When service failure leads to sin: Exploring service transgression and customer forgiveness in a multi-faith context

Yit Sean Chong, Pervaiz K. Ahmed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the notion of “service transgression” which violates customers’ religious beliefs through observing certain dietary guidelines that shape their religious identity. While service transgression and customer forgiveness are predominantly examined using experimental procedures or questionnaire survey in existing studies, this study adopts an interpretive paradigm to explore the complexities and idiosyncratic narratives of individual perceptions. Design/methodology/approach: Detailed narrative accounts of 15 participants consisting of five Muslims, five Buddhists and five Hindus; who are working adults residing in Malaysia were gathered via in-depth interviews. Critical incident technique was employed with interpretive approach being undertaken to uncover key themes that form the essence of experiences in service transgressions. Findings: The responses from participants were mainly contingent to the individuals’ interpretations of their religious expectations in the assessment of the incidents. Observations from the interview protocols reveal common themes in the consideration of whether one has indeed transgressed against the religious norms, the assignment of blame and responsibility and reparation of relationships. From the findings of this study, the authors developed a typology of conflict framing categories: “damaged identity”, “identity at risk” and “identity preservation” by considering both dyadic and triadic service relationships in service failure incidents which involve a violation of customers’ religious belief systems. Practical implications: The outcome of this study seeks to inform service providers on the impact of service transgression of this nature upon consumers particularly in a multi-faith society. Additionally, this study provides insights into the implementation of service recovery strategies if and when such situation arises. Originality/value: By undertaking a narrative enquiry, this study uncovers personal sense making in this phenomenon within the contextual frame of societal and historical norms. The outcome of this study provides insights to service providers on the impact of service transgression upon consumers particularly in a multi-faith context such as Malaysia. Additionally, this study discusses managerial implications associated with the implementation of service recovery strategies if and when such situation arises.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-433
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Service Theory and Practice
Volume28
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Interpretive
  • Narrative
  • Religion
  • Service failure
  • Transgression

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