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Services Marketing Quarterly, 30:287–302, 2009 Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 1533-2969 print=1533

-2977 online DOI: 10.1080/15332960902993577

The Impact of Service Fairness Perceptions on Relationship Quality
MELISSA N. CLARK
Department of Management and Marketing, University of North Alabama, Florence, Alabama

MAVIS T. ADJEI
Department of Marketing, Southern Illinois University–Carbondale, Carbondale, Illinois

DONNA N. YANCEY
Department of Management and Marketing, University of North Alabama, Florence, Alabama

The success of marketing has increasingly become more dependent on the service quality of marketing. It is important that marketers understand how the service provided affects the future quality of the relationship. The overall goal of this study is to understand the relationships between justice perceptions, transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction and relationship quality in a service failure=recovery encounter. Based on a sample of 138 respondents in the restaurant industry, we found that distributive, procedural, and interactional justice all positively impact the customer’s transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction with the service organization, and ultimately, the quality of the customer-firm relationship. Managerial and theoretical implications are provided. KEYWORDS justice, relationship quality, service fairness

As services have become an important part of most transactions, it is important to know how consumers react to service failures in terms of the quality of their relationship with the service provider. If retailers can better understand the impact of service fairness on customers, then they will be

Address correspondence to Melissa N. Clark, Ph.D., University of North Alabama, UNA Box 5226, Florence, AL 35632. E-mail: mnclark@una.edu 287

Smith. 2007. & Cowles. Lind & Tyler. Brown. & Jones. able to formulate more effective strategies and. Additionally. Tax. procedural. Evans. 2006. Granbois. Goodwin & Ross. THEORETICAL DEVELOPMENT Service Failure and Fairness Service fairness is a customer’s perception of the degree of justice in a service firm’s behavior (Seiders & Berry. 1999. Blodgett. It will also provide guidance for service providers on how to better handle a service failure. Bolton. N. Tax et al. & Steenkamp. 1998).. & Chandrashekaran. Bolton.. However. Tax et al. 1988). Tax. Although the relationships between service fairness perceptions (distributive. retain a larger number of customers. and fairness theory in a service failure and recovery context (McColl-Kennedy & Sparks.. & Evans. postrecovery satisfaction with a service failure=recovery encounter (Smith. and interactional justice). Brown. 1998). 2003). Weun. 2001. This combination will present a more complete picture of the service failure and recovery and link it to future relationship quality. The study of justice theory in the service failure=recovery literature is well established (Smith et al. 1998). ¨ der. This study adds to the existing literature by combining research on service fairness and relationship quality. 1998). 2003). 1999. & Chandrashekaran. it is important to continue to study them to truly understand their influences.288 M. & Wagner. postrecovery satisfaction with the service organization. Crosby. De Wulf. 1998). Grewal. 1993. Scheer. Customers’ judgments of service fairness surface when their experience conflicts with their fairness standards and they sense either injustice or uniquely fair behavior (Seiders & Berry. 1999. Beatty. Justice theory purports that customers’ levels of satisfaction and their future loyalty depend upon whether the customers felt that justice was done (McColl-Kennedy & Sparks. Previous studies have examined relationship quality (Palmatier. The idea of justice is central to the service fairness construct because it serves as the crux of the consumer’s decision in most cases. research on the impact of gender on the various dimensions of service fairness is relatively lacking (McColl-Kennedy. and relationship quality have been examined in the marketing literature (Aurier & Siadou-Martin. 1995. Clark et al. Oderkerken-Schro Kumar. Dant. important gaps still remain in this body of literature. 1992. These relationships are important for managers to better understand how a successful recovery from a service failure can create customer satisfaction and retention. There are three main dimensions of justice: distributive. 2003. 1998). . 1998. & Walters. 1990). 2004. This is especially salient in a services context because customers already feel vulnerable due to the lack of firsthand experience with the product (Seiders & Berry. & Iacobucci. Daus. & Wagner. ultimately. & Sparks.

they are likely to switch service providers. This dimension is reflective of the timeliness. & Tax. 1995).. . the procedural dimension involves the perceived fairness of the policies by which the outcome was produced. Satisfaction With Service Organization After Service Failure=Recovery Transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction is an important construct for service providers to consider. distributive justice refers to the restitution offered to the customer to recover from the failure. responsiveness.The Impact of Service Fairness 289 procedural. If a customer is dissatisfied with the recovery effort after a service failure.. negotiation. In a service failure context. Procedural Justice Procedural justice refers to the policies and procedures used by the service provider to produce the outcome. Distributive Justice Distributive justice refers to the perceived fairness of the tangible outcome of a dispute. and convenience of the complaint handling process (Blodgett et al.. Fair procedures are consistent. This type of justice perception is based on equity theory which defines a fair exchange as one in which each party to an exchange receives an outcome in proportion to one’s contributions to the exchange (Messick & Cook. and the interactional dimension involves the treatment the customer experiences during the service recovery (Smith et al. 1996). representative of all parties’ interests.. Interactional justice has been found to have the greatest impact on trust in a provider and overall customer satisfaction (Tax et al. 2003). 1983). or decision involving two or more parties (Blodgett. It involves the manner in which the service problem is dealt with by service providers and the specific interactions between the service provider and the customer (McColl-Kennedy & Sparks. 1997). 1997). 1999). & Fry. In fact. The distributive dimension involves the perceived fairness of the outcome. 1997). Customers are generally more dissatisfied with a provider’s failure to recover than by the service failure itself (Berry & Parasuraman. 1991). Hill. 1998) and also on post service failure behavioral intentions than do distributive or procedural justice (Blodgett et al. Karuza. 1980). and are based on accurate information and on ethical standards (Leventhal. unbiased and impartial. Interactional Justice Interactional justice refers to the way in which a customer is treated through interpersonal communication in a service context. service failures and failed recoveries are one of the leading causes of customer switching behavior for service providers (Keaveney. and interactional (Clemmer & Schneider.

290 M.. Blodgett et al. Conversely. & Yadav.. Goodwin & Ross 1992. While some researchers have treated satisfaction as cumulative (Shankar. Erramilli. others have treated it as transaction-specific (Lam. 2007.e. 1990. 2003). High-quality relationships between buyers .. 2004. Oliver & Swan. (b) Procedural justice is positively related to transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction with the service organization after the service failure=recovery encounter.: (a) Distributive justice is positively related to transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction with the service organization after the service failure=recovery encounter. Clark et al. Crosby et al. Schurr. 1999).. Smith & Bolton. In sum: H1: Perceptions of the dimensions of justice are positively related to transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction with the service organization. & Rangaswamy. 2000). Relationship quality is most commonly composed of relationship satisfaction. The current study will empirically test this relationship and consider the effect of transaction-specific postrecovery with the service failure=recovery encounter on relationship quality. De Wulf et al. 2002. Smith. The three dimensions of service fairness have been positively linked to satisfaction with service failure=recovery encounter in the marketing literature (Aurier & Siadou-Martin. 2000.. Boshoff. ‘‘Consumers are likely to comment on particular events of a service transaction (e. Dwyer. 1999. 1989).. 1987). Smith et al. It is commonly thought to be a higher-order construct comprised of several dimensions related to relationship strength (Kumar et al. This research specifically focuses on transactionspecific postrecovery satisfaction. (c) Interactional justice is positively related to transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction with the service organization after the service failure=recovery encounter. 1994). 1990. Tax et al. The broader literature recognizes two types of postrecovery satisfaction: transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction and cumulative satisfaction. Previous research has found that consumers view these two types of satisfaction differently (Bitner & Hubbert.g. 2001).g. trust. 1999). Shankar. McCollough. and commitment (De Wulf et al. 1997. Berry. 2001). Relationship Quality Relationship quality is a composite measure of relationship strength and provides the most insight into exchange performance (Crosby et al. i. when asked about overall satisfaction. & Murthy. & Oh. honesty of the firm)’’ (Jones & Suh... consumers are likely to comment on global impressions and general experiences with the firm (e. 1995. specific employee actions) when asked about transactionspecific satisfaction. N. which is ‘‘the degree to which a customer is satisfied with a service firm’s transaction-specific service recovery effort following a service failure’’ (Boshoff. 1998.

2007. Berry (1996) states that trust is the single most powerful relationship marketing tool available to a company. Palihawadana.. 1992). Commitment is the ‘‘essential ingredient for successful long-term relationships’’ (Gundlach. 1990. 1994). . Zaltman. Achrol. 1994). & Deshpande. Mohr & Nevin. Prior research has linked satisfaction to components of relationship quality (Aurier & Siadou-Martin. Trust Trust is the ‘‘confidence in an exchange partner’s reliability and integrity’’ (Morgan & Hunt. successful interactions’’ (Nicholson. 1994). satisfaction. 1995) and increased relationship benefits (Morgan & Hunt.. In the relationship marketing literature. Therefore. it is hypothesized that transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction with the service failure=service recovery will be positively related to relationship quality. 2007. 1999. 2001). Trust is often an outcome of relationship marketing because by nature trust is a ‘‘cumulative process that develops over the course of repeated. 1995). it is the mediator that has the most influence on companies’ objective performance (Palmatier et al. 1997.The Impact of Service Fairness 291 and sellers bind the members to each other in such a way that they are able to reap benefits beyond the mere exchange of goods and currency (Macneil. & Nieuwlaat. Satisfaction is important for relationships and has been said to be important for increasing cooperation between relationship partners and leading to fewer relationship terminations (Ganesan. Commitment also leads to greater relational social norms and lower opportunistic tendencies (Gundlach et al. Spekman (1988) suggests that trust is the cornerstone of long-term relationships. Compeau.. typically evaluated cumulatively over the history of the exchange’’ (Palmatier et al. cooperation. & Sethi. Kacker. H2: Transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction with the service failure= service recovery will be positively related to relationship quality. 2006). Morgan & Hunt. Doney & Cannon.. Relationship Satisfaction Relationship satisfaction is a ‘‘customer’s affective or emotional state toward a relationship. Commitment Commitment is ‘‘an enduring desire to maintain a valued relationship’’ (Moorman. 1980). Garbarino & Johnson. Shabbir. and purchase intent (Anderson & Narus. Tax et al. It is an indicator of a long-term orientation in the relationship (Van Bruggen. & Mentzer. Trust leads to successful relationships and improvements in communication. 2005). 2006). 1994). & Thwaites. 1998). 1990.

Men. 1988). (a) Distributive justice has a stronger impact for males than for females. Existing literature suggests that men value distributive justice more (McColl-Kennedy et al. The sample consisted of randomly selected consumers in a midsized metropolitan area in the Southeast United States. Meyers-Levy. The respondents were customers at four randomly selected midpriced sit-down restaurants. 1981). 2000. Helgesen. one of the scenarios was chosen at random. Gender schema theory proposes that the phenomenon of sex typing derives from gender-based schematicprocessing (Bem. 2003. 1997. (c) Interactional justice has a stronger impact for females than for males. 2003). Males tend to pursue goals having personal consequences while females tend to emphasize interpersonal affiliation and a fostering of harmonious relations (Meyers-Levy. Rosener. Several midpriced sit-down restaurants in a midsized metropolitan area in the Southeastern United States were considered for inclusion in the survey. 1990) and women value interactional (McColl-Kennedy et al. 2003. 1981).. The respondents were presented with a service failure scenario and then asked to answer questions about their perceptions of service fairness. but a random selection process was utilized to choose the restaurants that would be included in the study. satisfaction and relationship quality. Oakley. The customers were asked to participate in the survey as they left the restaurant. Carlson.. 1990. A total of 450 surveys were given out but 138 completed ones were received. METHODOLOGY Sample and Industry The restaurant industry was used to collect the data for this study. 1993. This means that people process information on the basis of their sex-linked associations.. N. If they agreed.292 M. Iacobucci & Ostrom. (b) Procedural justice has a stronger impact for females than for males. 1989) justice more. in contrast. The Moderating Role of Gender The distinction between male and female serves as a basic organizing principle for every human culture (Bem. H3: Gender moderates the effect of perceived justice on transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction with the service organization such that. resulting in a response rate of . Women want their views heard during service recovery attempts and to be allowed to provide input. do not view voice as important as outcome (McColl-Kennedy et al. Clark et al. 1971) and procedural (Sweeney & McFarlin.

Scored on a 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) scale.74 — .76 .71 . 42% are males. 1988). and 6% did not disclose their gender. Standard Deviations.78 1.001). were randomly distributed among the respondents.90 1.73 X2 — . one emphasizing procedural justice. 1993). and Correlationsa (N ¼ 138) Construct X1 X2 X3 X4 X5 a b Meanb 3. Measures The items used to measure the three dimensions of fairness and transactionspecific postrecovery satisfaction with the service organization after the service failure=recovery encounter were adapted from Smith et al.69 .73 . Smith & Bolton. There were three different scenarios: one emphasizing distributive justice.77 . Respondents were asked to imagine themselves as the person in the scenario and to indicate their perceptions of distributive. Research Design The scenario method was used because it is most appropriate for researching topics related to subjective reactions to procedures (Lind & Tyler. procedural.73 X3 X4 X5 Distribution justice Procedural justice Interactional justice Satisfaction with service Relationship quality — . Smith et al.75 1. Role playing is an ‘‘as-if experiment in which the subject is asked to behave as if he were a particular person in a particular situation’’ (Aronson & Carlsmith. Of the 138 respondents who completed the survey. 26). 2002. but the level and type of perceived justice was varied (see Appendix for scenarios). and interactional justice.23 3.. which illustrate both service failure and service recovery encounters. The most effective type of role play is when the respondent is asked to play himself in a familiar situation (Greenberg & Eskew. The scenario described a situation in which a customer has a negative experience at a restaurant and the customer complains to the server about the problem.66%. The scenarios. and one emphasizing interactional justice. (1999).55 3.The Impact of Service Fairness 293 30. The items used to measure relationship quality were adapted from Garbarino TABLE 1 Descriptive Statistics: Construct Means.70 .66 1. 52% are females. The scenario and questionnaire were pretested with undergraduate business students at a midsized university in the Southeast United States.38 X1 — . . 1999).g. 1968. This is also similar to methods used by prior service fairness researchers (e.51 Standard deviation 1.37 3. Each scenario assumes that the problem is handled.50 3.81 — All correlations are significant (p < .. p.

96. TLI ¼ 0. CFI ¼ 0.50. IFI ¼ 0. Gerbing and Anderson’s (1988) recommendations were used to assess the measurement model. 1989). SRMR ¼ . The results of the hypotheses testing generally support the model. Here.001) with 90 of freedom. These questions were modified to fit the context for the current study.001 level. all the standardized coefficients were significant at the p < . v2 ¼ 202. Discriminant validity was assessed by using the method proposed by Anderson and Gerbing (1988).06.70 (Fornell & Larcker.07. Hypotheses Testing Structural equation modeling with AMOS 6. indicating reliability (Fornell & Larcker. 1988). The measurement model demonstrated a good overall fit. Evidence for discriminant validity is established if the constrained model’s fit (compared with the unconstrained model) is significantly worse using v2 difference test.20 (df ¼ 106).08. are all above 0. N.731.53 (p < .98. . all constructs are reliable since all construct reliabilities are above 0. indicating a good fit. Specifically. the model has strong goodness-of-fit indices: CFI ¼ 0. 1981). Table 2 shows that the t-values for each indicator loadings were significant. Reliability of the scales was assessed by examining the construct reliability of the variables. RMSEA ¼ 0. ANALYSIS AND RESULTS Measure Validation We used confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) for measure validation (Bollen. and establishes convergent validity (Anderson & Gerbing. As Table 2 indicates. In addition.96. which measures the amount of variance captured by a construct’s scale in relation to variance associated with random measurement error. which indicates minimal cross loadings. The measurement model demonstrates convergent validity since each indicator loads significantly on the construct they were supposed to represent. IFI ¼ 0. The hypothesized model showed a chi-square value of 154. Clark et al. and Johnson (1999). 1981). In addition. RMSEA ¼ . demonstrating discriminant validity. Moreover. so no deletions were done. Table 2 shows that all AVEs were larger than 0. the average variance extracted (AVE). Table 1 shows the descriptive statistics of the constructs in our study.50.98. each item was restricted to load on its a priori factor and the factors were allowed to correlate with each other. Table 2 shows the CFA results for measure validation. Table 3 indicates that all v2 difference values were large and significant.294 M.96. the results indicate that distributive justice (b ¼ 0.0 was used to test the hypothesized model. Also. All scales were seven-point Likert-type ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree).

165 0.957 12. I care about the long-term success of this restaurant.81 0.905 0.479 10.003 13.. 1999) The outcome I received was fair.901 0.871 12.880 0. The employees put forth the proper effort into resolving the problem. Relationship Quality: Gabarino and Johnson (1999) Relationship Satisfaction I am highly satisfied with my relationship with this restaurant.89 AVE 0. 1999) Think about both the problem you experienced and the restaurant’s handling of the problem.839 0. Compared to the ideal relationship with a restaurant.556 10.849 12.898 0.96 0. Interactional Justice (Smith et al.088 15. 1999) The employees were appropriately concerned about the problem. 1999) The length of time taken to resolve my problem was appropriate.. The outcome I received was right Procedural Justice (Smith et al.829 0.580 12. I got what I deserved.884 13.638 0.73 0. The employees’ communications with me were appropriate. I feel strongly motivated to continue my relationship with this restaurant Satisfaction with Service Organization (Smith et al.315 0.96 0.221 15. Commitment I feel a sense of belonging to this restaurant.850 - 11.876 Standardized coefficient 295 tvalue 13.060 13.95 0.88 Construct reliability 0.096 12. The restaurant showed adequate flexibility in dealing with the problem.394 ..146 13. This restaurant is reliable.83 0.98 0.890 0.69 0. I am satisfied with my relationship with this restaurant.860 0..84 0.The Impact of Service Fairness TABLE 2 Measurement Model and Confirmatory Factor Analysis Constructs and items (Source of scales in parentheses) Distributive justice (Smith et al. Trust This restaurant performs with integrity. The employees gave me the courtesy I was due.306 12.880 0.959 0. How do you feel about the organization on this particular occasion? Cronbach alpha 0.84 0.788 0.840 0.740 0.516 13. The quality of the relationship with this restaurant is consistently high.

.7 82.15. 1998).234.932. Clark et al. According to this method.10.7 25.4 104.0 35. p < . thus supporting H1 (a–c). Here we expected gender to moderate the relationship between the three dimensions of justice and satisfaction with the service FIGURE 1 A model of the moderating role of gender on the impact of service fairness perceptions on relationship quality.77. and interactional justice (b ¼ 0.9 284. All constructs achieved discriminate validity at p < .001. N.210. Similar studies have also found transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction to mediate this relationship (Tax et al. To test H3 (a–c) multiple-group analyses were used to test the moderating role of gender. .05) between service fairness and relationship quality. The Sobel test for this data indicated that transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction with the service organization is indeed a mediator (p < .42%.6 v2d 5. The Baron and Kenny (1986) method confirmed the Sobel results with a p-value <.9 228.4 Note. two methods were used—the Sobel (1982) method and the Baron and Kenny (1986) method. The Sobel test tells whether a mediator variable significantly carries the influence of an independent variable to a dependent variable.296 M. Our proposed model implies that perceptions of service fairness influence relationship quality via transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction with the service organization. t ¼ 2. To test this mediation in the model. t ¼ 12.2 237. t ¼ 2.9 294.05) all significantly influence transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction with service organization. We also found support for H2 (b ¼ 0. TABLE 3 Discriminant Validity Results Inter-factor Correlations Distributive justice Distributive justice Distributive justice Procedural justice Procedural justice Interactional justice ! ! ! ! ! ! Procedural justice Interactional justice Relationship quality Interactional justice Relationship quality Relationship quality Base model v2 207. procedural justice (b ¼ 0. p < .1 496. p < .67. suggesting mediation. the percentage of the total effect that is mediated is 40.05 also. t ¼ 2.05).6 306.01).001) since the results show that service fairness has a significant effect on relationship quality. p < .

So H3 was partially supported. service providers can better handle service failure and recovery situations in the marketplace. p < .495. the results show that both males (b ¼ 0.001) and females (b ¼ 0. p < . p < . This is important for service providers to be able to retain customers and keep them satisfied. (2003) study found that both females and males respond positively to being given a voice in the service process.The Impact of Service Fairness 297 organization (see Figure 1). t ¼ 3.211. We found support for the positive relationships between the three components of service fairness and satisfaction with the service organization.61. we split the sample into males and females and then a two-group structural model was used to assess the effect of gender. (2003) we did not find gender differences in the effect of procedural justice. (2003) in that females respond more to interactional justice while males respond more to distributive justice. The results show a difference based on customer gender. Our results were partially consistent with McColl-Kennedy et al. However. These findings have important implications for service providers. DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS In this study. we examined the moderating role of gender on the specific dimensions of justice.469. while female customers are more concerned with the interpersonal communication (interactional justice). thus supporting H1(a and c). In addition.299. Service providers should be aware that male customers are more concerned with the outcome (distributive justice).193. Based on these results. However. We also found a positive relationship between transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction with the service organization and relationship quality. service providers with limited resources may be able to focus more on some types of justice and not . Finally. than in females (b ¼ 0.114. p < . p < . service providers can better serve their customers and have a better chance to enhance the quality of the relationship. To test this.001). t ¼ 2. By knowing this.65. we set out to investigate the impact of service fairness perceptions on the customer’s transaction-specific postrecovery satisfaction with the service organization and eventually. t ¼ 1. a point we discuss further in the future research section. t ¼ 3. contrary to McColl-Kennedy et al.001) than in males (b ¼ .05) whiles interactional justice (H3c) has a greater impact in females (b ¼ 0. The McColl-Kennedy et al.65. ns).05) find procedural justice to be equally important. t ¼ 6. This difference in findings could be due to the different industries chosen or the different samples used in the two studies.57. Another implication of this study is that.395. the service provider=customer relationship quality. The results show that distributive justice (H3a) has a stronger influence in males (b ¼ 0. we found that gender moderates the relationship between distributive and interactional justice and transactionspecific postrecovery satisfaction with the service organization. t ¼ 2.01.

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The manager overhears the conversation and offers her sincere apology for the unfriendly service you received from the server. You alert the manager about the problem and he quickly refills your glass. 2. After you are seated. but you decide on something anyway.302 M. N. You and your family are eating dinner at a restaurant. The server apologizes for the problem and offers you a free dessert of your choice. APPENDIX Scenarios 1. After a while your drink glass is empty. the server says ‘‘What do you want?’’ You think he is a little rude. The server takes your drink order and quickly brings your drink. The server says he will be right back. Your drink order is taken. but does not seem happy about it. You really don’t want anything else. The server takes your order and then tells you that the item you ordered is unavailable. He does not ask you if you need anything periodically or thank you for your business. but you decide what you want for dinner and place your order. you are seated and promptly greeted by the server. When you get to the restaurant. you ask the server to refill it and he does. . but he never comes. 3. The server then takes your food order. Imagine that you go out to eat on a Friday night. You carefully consider your food options and decide on just the right thing. He does not even tell you to have a nice day. When your glass is empty. You have just been seated at a restaurant and are given a menu. You order something else for dinner which is also unavailable. Eventually your food is served and you ask for a drink refill. Clark et al. The server never comes to refill it or to ask you if you need anything.