ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (12): 2119-2130.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.02119

• Conceptual Framework • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Customer response to pro-customer deviance behavior: A theoretical model based on moral emotion

HU Jiajing1, ZHANG Meng2, MA Xiuli1, LIU Yan1   

  1. 1College of Tourism, Sichuan Agricultural University, Dujiangyan 611830, China;
    2School of Business Administration, Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Chengdu 611130, China
  • Received:2021-02-01 Online:2021-12-15 Published:2021-10-26

Abstract: Pro-customer deviant (PCD) behavior occurs when frontline employees intentionally deviate from the formal organizational regulations or prohibitions to help customers or act in the best interests of customers. PCD puts managers in a dilemma because of its double-sided moral attributes reflecting either altruistic motivation or deviation from the norms of organization. Thus, it is critical to understand customer’s moral cognitive evaluation of PCD, complex moral emotions and behavioral responses to PCD to determine employees’ intrinsic motivations to conduct PCD behaviors. However, there are barely no divergent results on the impact of PCD on customers’ responses since most existing studies have only focused on one side of moral attributes of PCD. Therefore, there is a need to address how PCD exerts double-edged-sword effect.
Utilizing the Stimulus-Organism-Response paradigm, taking PCD’ s dual moral attributes (e.g., altruistic motivation, deviation from the norms of organization) as the logical origin, this study develops a model to examine simultaneously both the positive and negative effects of PCD on customer moral emotions and re-patronage intention. Specifically, Study 1 explores customers’ moral cognition evaluation and complex moral emotional responses to PCD. According to the Cognitive Appraisal Theory, PCD evokes customers’ inner moral cognitive and emotional reactions through a multi-level cognitive appraisal of PCD. In the primary appraisal stage, customers evaluate the perceived benefits they could gain from the perspective of the altruistic motivation of PCD, which in turn generate feelings of gratitude. In the secondary appraisal stage, customers evaluate the perceived harm due to the actual deviation from the organizational rules, and generate feelings of guilt or shame. Study 2 examines the mediating effect of complex moral emotions on the relationship between PCD and re-patronage intention. On the basis of Differential Emotions Theory, this study proposes that customers’ feelings of gratitude, guilt and shame triggered by PCD respectively mediate the relationship between PCD and customer’s re-patronage intention. Moreover, this study examines the interaction effect of customer’s feeling of gratitude and guilt, and customer’s feelings of gratitude and shame on customer’s re-patronage intention. Study 3 examines the moderating effect of customer attribution of responsibility (self- attribution vs. other- attribution) and service context (in the presence of others vs. in the absence of others) on the relationship between PCD and customer moral emotions and re-patronage intention. This study reveals the existences of crowding-in and crowding-out effects of complex moral emotion on customer’s re-patronage intention with different types of customer attribution of responsibility and service settings.
The present research examines customer’s diversified and complex response to PCD from the perspective of moral emotions and makes the following theoretical and practical contributions, First, this study identifies PCD as an ethical behavior in the service encounter and examines the effects of PCD on customers’ complex moral emotions. Since limited studies have simultaneously examined both sides of PCD’s dual moral attributes, this study provides an empirical perspective for PCD. Second, this study presents a theoretical model, which integrates PCD, perceived self-benefits, perceived harm to others, gratitude, guilt, shame and customer’s re-patronage intention to better understand of how PCD influence re-patronage intention through moral emotions. More specifically, this study indicates that gratitude and guilt (or shame) mediate the relationship between PCD and customer’s re-patronage intention, which broadens and deepens the theoretical application of moral emotions, and fills the gap in previous literature that has only focused on the mediated role of one specific moral emotion. Third, this study responds to the calls for studies, along with corresponding practical implications, by investigating how customer attribution of responsibility and service context moderate the influence of PCD on customers’ moral emotions and re-patronage intention. This study finding provides managerial implications for service enterprises to take advantage of the positive effect of PCD.

Key words: pro-customer deviance, dual moral attributes, moral emotion, crowding-in effect, crowding-out effect

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