Does Customer Participation Lead to Better Service Outcomes? The Flow Experience Perspective

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    Current marketing research focuses on a shift in the dominant logic, from a goods-centric to a service-centric logic (Vargo and Lusch 2004). The goods-dominant logic viewed consumers and producers as separate entities with different goals, but the modern service-dominant logic views them as intertwined collaborators in the creation of value. A foundational premise of this new service-dominant logic is customer participation (CP), defined as customers’ expenditures of time and effort to assist the service production and delivery process by providing information, suggestions, feedback, or ideas (e.g., Auh et al. 2007; Chan, Yim, and Lam 2011).

    Despite a growing body of conceptual and empirical literature dealing with CP, little consensus exists, and some conflicting viewpoints and findings persist regarding its effects on customer service evaluations (please see Table 1 for a brief summary). Two key factors might contribute to the equivocations surrounding the effectiveness of CP. First, limited work has investigated the boundary conditions for the impact of CP. Second, existing research tends to focus predominately on the economic rationale for CP (e.g., economic value, work stress, Chan, Yim, and Lam 2011; customized service outcome, Schneider and Bowen 1995; labor costs, productivity, Lovelock and Young 1979; Mills, Chase and Margulies 1983) but neglect the holistic or psychological experiences of participation, such as enjoyment, when it appears more intrinsically rewarding (Agarwal and Karahanna 2000; Chan and Li 2010; Csikszentmihalyi 1990; Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi 2002; Sherry 2004).

    To address these issues, the proposed research seeks to contribute to existing literature by examining the conditions in which fostering CP would be more beneficial for a firm. Specifically, we draw on the flow theory proposed by Csikszentmihalyi (1990, 1997) to examine a flow experience process of CP. “Flow” is an optimal psychological state that leads to performance of an activity primarily for its own sake, associated with positive feeling states. We build our conceptual framework by incorporating several key characteristics of flow proposed by Csikszentmihalyi (1997) and commonly examined by existing literature to delineate the flow experience process of CP into three stages: flow antecedents (clear goal, control, matched challenge and skill, and feedback), flow experiences (attention focus, time distortion, heightened curiosity, and enjoyment), and flow outcomes (customer service evaluations and behavioral outcomes).

    We propose in turn that (1) CP will enhance the flow experience when (a) customers’ perceived level of self-efficacy in participation and their participation level are both high and (b) immediate feedback from two other key value co-creation agents, employees and other customers, are present; (2) the flow experience will affect customers’ service evaluations (i.e., perceived service quality, servicing time, and customer satisfaction) and behavioral outcomes (i.e., proactive helping and voice behaviors, unplanned purchases, and future participation levels) differently; and (3) the impacts of the flow experience on service outcomes might change over time.

    We intend to test our propositions with experimental, netnography, and survey data to ensure sufficient internal and external validity. A pilot study focused on the impact of CP on enjoyment (a key component of flow experience) has revealed that customers feel more enjoyment when they find a good match of their efficacy with the level of challenges associated with their participation. This study aims to illuminate a more complete view of the effectiveness of CP by investigating the flow experience obtained from involving customers, as well as providing preliminary insights into the sustainability of the impacts of such flow experiences on customers’ service evaluations and behavioral outcomes.
    Effective start/end date1/01/1331/12/15


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