Changing Faces in Services Relationships: Customers= Roles During Dissatisfactory Service Encounters

Mark Ligas, Fairfield University
Robin A. Coulter, University of Connecticut
ABSTRACT - In this paper, we draw upon Erving Goffman’s role-playing work and conduct narrative analyses of three women’s descriptions of their deteriorating service relationships. The informants describe the nature of their long-term relationships with a hair stylist, a telecommunications company, and a physician. Our analyses focus on understanding how their roles are shaped in service relationships during which they have had some dissatisfactory experiences. Four customer roles emerge from our data: the contented customer, the helping customer, the discontented customer, and the disgusted customer. We discuss customers’ anticipated (back-stage) roles prior to their service encounters and their actual (front-stage) roles enacted during the service encounters. Further, we comment on the multiple roles customers take on during the course of their encounters and the consistency between their roles and cognitions. Finally, we consider how characteristics of the services involved and the service provider interactions may impact the faces customers bring to their service encounters.
[ to cite ]:
Mark Ligas and Robin A. Coulter (2001) ,"Changing Faces in Services Relationships: Customers= Roles During Dissatisfactory Service Encounters", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 71-76.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, 2001     Pages 71-76

CHANGING FACES IN SERVICES RELATIONSHIPS: CUSTOMERS= ROLES DURING DISSATISFACTORY SERVICE ENCOUNTERS

Mark Ligas, Fairfield University

Robin A. Coulter, University of Connecticut

ABSTRACT -

In this paper, we draw upon Erving Goffman’s role-playing work and conduct narrative analyses of three women’s descriptions of their deteriorating service relationships. The informants describe the nature of their long-term relationships with a hair stylist, a telecommunications company, and a physician. Our analyses focus on understanding how their roles are shaped in service relationships during which they have had some dissatisfactory experiences. Four customer roles emerge from our data: the contented customer, the helping customer, the discontented customer, and the disgusted customer. We discuss customers’ anticipated (back-stage) roles prior to their service encounters and their actual (front-stage) roles enacted during the service encounters. Further, we comment on the multiple roles customers take on during the course of their encounters and the consistency between their roles and cognitions. Finally, we consider how characteristics of the services involved and the service provider interactions may impact the faces customers bring to their service encounters.

In 1985, Solomon et al. suggested that customers and service providers play specific roles in order to achieve satisfying relationships. As they point out, the interaction process is reciprocal rather than linear. Because the interactions are purposive, ritualized behavior patterns evolve that assist both the customer and the service provider in achieving their goals. In the past 15 years, services marketing has focused on understanding the relationships that develop between the customer and the service provider (Bendapudi and Berry 1997; Liljander and Strandvik 1995; Mittal and Lassar 1996; Price and Arnould 1999), what causes breaks in relationships and eventual failures (Bitner, Booms, and Tetreault 1990; Taylor 1994), and how customers react to such failures (Bolton 1998; Keaveney 1995; Roos and Strandvik 1997). While thi research has provided much knowledge about the workings of service relationships, little attention has focused on achieving a better understanding of the roles that customers and service providers take on during their service relationships.

Our purpose is to again draw attention to the idea that customers take on various roles with regard to their service relationships. A focus on customers as role-playing individuals within the services context introduces the dramaturgical metaphor into the research domain (Goffman 1959, 1967; Grove and Fisk 1983). Goffman (1959) distinguishes between the front-stage, where a performance takes place, and the back-stage where the individual contemplates and prepares for the performance. Grove, Fisk, and John (2000) explicitly discuss services as theater and apply Goffman’s terminology to both services personnel (actors) and customers (audience). With a focus on the customer in a service relationship, we suggest that the back-stage is the time prior to the service encounter when the customer determines which role he will take on during the encounter, and the front-stage, the actual service encounter, is where the customer engages in a particular role, and possibly changes roles.

In this paper, we draw upon Goffman’s work and conduct exploratory narrative analyses of three women’s descriptions of their deteriorating service relationships. The informants describe the nature of their long-term relationships with a hair stylist, a telecommunications company, and a physician. Our analyses focus on understanding how their roles are shaped in service relationships during which they have had some dissatisfactory experiences. Our specific intent is to understand customers’ roles and how they change during the course of service relationships, with a focus on examining how negative encounters might cause customers to take on different roles in order to create more satisfying, or balanced relationships.

We present our research as follows. First, we consider Goffman’s theories on role-playing and incorporate them into the services context. Next, we present the results obtained from data with each of our three informants, and we discuss our results in terms of how customers’ roles emerge and change over the course of their relationships. In the concluding section, we identify the shortcomings of this work and suggest ideas for future work.

ROLE PLAYING IN SERVICES RELATIONSHIPS

In order to study customer roles, specifically as they occur when customers deal with dissatisfactory service experiences, we draw upon the works of Erving Goffman (1959, 1967). We ground our work in a theory of role-playing, and apply it to the services domain with a view of the service customer as a role-playing individual (Grove and Fisk 1983; Grove, Fisk, and John 2000; Solomon et al. 1985).

Goffman’s Theories on Role-Playing

Goffman’s theoretical perspective couches human action in a theatrical context. Interaction occurring between two or more parties encompasses ritualized and scripted behavior, where the expectation exists that each party member, i.e., character, will act out a specific response or scripted role performance. The individual, i.e., the actor, usually carries out this scripted performance with the intention of achieving a specific goal (Schank and Abelson 1977). In order to understand these performances (and the motivations that create them), Goffman identifies two areas where action takes place. The front-stage is where the actual performance takes place, and the back-stage is where the individual contemplates his performance and prepares to perform again. While role performances may be scripted back-stage, once action commences, the players, based on the interaction on the front-stage, may change roles.

Scripted role performances involve rules of conduct that the actors follow (Goffman 1967). Even if one party engages in actions that are not scripted, the other party may show respect or deference (Goffman 1967). Goffman comments on two acts of deference, avoidance rituals and presentation rituals. The former pertains to the actor feeling inadequate and as a result leaving the performance without warning, whereas the latter involves the actor behaving in a ritualistic and socially acceptable way.

Role-Playing in Services Contexts

Applying these ideas to the customer-service provider relationship setting, the back-stage represents the customer’s interests and efforts to develop and maintain a working relationship with the service provider prior to actual interaction with that service provider (e.g., taking guidance from the service provider, being supportive of the service provider’s acts). The front-stage encompasses the interactions between the customer and the service provider, as well as both parties’ thoughts about the success or failure of the interaction. In the front-stage, the customer and service provider present specific roles that attempt to follow scripted behavior as closely as possible in order to achieve the successful delivery of the service (Solomon et al. 1985).

However, it is not always the case that the interaction with the service provider will meet the customer’s scripted expectations (Schank and Abelson 1977; Smith and Houston 1983, 1985). If the customer’s expectations are not met, he may be dissatisfied with the service provider (Bitner, Booms, and Tetreault 1990; Oliver 1997) and engage in a number of possible behaviors. Following on Goffman’s perspective, the dissatisfied customer may choose to avoid the situation and leave the encounter. Alternatively, he may continue interacting without questioning the service provider, essentially being dissatisfied, but presenting a satisfied front.

Another possibility is that the customer changes from the scripted behavior and takes on a different role, in order to help rectify the situation. This front-stage role, i.e., his public self, may or may not reflect the customer’s true thoughts and feelings, i.e., his private self (Schlenker 1980). Hence, there may be a discrepancy between one’s prepared role back-stage and actual performance in the front-stage.

Clearly, the provider’s level of attention, perception, and responsiveness to the interaction will directly affect the customer’s satisfaction (de Ruyter and Wetzels 2000); thus others’ acts in the situation directly affect the customer’s response. It may be the case that the custoer either wants to get along with the service provider or create a confrontation (Grove and Fisk 1997).

In the next sections, we turn to our data to explore the existence of roles in services relationships. Using Goffman’s theories as "lenses" for looking at customer-service provider interactions, we perform narrative analyses on depth interviews collected from three informants. We uncover emergent roles as they take shape in the context of customers dealing with their service providers after having negative experiences.

METHODOLOGY

The scope of our research was exploratory, with the objective being to identify various roles that dissatisfied service customers might undertake when interacting with their providers. Hence, we purposively sampled via personal contacts (Fournier 1998; Mick and Buhl 1992) three women who had experienced dissatisfactory relationships with service providers within the last six months. Our informants were a 29 year old woman who was dealing with a telecommunications firm, a 52 year old woman who was dealing with a hairdresser, and a 54 year old woman who was dealing with a physician.

One researcher conducted one-on-one depth interviews (McCracken 1988; Mishler 1986) with each informant. Each interview lasted approximately one and one-half hours. Each interview began with the informant identifying the service provider and reviewing her experiences while in the service relationship. The intention of the interview was to identify and understand the informant’s changing reactions as the interaction with the service provider occurred around a particular event, i.e., a negative service experience. Therefore, the interviews were relatively unstructured, allowing the informants to freely discuss their own interpretations of and reactions to the relationships (Thompson, Locander, and Pollio 1989). The informants’ thick descriptions of their encounters yielded rich data about their changing roles as the encounters progressed (Geertz 1973).

We adopted a narrative analysis approach to examine the data and structure our findings (Stern 1995; Stern, Thompson, and Arnould 1998; Wallendorf and Arnould 1991). This approach enabled us to focus on the consumer’s perspective, to realize her view of the consumption experience, and to identify her changing relationship with the service provider and the reasons for it (Stern, Thompson, and Arnould 1998). Analysis of the data occurred in two stages, with both researchers engaged in reading and interpreting the texts and coming to consensus about the data. First, each interview was read a number of times to gain a perspective of that particular woman’s changing thoughts and behaviors as she dealt with the service provider. Our intention was to understand each woman’s story, entirely from her perspective (Riessman 1993; Stern 1995; Thompson 1997). Once this was accomplished, we took a more holistic perspective by looking for commonalties among all three informants.

EMERGENT CUSTOMER ROLES

Based on narratives offered by three informants who experienced some dissatisfaction with their service relationships, four front-stage customer roles emerge. They are: the contented customer, the helpful customer, the discontented customer, and the disgusted customer. The contented customer, regardless of level of satisfaction with the provider and the relationship, presents a "happy, content face" during encounters that indicates satisfaction to the service provider. Our data suggest that the contented customer indeed may be a reflection of a very satisfied customer or it may be a fatade that hides some level of dissatisfaction. In the helpful customer role, the customer attempts to assist the service provider in creating, rectifying or developing the service. The helpful customer may present a "friendly, helpful face," or a "perturbed, helpful face;" the former has a more pleasant demeanor and the latter a more agitated style. Regardless of the face, the customer communicates with the provider in an attempt to help rectify or resolve the source of her dissatisfaction. In the discontented customer role, the customer expresses her dissatisfaction to the service provider; such communication may come in the form of negative non-verbal communication (e.g., tapping one’s foot, wincing), or more directly as the customer tells the provider her concerns. The discontented customer does not hold back her irritation/frustration; however, it may or may not be vocalized. The final role that emerged in these data is the disgusted customer. The disgusted customer communicates her dissatisfaction, and perhaps anger, directly to the service provider; she is very vocal and her communication may be of a threatening nature.

Next, we present three informants’ "stories," making note of their thoughts and behaviors that occur both back- and front-stage, as well as their front-stage roles.

Narrative 1: Judy

Judy discussed her relationship with a long-distance telecommunications firm. She switched to this company three and a half years ago, and at that time she believed that it was the best alternative. Judy was pleased with her decision (back-stage thoughts).

It was really nice and professional, and from time to time, they would call me and tell me about better ratesso I thought they had a good data system because they are tracking wherever I am calling. And whenever it is a Canadian call, they call me and tell me there is a better planSo I would switch plans and always save money, and my bills were going down and down and down

This level of superior service delivery lasted for a few yers, until one month when Judy realized that her bills were going up. She started to investigate her bill more closely (back-stage action) and became irritated (back-stage thoughts) when she realized that she was being charged random rates. Judy suppressed her irritation, however, and instead took on the role of a helpful customer who wanted to rectify the problem. She contacted a customer service representative to make the problem known and to seek assistance (front-stage action).

So I call them and they were very professional. And I said, 'Listen, there is something wrong.’ They said, 'Yes, your rates seem to be fluctuating.’ I was mad because I did not know how long it had been going onI don’t keep the bills once they are paidThey said 'No problem.’ They apologized profusely and said they would credit my account on next month’s bill.

When the next bill came, Judy was credited for the previous month’s errors, but she was charged random rates again. She became angrier, but still hoped that the problem could be resolved (back-stage thoughts). In her next interaction with the service provider, Judy assumed the role of a discontented customer, expressing her irritation by threatening to discontinue the relationship (front-stage actions).

I called and said, 'The bill’s wrong again’I said, 'Listen, this happens next month, I’m switching’It is time out of my day, I have to calculate my bill and this is ridiculous. So they said, 'We are sorry, it won’t happen again.’ The same thing they said last time, although this guy seemed to take it more seriously.

The next month saw the same problem, and Judy was angry. She immediately called the company and conveyed her intentions to terminate the relationship (front-stage action). She took on the role of a disgusted customer; she took control and gave the service provider an ultimatum.

The customer service representative comes back on the line and says, 'I can’t find the supervisor.’ I know this is crap, and I said, 'Ok, somebody has 24 hours to call me about this. Someone in management, or else I am switching.’ 'Oh, don’t do that.’ I said, 'No, no, you have 24 hours or I’m switching.’ I gave them 24 hours. I mean I am very vindictive when I want to be, and I called exactly 24 hours later and switchedand I got a call from the manager four days later, and they were wondering why I had switched!

In Judy’s narrative, we are able to identify four different roles that she takes on when dealing with her service provider. First, Judy who at the outset of the relationships is extremely happy with the level of professionalism she was experiencing with her service provider, presents a contented customer role. When something goes wrong, Judy becomes the helpful customer in order to try to rectify the negative experience. Unfortunately, when the outcome is not as she expects, Judy’s irritation becomes much more noticeable as she takes on the role of a discontented customer. And finally, when she can no longer tolerate the repeated mistakes by the service provider, Judy becomes a disgusted customer who "calls the shots" in the relationship.

Narrative 2: Sarah

Sarah discussed her relationship with her hairdresser, Gail. She was a client of Gail’s for five years. During their acquaintance, Gail moved to a new salon. Sarah was so happy with Gail’s work that she followed her. She made appointments with Gail to coincide with her regular shopping trips. Thus, she was not only pleased with Gail’s work but also with the convenience of her service (back-stage thoughts). Sarah was a contented customer.

I decided that I would just go to MaryAnn’s studio, and my first appointment was with Gail. It was just by chance that I liked her and the way she cut my hairShe was a very nice personAnd she was there for about a year and then she told me that she was moving to a shop out near the airport which also happens to be near Walmart, and that was when I became a once-a-month Walmart shopper.

After approximately four years, Sarah became disenchanted with how Gail was cutting her hair (back-stage thoughts).

I could not see the back, and so I didn’t realize that she was sort of building a shelf there. And every-now-and-then, I would look at the back, and I would think, 'I wish it would come down.’

Sarah took on the helpful customer role by trying to describe to Gail how she wanted her hair to look (front-stage actions). She even thought about bringing in pictures to illustrate to Gail how the cut should look (back-stage thoughts).

I tried to communicate with her about [how I wanted my hair cut], but it didn’t seem to work. It was like I couldn’t explain. Maybe if I had found a picture or something

After several more dissatisfying encounters with Gail, Sarah decided not to keep her next appointment (avoidance ritual).

I called Gail and left a messageI created a white lie. Instead of saying, 'I don’t want to come, I don’t want to have you cut my hair anymore,’ I decided that I would call her and tell her that I was canceling my appointment because I had stayed in Virginia longer than I had planned, and I had gotten my hair cut down there. She knew that every-now-and-then I just had to have it cut

Realizing that she could not be helpful, Sarah became a discontented customer and did not show up for her rescheduled appointment (discontent led to cancellation of the performance).

I don’t know when I rescheduled, but it was one that I simply just did not go topart of it was my difficulty coping with what I was going to do about extricating myself and still having a nice ending.

Sarah found another hairdresser, Lisa (back-stage actions); however, even though she liked the cut, Sarah was not happy with Lisa’s in-home shop (back-stage thoughts). As a consequence, Sarah contacted Gail again, and asked her to copy Lisa’s cut. Because Gail was unable to do so, Sarah decided to find another hairstylist. Sarah, taking on the role of the contented customer in a letter, attempted to explain to Gail her reasons for seeking another hairstylist.

Within the next couple of weeks I wrote her a note and told her how much I had always enjoyed seeing her and that I had just decided to do something different. I just wanted a change and I thought I would be back, and I had always enjoyed her very much.

Sarah’s narrative exhibits the uncertainty that many customers face when trying to extricate themselves from a relationship. It is clear that for several years, Sarah was a contented cusomer; she enjoyed her relationship with Gail, from both a personal and a business perspective. When Sarah became dissatisfied with the service, she took on the helpful customer role. Unfortunately, she was unable to effectively communicate a solution to her dissatisfaction to Gail. As a result, Sarah became a discontented customer who carries out an avoidance ritual and cancels the performance rather than making her anger and irritation known during the performance. Sarah then rethinks her actions toward Gail and reverts back to a contented customer role, sending her a letter thanking her for her service and friendship.

Narrative 3: Rhonda

Rhonda’s narrative focused around her dealings with her physician of seven years. Her primary criteria for choosing the doctor included his being competent and having access to a particular hospital (back-stage thoughts). In terms of the doctor’s access, Rhonda was pleased.

I really wanted to find a physician fairly close by who had privileges at Rockville, because Ihad gone to Rockville and had received wonderful care.

Additionally, Rhonda was satisfied with his competence and pleased with the relationship. She stated that, "He was very competent" (front- and back -stage thoughts). Unfortunately, when it came to being personable with patients, this physician was unable to live up to Rhonda’s expectations (front-stage thoughts).

It is very important that the staff be friendly and concerned and understanding and helpfulThe doctor himself is very competent, but we never clicked on a personal level. I meanyou would like to feel some kind of connection, and I thought he was always pleasant, but

Although Rhonda was somewhat unsettled having to deal with a physician who was not personable, she continued to portray a contented customer during the service encounters (front-stage actions). At times, Rhonda thought about how the relationship almost seemed more personal when the physician thought that she might have some major medical problem (front-stage thoughts).

There was one instance where I really had a problem and it was almost like he was delighted. I know it sounds terrible, but I realized that there was a mindset thatthat I would really like to have something wrong!

Regardless of her continued nagging desire for a more compassionate relationship, Rhonda appreciated his competence and the fact that the physician knew her well enough to make prescriptions over the phone. As a consequence, during her appointments, she never communicated her dissatisfaction with his style, and always presented a very contented face.

Throughout the relationship with her physician, Rhonda portrayed a contented customer during their service encounters. Regardless of the extent to which she wanted a more personal doctor-patient relationship, she did not communicate her need to her physician. Instead, Rhonda focused on other aspects of the relationship that continued to please her and maintained her contented customer role, even when she was dissatisfied.

CHANGING FACES IN SERVICE ENCOUNTERS

Based on our narrative analyses, we have identified four roles that customers might take on during encounters with their service providers, specifically in the context of somewhat dissatisfying relationships. We now examine: 1) some of the motivations that might give rise to the customers’ roles, 2) the various roles in our informants’ relationships, 3) the consistency between informants’ public selves (i.e., their role presentation) and their private selves (thoughts about the provider and the relationship), and 4) the nature of the service and its implications for taking on specific roles.

Our data suggest that customers may take on particular roles depending on their goals for the service relationship. For example, Judy’s goal early in her relationship with the telecommunications provider was to maintain a good relationship. She began in the contented customer role, but when her goal changed to rectify some billing errors, she evolved into the helping customer and the discontented customer. When Judy continued to encounter billing problems, she turned into the disgusted customer; her goal being to get the problem resolved once and for all or to move on to another provider. Similarly, Sarah’s initial goal for her relationship was to maintain a good relationship with her hairstylist. As she experienced some dissatisfaction with her haircuts, her goal changed to better communicating her haircut needs to Gail; thus, she (like Judy) changed roles to the helping customer. When Gail was unable to give Sarah the cut she wanted, Sarah took on the discontented customer role, canceling and not showing up for appointments. As Sarah terminated her relationship with Gail, her goal was to maintain a personal friendship, and the possibility of using her services at some later date. Thus, Sarah took on the contented customer role and sent a letter to Gail indicating that she was going to try another hairstylist because she needed a change in her life.

Both Judy and Sarah changed roles in an attempt to resolve their service-related problems. For Judy, each changing role signifies less tolerance for the service provider’s acts and a need to exert her beliefs about the experience. Sarah comes across as less direct and aggressive; though she is dissatisfied, her emotional and behavioral reactions are more in line with a complacent personality, one who does not like to "rock the boat" unless absolutely necessary.

Rhonda offers yet another perspective on customers’ roles. She maintained the contented customer role throughout her less than satisfying relationship with her physician. Although Rhonda would have liked to feel a more personal connection with the physician, she was motivated to keep the relationship because she valued the fact that he was competent, more personal during serious illnesses, and practiced at a hospital that she preferred. Further, it might be Rhonda’s personality not to be aggressive in general, or in the presence of someone who is providing good care. Neither Sarah nor Rhonda was completely honest with her feelings and thoughts, but instead both presented happy faces to disguise their discontent (Hochschild 1983).

Because our data are stories about our informants’ evolving relationships with their providers, we are able to follow the progression of their roles over time. Indeed, Judy’s roles proceeded from the very positive, contented customer role to the very negative disgusted customer. In contrast, Sarah changed from being a contented customer to a helping customer to a discontented customer and back to a contented customer, and Rhonda portrayed a contented customer throughout. Thus, at least in somewhat dissatisfying relationships, it appears that both customer motivation and personality are more likely to drive the role performances than customers following some linear progression from a happy camper to a disgruntled, exiting consumer.

Additionally, our data show that a customer’s thoughts and behaviors may or may not be consistent with the role that she enacts. In Judy’s case, her ever-increasing irritation and anger consistently matched her front-stage roles. In each role, she was less accommodating of the service provider and more direct about what she needed from the company to stay as a customer. In contrast, Sarah’s and Rhonda’s thoughts and actions were at times quite inconsistent; in other words there was a disconnect between their public and private selves. Although Sarah exited her relationship with her hairstylist because she was unhappy with the cut, her letter made it sound as if she was just looking for a change, rather than expressing her discontent. And, although Rhonda continued to be unhappy with the impersonal nature of her relationship with her doctor, she continued to be pleasant around him. The data generated from both Sarah’s and Rhonda’s narratives indicate the discrepancy between one’s thoughts and outward behaviors and feelings. Thus, it may not always be the case that one’s motives (which are often put into action through scripted behavior) exclusively drive how one reacts in service situations; individual personality may also account for the changing face of the customer, especially in dissatisfactory situations.

Our data suggest that the type of service might influence the development and enactment of roles. Both Sarah and Rhonda talk about hghly relational services (i.e., hairstylist and physician), relationships where the customer is likely to develop a personal attachment to the service provider (Bendapudi and Berry 1997; Mittal and Lassar 1996). In contrast, Judy discusses her interactions with the long-distance firm, and her conversations with a different customer service representative every time she calls the company. Recall that only Judy took on the role of the disgusted customer. One might speculate that because she dealt with a different customer representative about her problems, someone who she did not really "know," it was easier for her to take on a more openly irritated, discontented customer role or a threatening and controlling disgusted customer role. Additionally, our informants may have had differing levels of concern about their ability to find satisfactory alternative service providers given the services in question. For example, Judy believed that she could get better service going to another telecommunications firm. In contrast, in the more personal services (hairstylist and physician), Sarah and Rhonda seemed somewhat more apprehensive about their ability to find another, more satisfactory provider. Thus, in an attempt to not completely sever their relationships, they chose not to take on the disgusted customer role.

CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH

The objective of this exploratory research was to examine customers in dissatisfactory service relationships and attempt to understand their roles, and how those roles might change as a consequence of negative service encounters. Because the consumption of a service is a process that is both created and maintained by the customer and the service provider (Shostack 1977), a clear understanding of how successful services thrive can come about only when research can understand the specific roles that each party undertakes. By applying role theory (Goffman 1959, 1967; Grove and Fisk 1983; Solomon et al. 1985) to the services domain, we explore how roles arise and change in service situations. Clearly, the impression management literature contributes to the perspective that customers don’t always behave in manners consistent with their thoughts and feelings.

Our investigation relied on the retrospective accounts of three women and their dissatisfactory service relationships. We conducted narrative analyses to help identify customer roles in these circumstances. Future research might help to address some of the limitations of this investigation. First, further research targeted to understand customer roles might employ a larger sample and multiple methods to more closely examine the effects of particular types of negative encounters (e.g., service encounter failures or core service failures) on customers’ roles. Additionally, our informants were women; further study might examine the similarities and differences among men and women and the roles they take. Clearly, an area ripe for research is that of better linking customer goals and the roles they play. Also, our focus centered on roles that arise as customers attempt to deal with and remedy dissatisfactory service experiences; future work might consider roles undertaken in satisfactory service relationships. Finally, our study focused solely on customer roles. Understanding service providers’ roles and the consistency between the roles they play, which one might argue have more defined rules of conduct, and their thoughts and feelings would be of great interest in developing a more comprehensive look atrole-playing in the services context.

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