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JOSM 20,4

Exploring cultural differences in customer forgiveness behavior
Haithem Zourrig
´ du Que ´bec a ` Montre ´al, Montre ´al, Canada and Universite ´al, Montre ´ al, Canada HEC Montre

Received 11 March 2008 Revised 2 February 2009 Accepted 11 April 2009

Jean-Charles Chebat
´al, Montre ´ al, Canada, and HEC Montre

Roy Toffoli
´ du Que ´bec a ` Montre ´ al, Montre ´al, Canada Universite
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a deeper insight on the psychological mechanism of customer forgiveness viewed from a cross cultural perspective. Design/methodology/approach – Drawing on the cognitive appraisal theory, this paper relates forgiveness cognitive, emotional and motivational patterns with differences in cultural values’ orientations. Findings – The insights from this paper suggest that idiocentric customers are more likely to adopt problem solving strategies when they decide to forgive, whereas allocentric ones tend to regulate their emotional responses to their environment such as expressing benevolence and goodwill, as they are more sensitive to maintaining connectedness within group members. Research limitations/implications – Albeit conceptual and exploratory in nature, this paper is intended as a beginning for further empirical validation and theoretical refinement. The paper contends that forgiveness is a dynamic, interactive process that should be investigated with different sequential orders. Furthermore, as customer forgiveness is related to time, longitudinal studies are more appropriate to test the proposed model. Practical implications – Firms serving international markets as well as multiethnic ones would have advantage to understand cultural differences in shaping customer forgiveness. This is relevant to conceive efficient marketing strategies aiming at managing interpersonal conflicts with wronged customers and promoting benevolence and goodwill. Originality/value – Little is known about customer forgiveness. This paper adds a new insight by examining cultural effects on forgiveness process, allowing for a more comprehensive view of customer forgiveness triggers. Keywords Customer satisfaction, Customer services quality, Consumer behaviour, Culture Paper type Conceptual paper

Journal of Service Management Vol. 20 No. 4, 2009 pp. 404-419 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1757-5818 DOI 10.1108/09564230910978502

Introduction Prior research on service recovery has suggested that redress efforts such as apology, staff solving, explanation, and refund, are effective in restoring fairness (Kelly et al., 1993; Hoffman et al., 1995, etc.) and whereby in resolving interpersonal conflicts with betrayed customers. For instance, Folkes (1984) noted that when apologies are given, they reduce blame and punishment and increase liking and forgiveness. Even so, apologizing for one’s wrongdoing may not always be perceived as trustworthy and sincere and therefore will not result in a resolution of an interpersonal conflict (Takaku et al., 2001).

In this regard. 2002). 2002). 2005). On one hand. we propose that customer forgiveness is more relevant to complete the conflict resolution process. This finding emphasizes the urge to re-establish emotional bonds with an offended customer as a path in regaining a trustworthy relationship. Accordingly. 2005). 1998). anger and frustration) and their replacement with positive emotions (e. Fu et al. 2001).g. 62 percent wanted to get a chance to vent their anger and to tell their side of the story. Hareli and Eisikovits (2006) showed that the effectiveness of an apology in achieving the resolution of a conflict depends not only on verbal and non-verbal components included in the apologetic message but also on the displayed emotions when giving apology. In fact. has been ignored by service providers (Chebat and Slusarczyk. and wonder if these findings are relevant for non-western cultures. although it may enhance firm reputation as well as employees’ well-being (Stone. we argue that conflict resolution process should go beyond recovery efforts in a sense that it should insure the relinquishment of outrage and open the door for reconciliation. Takaku et al. In this line. redress efforts need to be most effective in helping customers “recover” from the negative emotions caused by transgressing service failures (Smith and Bolton. especially if the perpetrator firm intends working through failures. the emotional reactions to recovery efforts have been neglected in the literature.g. (2001) noted that individuals from Eastern cultures ( Japanese) may be more forgiving than individuals from Western cultures (Americans). For these customers satisfaction with the recovery efforts does not mean merely receiving a “free gift” or “extra perks” but mainly having an opportunity to ventilate their negative emotions as a way to free themselves of extreme anger (Spencer. given that it emphasizes the neutralization of negative emotions (e. marketers have paid little attention to customer forgiveness. this ambiguity around the forgiveness nature is more obvious with contradictory findings in literature. When asking customers about their dissatisfaction with service providers such as cell-phones and credit cards companies. despite significant advances in recovery research. In fact. as their emotional responses. remained still unsatisfied. as major works on this issue have focused solely on the behavioral outcomes of service recovery such as word of mouth (Swanson and Kelley. A 2003 Customer Care Alliance survey conducted with 1. there is a serious limitation with major studies on forgiveness: most of them have focused on western samples. forgiveness has the potential to accelerate the restoration of a strained relationship between a service provider and a customer (Tsarenko and Gabbot. 2006). examining cultural influences on the forgiveness process may allow for a more complete account for Exploring cultural differences 405 . On the other hand. Schwartz (1994) found no differences in forgiveness between the Western (Americans) and non-Western (Indians) samples. Unfortunately. 2001) and re-patronage (Smith and Bolton. In this regard. the survey reveals that among the betrayed customers. it may not only restore the relationship to its original state but also enhance the quality of the commercial relationship and encourage positive word of mouth (Chung and Beverland. Therefore. who have been offered a service recovery. 2003). Moreover. following the recovery efforts. (2004) noted that major works on forgiveness are based on research conducted within western cultures (McCullough. Notwithstanding the potential benefits of forgiveness within the business context. This may explain why many customers.097 American households echoes this need. empathy and compassion). Therefore.

1999). should take into account cultural differences within their markets. In a service context.. the manuscript is organized in the following fashion: first. leading to emotions elicitation and resulting in motivational outcomes. especially in a context of globalization. customer forgiveness is an intriguing area in need of further research. where firms may serve international markets as well as multiethnic markets. and give-up blame and fault-finding. which eventually entails neutralization or replacement of all or part of those negative emotions with positive emotions (Worthington and Wade. Chung and Beverland (2005) stated that future research should be conducted to develop a conceptual model of the customer forgiveness process. more effective tactics may be adopted by business firms to promote forgiveness between the involved parties and to restore and strengthen the relationship. scholars have used other derived terms that fall under the core concept of forgiveness namely “willingness to forgive” . Obviously. the forgiveness concept is clearly defined as well as its dimensions. This gives rise to a subsequent affective reaction toward the perpetrator firm implying an emotional juxtaposition of positive emotions against negative unforgiveness ones. Thus. paving the way for more universal theories unbiased by cultural perspective.4 406 the triggers of forgiveness. tactics that firms adopt to promote forgiveness in resolving conflicts with wronged customers. followed by a recovery effort. affective. the literature of cultural psychology focusing on core concepts of collectivism (allocentrism) and individualism (idiocentrism) is reviewed. 1984) works. 1999) against the offending service provider. 1999. a letting-go of negative emotions associated with the service failure and a change of becoming less motivated to harm the service provider. 2004) of the offense and to make benevolent attributions that is to perceive the transgressing failure as external. Third. If the process of mediating conflict is better understood across cultures. Hence. the potential effects of cultural values’ orientations on customer forgiveness are discussed. we develop a set of propositions and we conclude with some research avenues for further research. Tsarenko and Gabbott (2006) acknowledged the need for cross cultural studies on customer forgiveness and call upon researchers to investigate the role of culture in shaping forgiveness. Receiving a service recovery leads the offended customer to reduce the perceived severity (Dunning et al.JOSM 20. we adapt the cognitive-emotive process model to customer forgiveness context and extend it by including the idiocentric/allocentric tendency as a moderator variable. Based on Lazarus et al. Worthington and Wade. Second. More explicitly. forgiveness is a process starting with a cognitive reaction. less controllable and less stable (Takaku. As we proceed. This results in a motivational response. Chung and Beverland (2005) conceptualized customer forgiveness as a process following a service failure and involving: a cognitive effort of reframing the transgression. when the offended customer deliberately forgoes opportunities of punishment and harm infliction (Bradfield and Aquino. Forgiveness conceptualization Forgiveness is a complex process involving: cognitive. this paper discusses how the forgiveness phenomenon may be viewed as a coping process. (1991. the process is initiated by a transgressing service failure. 2001). In addition to the forgiveness conceptualization as a process. In addition. In this regard. and motivational responses to a transgressing event. Accordingly. To address this shortcoming.

The former refers to a predisposition of being open to engaging in the process of releasing resentment about interpersonal transgressions (DeShea. cognitive appraisal (primary and secondary). and reconciliation (Rye et al.. It opens the door to a possible reconciliation (Barnett and Youngberg. but forgiveness can occur without reconciliation (Orcutt et al. the offended customer mentally contemplates the wrongdoing and reframes the transgressing failure in a positive and purposeful way (i. forgiveness is voluntarily initiated by the offended part without a necessary interest to restore or to continue with the relationship between the two parts. 2006). 2001. Exploring cultural differences 407 . At a first stage (primary appraisal). Tsarenko and Gabbott (2006) have emphasized the emotional aspect of customer forgiveness over the cognitive and motivational patterns. In addition. 2003). interactional unfairness: treating a customer in a rude manner) and service recovery efforts (e. condoning. many scholars in the field of psychology agree that forgiveness should not be confused with other concepts such as pardoning. “condoning” (which implies a justification of the offense). “forgetting” (which implies that the memory of the offense has simply decayed or slipped out of conscious awareness). forgiveness is not an end in itself but a means to reconciliation. 1984). whereas planning or taking action are coping strategies that refer to a problem-focused coping behavior (Strelan and Covic. we develop a cognitive emotive coping model that depicts how customer forgiveness may be viewed as a coping process.g. Fincham (2000) argues that reconciliation involves the restoration of the violated relationship and requires the goodwill of both parts. scholars agree that forgiveness is distinct from “reconciliation”. However. reducing the significance. 2006). whereas. 2005).(DeShea. 2003). while forgiveness as a coping strategy means a specific action or effort undertaken by the offended part in endorsing a coping behavior. venting emotions and avoidance are coping strategies of forgiveness that fall under the emotion-focused coping behavior. without providing an explicative model.e. 1999). and “denying” (which implies an unwillingness to perceive the harmful injuries that one has incurred). denying.g. For example. In other words. At a subsequent stage (secondary appraisal). forgiveness is a prerequisite for reconciliation.. 2004). Notwithstanding the terminological issue and the nature of the process that shapes forgiveness. that aims at restoring a psychological comfort. apologizing) serve as an input into ongoing. forgetting. intends an adaptive effort to cope with person’s environment. It suggests that a transgressing service failure (e. “excusing” (which implies that the offender has a good reason for committing the offense). Strelan and Covic. forgiveness as a coping behavior (presented under problem-focused coping and emotion focused-coping). cognitive appraisal process. Figure 1 depicts a model of customer forgiveness process. Dimakatso (2003) noted that forgiveness should be differentiated from “pardoning” (which is a legal term). Thus. excusing. For instance. forgiveness as a “coping behavior” (Tsarenko and Gabbott. For example. the importance and the magnitude of an offense on his well-being). attempts to advance this body of knowledge by explaining the achievement of forgiveness through the interplays between three process components namely. emotions and coping behavior. Forgiveness viewed through the cognitive emotive coping model Drawing up on the cognitive appraisal theory (Lazarus and Folkman. Our work. In a recent study. 2006) and forgiveness as a “coping strategy” (Bradfield and Aquino.

goodwill and sympathy. empathy sympathy compassion P1a P2a. he may rationalize that the transgressing service failure is not enough severe to justify that he deserves a negative reaction. In weighing different options to react to a stressful encounter. In the forgiveness context.e. • Seeking some form of redress. Customer forgiveness process model Reducing offense significance and importance Giving up blaming and fault finding Forgiveness copings the customer will forgo his right of justice (i. leaving behind worries and rumination about the experienced transgression is a significant challenge for a betrayed customer (Maltby et al. 2b. to grow and improve (Ferguson et al.Controllability (i. 1984).Accountability (i. 2d Negative emotions relinquishment and positive ones elicitation Figure 1. challenge implies moving beyond an experienced unfairness to viewing the ultimate response to the perpetrator firm as an opportunity for a relationship. • Working out “what to do next” -Emotion focused strategies: • Emotional containment: feeling confident to get over the hurt and displaying positive emotions. 1c Allocentrism/idiocentrism P2 Emotions Negative emotions e. 2007). In fact. working out with the offender what to do next.Stability (i.JOSM 20.g.. whether the firm was responsible for the injury) .. if the wrongdoing was under or over the control of the firm) . In this light. For instance. but rather. In turn. 3b Recovery effort Positive emotions e. or that the wrongdoing has little impact on him either because it does not result in a great deal of inconvenience (especially if the service provider has attempt to recover the wrongdoing) and/or because the transgressing service failure does not occur so frequently that he will obsessively worry about. 2c. 1984)..e. emotional containment)..g. anger irritation frustration P3 Coping behaviors 408 Transgressing service failure Challenge primary appraisal Offense severity/ magnitude Offense frequency Forgiveness -Problem focused strategies: • Discussing with the offender what happened..e. if the wrongdoing has or not occurred in the past) P1b.4 P1 Challenge Appraisal Challenge secondary appraisal . P3a. a customer searches to understand if the wrongdoing was under or over the control of the . the fact that he continues to ruminate about it. relinquishment of negative emotions and elicitation of positive ones) and impact on coping outcome (i. give-up blaming and fault finding) as he realizes that the perpetrator employee did not mean offending him since he had apparently an intent to repair the failure.e. 1999). an offended customer may identify the source of his stress not as the initial transgression.e. • Deciding to leave voluntarily a relationship or a situation • Expressing benevolence. Challenge primary appraisal: reframing the transgression Challenge is an appraisal of an opportunity for meaningful mastery or gain (Lazarus and Folkman. Challenge secondary appraisal: give-up blaming and fault finding Secondary appraisal is a judgment about what might and can be done (Lazarus and Folkman.e. this will induce an emotional state change (i.

the more forgiving an offended customer will be. which leads to a neutralization or replacement of all or part of those negative emotions with positive emotions (Worthington and Wade. Such change of emotional state is likely to motivate the offended customer to forgive the wrongdoing. he will be unlikely to be resentful against the firm (Folkes.firm (i. controllability). when a service provider makes an appropriate recovery. There is little evidence in the literature about the relationship between the willingness to forgive and the stability of an injury. 2006). Wade and Worthington. the less stable the wrongdoing the more likely an offended part is to contemplate (Takaku et al. If a transgression is appraised as a challenge. customer’s negative emotions may be reduced while positive ones may be increased. 2004). solving the problem. 2003). Following this rationale. whether the firm was (or not) responsible for the injury (i.g. Overall. most of service recovery research has usually focused on customers’ negative emotions (e. to the extent that forgiveness is referred to as an emotional juxtaposition of positive other-oriented emotions against negative ones. The few existing works showed a negative relationship between the stability dimension and forgiveness intention. accountability) and if the wrongdoing has occurred in the past (i. the less a victim blames the offender the more likely he or she is to contemplate forgiveness (Bradfield and Aquino. 1999). it has been accepted.e. Controllability refers to the degree of volitional influence one has over a cause (So. 2001). reducing its impact). Exploring cultural differences 409 . For example. empathy). Literature on forgiveness showed that blame attributions is negatively correlated with forgiveness cognitions. 2002). which eventually results in give-up blame and fault finding (Tsarenko and Gabbott.e. In fact. If a customer perceives that the service failure was not under the control of the service provider. Accountability refers to the assignment of the blame to the wrongdoer. compassion. that forgiveness is associated with positive emotions such as empathy. 2001. in envisioning forgiveness. reducing negative emotions such as anger and frustration and displaying positive emotions such as empathy). 2004). 2006)..g. taking him responsible for the experienced injury.g. Forgiveness as coping behaviors Lazarus and Folkman (1984) distinguished between two forms of coping behavior namely: (1) problem-focused coping that is directed at managing or altering the problem causing the distress (e. 1999).. sympathy (Worthington et al. 2005). Stability refers to the temporal nature of a cause that may be relatively enduring or change from situation to situation and from moment to moment (So. In service context. an offended customer may realize the lack of controllability and accountability of the service firm for negative outcomes. one can argue that the less control a firm has over a wrongdoing. 1984). since service failures were often associated with negative valences (Bougie et al. stability) (Shteynberg. the secondary appraisal may shape empathic or conciliatory emotional responses (Strelan and Covic.e.g.. anger) and neglected positive ones (e. and (2) emotion-focused coping that is directed at regulating emotional response to the problem (e. Emotions: relinquishment of negative ones and elicitation of other positive ones Emotions are at the core concept of forgiveness.

and duties than do idiocentrics. Another limitation. 1997). A potential moderator allocentrism/idiocentrism In marketing literature. these differences in values’ orientation toward group members may have great implications not only on how individuals define themselves but also on how they behave. Aaker and Maheswaran (1997) claim that behavior of members of individualistic cultures (idiocentrics) tends to be motivated by personal preferences and inner drives. 1989). leading to a greater consideration of norms. For instance. 1980) was recognized to be the most central concept of cultural variability. In this regard. whereas allocentrism refers to person-level collectivism. 2002). we attempt to extend the study model to other cultural contexts by taking into account the effect of the idiocentrism/allocentrism trait that may potentially moderate the relationships between the appraisal process and emotional compartment and the relationship between. while behavior of members of collectivist cultures (allocentrics) tends to be more influenced by preferences and needs of close others. the individualism-collectivism paradigm (Hofstede.JOSM 20. Alternatively forgiveness may be viewed as an emotion-focused coping when it is concerned primarily with the internalized emotional responses to a transgression such as reducing anger and frustration resentments. allocentrics tend to emphasize the interdependent self more often. In the next part of this paper.4 410 Strelan and Covic (2006) advocate that forgiveness may be viewed as emotion-focused coping as well as problem focused coping. 2001). and elucidated emotion and coping behavior. Given that in a same culture customers may not always behave in a strict individualist or collectivist manner. 1994). regarding Hofstede’s dimensions.. However. personal needs and rights than do allocentrics. Thus. They support that forgiveness may be conceptualized as a problem – focused coping strategy when it is concerned with the problem that caused the stress. the terms “idiocentrism” and “allocentrism” have been used to designate the individual-level orientations that reflect these cultural values (Triandis. is related to the fact that national cultural values are not stable over time. scholars argue that the process used in identifying such dimensions is based solely on a subjective and arbitrary aggregation of items. deciding to leave a relationship or a situation. obligations. that neglects the variability between individuals who may have different even opposite cultural values (Fernandez et al. leading to a greater consideration of attitudes. More specifically. and are expected to change due to the global influences that affect cultures. idiocentrism refers to person-level individualism. . idiocentrics tend to sample the independent self more often. On the other hand. although these changes are believed to be slow (Sivakumar and Nakata. This misuse results in cases where samples of subjects from a given culture yield different dimensions and scores (Schwartz. They cling to in-group similarity and often show little or no distinction between in-group and personal goals. for example discussing with the offender what happened and/or seeking some form of redress. or simply working out what to do next. several criticisms have been raised regarding the conceptualization and methodological approaches used in developing individualism-collectivism dimensions (MacSweeney. Manifestly.

God has a special plan for me through this difficult experience). and may have a greater willingness to adapt themselves to the situation. are more concerned about maintaining a good relationship with others (relationship motive) and on the norm in that particular situation (normative motive). For example. with respect to independent persons (Americans). previous studies reported significant differences in ways whereby people assess an event. it has been recognized that allocentrics see the environment as fixed and themselves as changeable.g. we can expect that in the primary appraisal stage allocentric customers may reframe a transgressing service failure in a more positive way. idiocentric customers may evaluate the transgressing encounter in an ego-defensive way as they expect that their environment will change to fill their Exploring cultural differences 411 . depending on their values orientation. In contrast. This finding is explained by Chun et al. while idiocentrics see themselves as stable and the environment as changeable (Wang et al. (2001) suggest that individuals from collectivistic cultures may be more forgiving than individuals from individualistic cultures. However. (2001) advocate that. interdependent persons. More interestingly. (Japanese). in deciding to forgive an offender. as they are more flexible. The authors found that despite religious. (2006) suggest that forgiveness is a universal concept across cultures. Outside the marketing literature. Takaku et al. forgiveness is likely to be driven by a concern about justice and fairness (justice motive). Overall. Bjorck et al. By contrast. as interdependent persons are sensitive to social bonds. In this vein. (2006) who argue that religiosity and spirituality have a greater influence on how people may assess an event in a more positive and purposeful light (e. 2004). than do idiocentric customers. magnitude and significance to themselves in a relationship with their environment. Therefore. and more concerned about maintaining a good relationship with others.. according to their cultural values. 2004). Cultural differences in reframing a transgression (challenge primary appraisal) Little is known about whether challenge appraisal (e. people may possess different motives in forgiving others. forgiveness patterns do not differ significantly among US and Indian samples. For instance.Forgiveness process across cultures Examining the relationship between forgiveness and differences in cultural values’ orientations is relevant. it could be expected that they will be more inclined to restore social relationships that have been betrayed in the past. and are more concerned about protecting their self welfare and one’s rights over those of group are likely to have less interest in restoring social relationship and to forgive. Neto and Mullet (2004) and Kadiangandu et al. cultural and linguistic differences.g. the core concept of appraisal is that persons evaluate and interpret an encounter in terms of its importance. This finding was explained by the possible effect of globalization on Indian culture. the more interdependent individuals are. (2001) attest that Korean and Filipino-American students appraised stressors as more challenging than Euro-American students did. through forgiveness. On the other hand. Accordingly. independent persons who have less attachment to the group. the higher their propensity to forgive. Suchday et al. because the way through which one views one self in relation to others is an important determinant of willingness to forgive (Neto and Mullet. leaving behind worries and rumination about a transgression) may vary across cultures.

P1. (2001) revealed that compared with independent persons (Americans).. one can argue that.e.JOSM 20. With respect to the stability dimension. 2006). 1992. allocentric customers give higher score to the stability dimension over the accountability one and at a lesser extent the controllability dimension. 1996) have showed that collectivistic cultures discourage the expression of negative emotions due to the disruption of interpersonal relations..g. Likewise. give-up blame and fault finding (i.. the greater allocentric customer’s tendency to forgive will be. allocentric customers assess the encounter more positively than do idiocentric customers. the less stable the injury. P1c. bad luck.4 requirements. circumstantial events such as a bad weather) rather than to themselves or the wrongdoer. 412 Cultural differences in give-up blaming (challenge secondary appraisal) Literature on cross-cultural psychology has recognized that attribution process is impacted by differences in cultural values (Betancourt et al. Positive and negative emotions across cultures Cross cultural studies on emotions (Stephan et al. one can argue that when appraising a stressful encounter. Challenging primary appraisal effects on the secondary appraisal is higher for allocentric customers than idiocentric ones. 2004). shifting of blame to external forces) may also be influenced by culture. In claiming so. the following propositions are offered: P1b. the less stable the cause of a service failure over time. Cultural differences in accountability dimension. as such attempt is strongly related to a lack of accountability and controllability as well as the temporal nature of the wrongdoing. Japanese ones were more likely to make attributions about a stressful event to external chance factors. In contrast the controllability dimension seems to be the main trigger of give-up blaming for idiocentric customers. interdependent ones (Japanese) are more likely to refer to the stability of the wrongdoing in deciding to forgive an offender rather than the controllability of the wrongdoing. Cultural differences in stability and controllability dimensions. For example. Kawanishi (1995) showed that compared to Euro-American students. In this light. From this P1a flows: P1a. and therefore will have a greater willingness to give-up blame and fault finding than do idiocentrics ones. Hence. In contrast with people from individualistic cultures. While individualistic cultures encourage the expression of . Fujimoto and Hartel. When give-up blame and fault finding. idiocentric customers give higher importance to the controllability dimension over the accountability one and at a lesser extent the stability dimension. allocentric customers will have a greater tendency to attribute the responsibility of the wrongdoing to external forces (e. When faced with a transgressing service encounter. When give-blame and fault finding. the more tendency to forgive will be. those from collectivistic ones rely more on external locus of control to an extent that they believe being at the mercy of powerful forces of luck or fate (Chun et al. and thus will reframe the transgression in a less positive manner than do allocentric customers. Takaku et al.

idiocentric customers may seek compromise and accommodation as an attempt to manage the problem and to reduce its impact. socially appropriate and reciprocated by both family and strangers. are more predictive of forgiveness than positive emotions. both negative and positive emotional reactions were found to be predictors of the forgiveness. With respect to persons with interdependent self-construal ( Japanese). on coping styles. one can argue that for persons with interdependent self-construals forgiveness is mainly determined by the stability dimension and the negative emotional reaction: the less stable the cause.negative emotions that enhance in some way the individual’s sense of distinctiveness and independence. it is fair to assume that in the forgiveness process. the less negative the emotional reaction and the greater the tendency to forgive. the more people will forgive the wrongdoer. the less negative emotional reaction experienced toward the offender. are more predictive of forgiveness than negative emotions. Positive emotions experienced by idiocentric customers. P2. the more likely the injured part is to forgive the offender. (2001) found that forgiveness is mainly driven by negative emotions. it is plausible to assume that. unlike allocentric customers. In so claiming. However. Accordingly. P2d. regarding the independent self-construal person (American). the causes of the wrongdoing. positive emotions are expressed outwardly the same way regardless of differences in cultural contexts in such way that they appears enjoyable. they may discuss with the offender firm what happened and decide to work together what to do next and may seek some form of redress. Negative emotions experienced by allocentric customers. Furthermore. P2b. Cross (1995) measured independent and interdependent self-construal in Asian and American graduate students and found that independence predicted the use of direct coping (or problem-focused coping) while interdependence did not. Thus. while people from interdependent Eastern cultures are said to prefer emotion-focused coping. idiocentric ones are more likely to adopt a problem-focused strategy rather than an emotion focused strategy. However. allocentric customers may seek avoidance when . From this P2c. P2d. The impact of challenging secondary appraisal on emotions is higher for allocentric customers than idiocentric ones. The less stable the cause. the less negative emotional reaction. However. Hardie et al. In summarizing. and P2 flow: P2c. the less negative the emotional reaction and the greater the propensity to forgive. the more positive emotional reaction. forgiveness is shaped through the controllability dimension and/or negative emotional reaction: the more uncontrollable the cause. The more uncontrollable. From this P2a and P2b flow: P2a. Exploring cultural differences 413 Forgiveness coping across cultures When investigating the effect of differences in cultural values’ orientations. the less negative the emotional reaction of idiocentric customers will be. Takaku et al. the less negative the emotional reaction of allocentric customers to a wrongdoing will be. for individuals with independent self-construals. In contrast. (2006) noted that individuals from independent Western cultures prefer problem-focused coping.

in case of persons with independent self-construal. and work with the service provider to move beyond their anger. idiocentric customers seek a compromise or an accommodation. The effects of emotions (negative/positive) on the willingness to forgive is stronger for allocentric customers than for idiocentric ones. knowing that. 414 Conclusions Customer forgiveness behavior is an infancy area in need for more investigation. In this vein one can argue that in contrast with allocentric customers. experienced emotions and coping patterns of forgiveness process. Theoretical contributions There are notable differences in emotional mechanisms that shape forgiveness. allocentric customers prefer to avoid or to leave voluntarily a relationship with a service provider. so they may discuss with the offender firm what happened. Managerial implications Although forgiveness exists in different cultures. understanding cultural variability within styles of forgiveness is a prerequisite for service managers in restoring a weakened customer relationship. They may also vent emotional containment as they feel confident to get over the hurt and express benevolence and goodwill. allocentric customers tend to regulate their emotional responses to the environment by expressing benevolence and goodwill as they feel confident that they can get over the hurt. In fact. P3b. forgiveness is not yet fully understood as its triggers were mostly investigated within a western culture context. Regarding coping behavior. absorbing customer anger may not be sufficient in case of idiocentric customers to promote forgiveness as it must be followed by positive emotions arising. Hence. by seeking a compromise or accommodation. reducing negative emotions has showed to be the main driver of forgiveness rather than positive emotions arising. in contrast with allocentric customers.4 deciding to leave voluntarily the relationship. For example. the following propositions are offered: P3a. idiocentric ones view themselves as stable and their environment as changeable. Accordingly. handling customer emotions requires specific and thoughtful actions in order to be successful in achieving forgiveness. independent persons are likely to prefer direct coping rather than indirect coping. rather than avoiding or leaving the relationship. the process leading to reconciliation is not universal. However. especially following a service failure. In deciding to forgive.JOSM 20. In deciding to forgive. For example. P3. Conversely. This suggests that idiocentric customers are more likely to adopt problem solving strategies when they decide to forgive. it takes positive emotions in addition to negative emotions reducing to achieve forgiveness. rather than seeking a compromise or an accommodation. The current paper provides extensive evidence on the role of culture in shaping customer forgiveness and suggests a conceptual framework based on understanding cultural differences on the cognitive appraisal. Thus. service managers . otherwise they will leave voluntarily the relationship without offending the service provider. for persons with interdependent self-construal.

Conversely. interactive process. Limitations and further research Albeit preliminary. Exploring cultural differences 415 . service managers should be sensitive to the fact that in deciding to forgive. it will be more appropriate to focus on the lack of controllability when providing explanations and negotiating with these customers. to be more effective in managing interpersonal conflicts and to avoid reciprocity and escalation. managers should be mindful that ways of approaching and handling conflicts. the former privilege emotional containment. This may be helpful in identifying early patterns of forgiveness and in making contingency plans. some works (Ortony et al. individuals may move back and forwards between components rather than in a linear fashion” (Strelan and Covic. In this light. Given that forgiveness “is a dynamic. Moreover.g. local business with multiethnic markets as well as multinational firms that operates in foreign cultural systems should be aware about the effect of host culture on promoting forgiveness. organization’s harmony) and to a lesser extent to justice motives (rights reestablishment). Likewise. this will enhance our understanding about the forgiveness process. when dealing with allocentric customers the negotiator should mainly stress on the instability of the wrongdoing. especially in a context of interpersonal conflict. across cultural contexts that consider different sequential order. In this light it will be salient to test competing models. to achieve forgiveness. managers’ efforts in resolving a conflict should be process-oriented for the former and goal-oriented for the latter. This may enhance their willingness to forgive a wrongdoing. Overall.should improve the perception of employees’ responsiveness when dealing with these customers. acknowledging that to give-up blaming. whereas other works (Zajonc and Markus. For instance. it is obvious that managers would have advantages to understand differences in cultural values’ orientations to adopt efficient strategies in conflict resolution. expressing benevolence and goodwill (emotion-focused coping). this research identifies some important research avenues that could be pursued to advance this work. in business-to-business context. service managers should be aware about the requirement of not shaming any part involved in the forgiveness process and the need to save the group harmony along the negotiation process.. social rules and cultural norms) and relationship motives (e. in contrast with the cognitive-emotive theory (Lazarus.g. idiocentric customers refer primarily to the controllability of the wrongdoing. whereas the latter prefer looking for accommodation and compromise. allocentric negotiators refer primarily to normative (e. and working through the failure (problemfocused coping). 1991) arguing that emotions mediate the link between cognitive appraisal and coping behaviors. the interplays between the model compartments should be tested with different sequential orders in many cultural contexts. 1988) suggest that the cognitive appraisal may co-occur with experienced emotions. Further. 1984) challenge these views and support the predominance of emotions over cognition. In such case. More especially. 2006). may depend also on negotiator’s cultural values orientations. For instance. as allocentrics and idiocentrics have different styles of coping behaviors when forgiving a wrongdoing. we believe that training programs should incorporate simulations and play roles’ exercises about interpersonal conflicts involving offended customers and sales persons with different cultural background.

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