Digital presence in service recovery: The interactive effect of customer salutations and employee photographs in email signatures

Gianfranco Walsh, Edward Shiu, Mario Schaarschmidt*, Louise M. Hassan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Service firms can manage failure apology emails depending on how much digital presence or lack thereof they wish to maintain toward aggrieved customers. While nascent research indicates positive effects of higher levels of digital presence, the efficacy of this strategy in service recovery settings remains unclear. Drawing on the concept of digital presence and the unified theory of social relations, the authors investigate the potential detrimental effects of combining certain salutation forms with digital presence in the form of employee photographs in these emails. The data were gathered using one survey among service employees (Prestudy, N = 202), and two scenario‐based experiments (Study 1, N = 418; Study 2, N = 449). Study 1 assesses customer reactions to different apology emails and shows that personalized salutations (i.e., addressing customers by first name) and digital presence in the form of employee photographs can negatively interact to affect recovery satisfaction and repatronage intentions, with customers' perceived rapport mediating these relationships. Moreover, the results of a second experiment (Study 2) show that compensation after a service failure can mitigate the negative interactive effects. This study thus suggests using digital presence (in the form of employee photographs) in conversations with aggrieved customers only when customer salutation personalization is absent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalPsychology and Marketing
Early online date7 Sep 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes

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