Acceptance Date19/03/2017
All Author(s) ListLisa C. Wan, Robert S. Wyer JR.
Name of ConferenceThe Asia Pacific Tourism Association (APTA) 2017 Annual Conference
Start Date of Conference18/06/2017
End Date of Conference21/06/2017
Place of ConferenceBusan
Country/Region of ConferenceSouth Korea
Year2017
LanguagesEnglish-United States
KeywordsService Failures, Incidental Similarity, Perspective Taking

Last updated on 2018-20-01 at 19:57