Antecedent and Contingency Factors leading to Positive Responses of Non-VIP customers toward Preferential Treatment received by VIP Customers

  • FOCK, Henry (PI)

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    The provision of preferential treatment to VIP customers is a widely adopted practice in the tourism and service industry. Leading service firms, such as Starwood Hotels, Hilton Hotels, American Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways, have set up different VIP or preferred guest programs to delight their valuable customers, strengthen their business rapport, and reinforce their loyalty behaviors. Without doubt, these VIP service programs are successful and have contributed to the profit growth of service firms.

    However, the conventional practice of preferential treatment is challenged by researchers. Some studies show that when a consumer observes someone else receives better treatment, the consumer will have negative affective responses of unfair feeling, jealousy and envy toward the firm (Feinberg et al. 2002; Lehmann 2001). These negative affective responses, in turn, may even lead to switching behavior.

    In this proposal, I aim to unveil factors and conditions that support the adoption of preferential treatment strategy in the tourism and service industry. I argue that previous research has neglected the positive aspect of envious responses of non-VIP customers. I propose a theoretical model which explicates the antecedent and contingency factors that jointly determining the positive affective and behavioral responses of non-VIP customers. Specifically, I predict that when the non-VIP customers consider the VIP customers being similar (e.g., in terms of business background or social-economic status), and when they believe the VIP treatment/status is attainable, they would have a higher level of benign envy (vs. malicious envy) toward the preferential treatment. The affective response of benign envy, in turn, leads to positive (vs. negative) behaviors, such as upgrade motivation, commitment, cross-buying, and word-of-mouth. I further posit that the interaction effect of perceived similarity and attainability on the elicitation of benign envy is contingent upon the long-term (vs. short-term) orientation values of the non-VIP customers.

    I propose a survey and a scenario experiment with tourists visiting Hong Kong to test our propositions. This practice allows field evidence and experiment data to triangulate each other and validate our proposed conceptual model.
    Effective start/end date1/01/1230/06/14


    Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.