Considered Service-specific journals were Journal of Service Research, Journal of Service Management, Journal of Services Marketing, Journal of Service Theory and Practice, Service Industries Journal, Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, and Service Science.
For more information about the alert system methodology go here
For all previous alerts go here
Čaić, M., G. Odekerken-Schröder and D. Mahr (2018): Service robots: value co-creation and co-destruction in elderly care networks, Journal of Service Management, 29(2), pp.178-205
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to investigate the potential roles for service robots (i.e. socially assistive robots) in value networks of elderly care. Taking an elderly person’s perspective, it defines robot roles according to their value co-creating/destroying potential for the elderly user (i.e. focal actor), while acknowledging consequences for a network of users around the elderly (i.e. network actors).Design/methodology/approach This qualitative, interpretative study employs in-depth phenomenographic interviews, supported by generative cards activities (i.e. Contextual Value Network Mapping), to elicit an elderly person’s tacit knowledge and anticipate the effects of introducing an automated actor on institutionalized value co-creation practices.Findings The proposed typology identifies six roles of socially assistive robots in an elderly person’s value network (enabler, intruder, ally, replacement, extended self, and deactivator) and links them to three health-supporting functions by robots: safeguarding, social contact, and cognitive support.Research limitations/implications Elderly people have notable expectations about the inclusion of a socially assistive robot as a new actor in their value networks. The identified robot roles inform service scholars and managers about both the value co-destruction potential that needs to be avoided through careful designs and the value co-creation potential that should be leveraged.Originality/value Using network-conscious phenomenographic interviews before the introduction of a novel value proposition sheds new light on the shifting value co-creation interplay among value network actors (i.e. elderly people, formal and informal caregivers). The value co-creation/destruction potential of socially assistive robots and their corresponding roles in care-based value networks offer insights for the design of meaningful robotic technology and its introduction into the existing service networks.
Torres, E. N., P. Lugosi, M. Orlowski and G. Ronzoni (2018): Consumer-led experience customization: a socio-spatial approach, Journal of Service Management, 29(2), pp.206-229
Purpose Adopting a socio-spatial approach, this study develops a consumer-centric conception of service experience customization. In contrast to existing service customization research, which has focused on company-centric approaches, the purpose of this paper is to examine the practices through which consumers use, abuse, subvert, transform, or complement organizational resources to construct their consumption experiences.Design/methodology/approach The empirical context for this study is a Meetup group: a consumer network organized around members’ shared interests and activities in theme parks. The research utilized participant observation of members’ face-to-face activities during two years and over 80 events, interviews with key informants, and content analysis of online interactions.Findings The findings outline how consumers interact across physical and virtual spaces utilizing technologies and material objects. The data are used to propose a new consumer-centric conceptualization of experience customization, distinguishing between three modes: collaborative co-production, cooperative co-creation, and subversive co-creation.Originality/value It is argued that the three modes of customization provide a way to understand how consumers mobilize and (re)deploy organizational resources to create experiences that may complement existing service propositions, but may also transform them in ways that challenge the service provider’s original goals and expectations. Furthermore, this study identifies the factors that shape which modes of customization are possible and how they are enacted. Specifically, the discussion examines how experiential complexity, governability, the compatibility of consumer and organizational practices, and the collective mobilization of resources may determine the scope and form of customization.
Schepers, J. and E. J. Nijssen (2018): Brand advocacy in the frontline: how does it affect customer satisfaction?, Journal of Service Management, 29(2), pp.230-252
Purpose Many organizations expect their service engineers, or frontline employees (FLEs), to behave as brand advocates by engaging in favorable communication about the brand and its offerings toward customers. However, this approach is not without risk as customers may be disappointed or even frustrated with brand advocacy behavior in many service encounters. The purpose of this paper is to study the impact of FLEs’ brand advocacy on customer satisfaction with the service encounter, and identify the conditions under which the effects are detrimental. This paper specifically considers service issue severity and product newness as contingency conditions.Design/methodology/approach Building on social identification theory, the paper builds a conceptual model, which is empirically tested using a data set that matches data from service engineers, customers, and archival records from the after-sales service department of a globally operating business-to-business print and document management solutions provider.Findings This paper finds that brand advocacy behavior harms customer satisfaction especially in service encounters that involve simple service issues (e.g. maintenance) for products that are new to the market. Fortunately, brand identification can compensate this negative effect under many service conditions. While the joint effect of brand identification and advocacy is most beneficial for severe service issues of new products, no effect on customer satisfaction was found for established products.Practical implications This paper identifies those service situations in which brand advocacy is advisable and guides managers toward achieving more favorable customer evaluations.Originality/value Past research has considered several FLE branding activities in the frontline but the effects of brand advocacy have not been isolated. In addition, most studies have assumed the effects of employee brand-related behaviors on customer satisfaction to be universally positive rather than negative and focused on antecedents and not on moderators and consequences.
Vakeel, K. A., K. Sivakumar, K. R. Jayasimha and S. Dey (2018): Service failures after online flash sales: role of deal proneness, attribution, and emotion, Journal of Service Management, 29(2), pp.253-276
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to focus on failures in online flash sales (OFS) and to explore why consumers participate in an OFS even after experiencing service failure. It also examines the role of deal proneness, attribution, and emotions.Design/methodology/approach Using a mixed method approach to gain insights into this relatively unexplored phenomenon of OFS, this research uses netnography followed by a survey study.Findings The findings show that deal-prone customers tend to ignore service failures during OFS and re-participate in the future. In the context of OFS, failures attributed to internal locus of attribution (LOA) also have a negative effect on re-participation compared with failures attributed to external LOA. Furthermore, there is a three-way interaction among deal proneness, LOA, and past emotions. The results show that negative past emotions further exacerbate the impact of attribution on the link between deal proneness and re-participation.Originality/value In contrast with prior research, the paper shows that consumers participate even after service failure. The proposed difference is between customers who experience different LOA and past emotions offers insights into their behavior after service failure in a new context of an online/electronic commerce event – flash sales. This paper specifically explores the role of internal LOA and finds that it has a more negative impact than external LOA on re-participation.
Stormi, K., T. Laine, P. Suomala and T. Elomaa (2018): Forecasting sales in industrial services, Journal of Service Management, 29(2), pp.277-300
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine how installed base information could help servitizing original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) forecast and support their industrial service sales, and thus increase OEMs’ understanding regarding the dynamics of their customers lifetime values (CLVs).Design/methodology/approach This work constitutes a constructive research aiming to arrive at a practically relevant, yet scientific model. It involves a case study that employs statistical methods to analyze real-life quantitative data about sales and the global installed base.Findings The study introduces a forecasting model for industrial service sales, which considers the characteristics of the installed base and predicts the number of active customers and their yearly volume. The forecasting model performs well compared to other approaches (Croston’s method) suitable for similar data. However, reliable results require comprehensive, up-to-date information about the installed base.Research limitations/implications The study contributes to the servitization literature by introducing a new method for utilizing installed base information and, thus, a novel approach for improving business profitability.Practical implications OEMs can use the forecasting model to predict the demand for – and measure the performance of – their industrial services. To-the-point predictions can help OEMs organize field services and service production effectively and identify potential customers, thus managing their CLV accordingly. At the same time, the findings imply new requirements for managing the installed base information among the OEMs, to understand and realize the industrial service business potential. However, the results have their limitations concerning the design and use of the statistical model in comparison with alternative approaches.Originality/value The study presents a unique method for employing installed base information to manage the CLV and supplement the servitization literature.
Ambroise, L., I. Prim-Allaz, C. Teyssier and S. Peillon (2018): The environment-strategy-structure fit and performance of industrial servitized SMEs, Journal of Service Management, 29(2), pp.301-328
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the environment-strategy-structure fit in the context of industrial servitization and its impact on the profitability of manufacturing SMEs.Design/methodology/approach Data were collected from face-to-face interviews with the CEOs of 184 French manufacturing SMEs. These primary data were complemented by the indicators extracted from a financial database to ensure objective measures of financial performance. Analyses were conducted by means of partial least squares structural equation modeling.Findings The research tests the impact of the organizational design (customer interface, service delivery system and service culture (SC)) on financial performance. It also tests the moderating effect on this relationship of servitization strategies adopted by the firm (added services (AS), activities reconfiguration (AR) and business model reconfiguration (BMR)) and the environment in which the firm is situated (industry dynamism, competitive intensity and industry munificence).Research limitations/implications This study considers the coalescence of the environment-strategy-structure to be a driver of firm performance in the context of industrial firms’ servitization. Three specific servitization strategies (AS, AR and BMR) are suggested based on the service offering’s impact on the customer’s activity chain or business model.Practical implications The research proposes some optimal organizational design depending on servitization strategy and environmental factors; for example, SC has a strong impact on financial performance when BMR is adopted.Originality/value This empirical study is based on an extended sample of 184 SMEs and provides quantitative support for the claim that good alignment between strategy and organizational design based on environmental factors increases profitability.
Myhren, P., L. Witell, A. Gustafsson and H. Gebauer (2018): Incremental and radical open service innovation, Journal of Services Marketing, 32(2), pp.101-112
Purpose Open service innovation is an emergent new service development practice, where knowledge on how to organize development work is scarce. The purpose of the present research is to identify and describe relevant archetypes of open service innovation. The study views an archetype as an organizing template that includes the competence of participants, organizing co-creation among participants and ties between participants. In particular, the study’s interest lies in how open service innovation archetypes are used for incremental and radical service innovation.Design/methodology/approach For the research, a nested case study was performed, in which an industrial firm with nine open service innovation groups was identified. Forty-five interviews were conducted with participants. For each case, first a within-case analysis was performed, and how to perform open service innovation in practice was described. Then, a cross-case analysis identifying similarities and differences between the open service innovation groups was performed. On the basis of the cross-case analysis, three archetypes for open service innovation were identified.Findings The nested case study identified three archetypes for open service innovation: internal group development, satellite team development and rocket team development. This study shows that different archetypes are used for incremental and radical service innovation and that a firm can have multiple open service innovation groups using different archetypes.Practical implications This study provides suggestions on how firms can organize for open service innovation. The identified archetypes can guide managers to set up, develop or be part of open service innovation groups.Originality/value This paper uses open service innovation as a mid-range theory to extend existing research on new service development in networks or service ecosystems. In particular, it shows how open service innovation can be organized to develop both incremental and radical service innovations.
George, M. and K. L. Wakefield (2018): Modeling the consumer journey for membership services, Journal of Services Marketing, 32(2), pp.113-125
Purpose The purpose of this study is to model the consumer journey of admission-based membership services from initial purchase to full-season memberships. Particularly, the study pays attention to customer-owned contacts (purchase behavior) and service-owned contacts (salesperson voice- and text-based communications), to examine longitudinal internal data to determine factors which hinder and propel customers toward full memberships.Design/methodology/approach On the basis of big data supplied by a National Hockey League team, the study uses three simultaneous equations in modeling to account for potential endogeneity related to the likelihood that sales and service personnel are more likely to contact frequent customers. The longitudinal data allow us to map the customer journey over the course of multiple years, compared to typical cross-section studies.Findings The findings show that as customers increasingly own committed points of contact, they are prepared to move to the next level – but rarely skip major steps in the relationship journey. The quantity, type and timing of customer contacts by the service firm may hinder or propel the customer down the path to purchase full memberships.Research limitations/implications The prevalence of big data among service firms should allow researchers to better understand how consumers respond to contact strategies over time, as well as fluctuations in firm performance. The research adds to the customer journey research stream, while meeting the call of researchers to bridge the gap between service marketing research priorities and current practice.Practical implications Sales practices and marketing automation tactics may come at the cost of burning leads and alienating future members. Frequent text-based contacts absent voice-based interactions hinder consumer journey and work against relationship building. Service marketers can learn how to better allocate resources, properly manage and motivate contact strategies and target campaigns to send the right message via the right media at the right time.Originality/value This is the first study to map customer journey for admission-based, membership services. The longitudinal approach across multiple years provides a deep understanding of how customers take steps toward loyal membership status, while also pinpointing potential drawbacks of current contact strategies.
Cheng, M., C. K. Anderson, Z. Zhu and S. C. Choi (2018): Service online search ads: from a consumer journey view, Journal of Services Marketing, 32(2), pp.126-141
Purpose This study aims to address the following research questions: Do the two types of service firms (individual or aggregator) have similar competitiveness on online search ads? How should the two types of service firms select optimal branded keywords to improve search performance? In addition, how do consumers’ search queries influence the service search performance of the two types of service firms?Design/methodology/approach In this study, the authors conduct an empirical analysis by building a two-stage choice modeling on the process of search engine ranking and consumer click-through decisions. The authors estimate the parameter coefficients and test the hypotheses using maximum likelihood estimation in the logistic regression model.Findings The empirical findings suggest that consumer response rates are highly dependent upon three aspects (service types, branded keyword strategy and consumer search query). First, the authors found that service aggregators receive greater consumer responses than individual service providers. Second, depending upon the various branded keyword strategies (e.g. generic vs branded, “within-type” vs “cross-type”) implemented by service aggregators or individual firms, the expected consumer responses could be quite different. Finally, customer’s search query, being either generic or branded, also has direct effect and interactive effect with service type on how consumers would response to the sponsored ads in the service search process.Research limitations/implications The limitation of the research is twofold. First, conversion rate is not considered in the model estimation due to the nature of the data set. Second, the discussion about the keywords selection strategies is focusing on the hospitality industry. Future research shall further validate the generalizability into other industries.Practical implications First, given this competitive advantage, service aggregators should take an aggressive approach to adopting paid search strategy in acquiring new users and enhance its brand salience in the service ecosystem. Second, when considering other competitor’s brand names to include, if a firm is a service provider (e.g. hotel), a strategy that can help it receive higher consumer response would be to use “within-type” rather than “cross-type” branded keyword strategy. If a firm is a service aggregator, a better branded keyword strategy would be to use “across-type” instead of “within-type” approach. In addition, given that consumer’s brand awareness can influence the effectiveness of branded keyword strategy, online service search should target consumers in earlier stages of a decision journey.Social implications The authors believe their theoretical framework can provide actionable solutions to service firms to ease customer’s search process, increase customer’s stickiness using search engines and add value to the customer relationships with all services entities within the digital ecosystem.Originality/value This study is the first to expand online search marketing into granule examinations (main and interactive effects of three key factors) in the service search domain. First, the authors differentiate service firms into two categories – online travel aggregators and individual hotels in the model. Second, the authors introduce two sets of new classifications of branded keywords for online service search research (i.e. own versus other brand and “cross-type” versus “within-type” branded keywords). Third, this study integrates service consumers’ search word specificity into the conceptual framework which is often missing in previous online search research.
Nasr, L., J. Burton and T. Gruber (2018): Developing a deeper understanding of positive customer feedback, Journal of Services Marketing, 32(2), pp.142-160
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to highlight the importance and extend the understanding of the underresearched concept of personal positive customer feedback (PCF). By comparing and contrasting front-line employees’ (FLEs) and customers’ perspectives, this study aims to develop a deeper understanding of the main elements, characteristics of PCF, its various impacts and the perceived importance of this phenomenon for both parties.Design/methodology/approach An exploratory research study was conducted using a novel integrated methodological approach combining two well-established qualitative techniques: structured Laddering interviews and various elements of the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique. In total, personal interviews with 40 participants consisting of 20 customers and 20 FLEs were conducted.Findings This study conceptualizes personal PCF in the service literature by identifying the various PCF elements and characteristics. The authors extend PCF understanding beyond what the current literature shows (i.e. gratitude, compliments) by identifying nine characteristics of PCF. This study also proposes a number of impacts on both customers and FLEs. While both customers and FLEs have a similar understanding of the various elements and characteristics of PCF, the significance of the various elements and the subsequent impacts vary between the two groups. Finally, three key themes in PCF handling that help position PCF within the extant customer management literature are identified and discussed.Research limitations/implications This study contributes to a well-rounded understanding of customer feedback by counter-balancing the prevailing focus on customer complaining behaviour and proposing a complimentary look at the positive valence of personal feedback. It also provides managerial implications concerning the management of positive service encounters, an emerging topic within service research.Originality/value This multidisciplinary study is the first to extend the understanding of personal PCF by comparing and contrasting customers’ and FLEs’ perspectives. The findings of this study highlight the need to explore the positive side of service interactions to create positive service experiences.
Oyedele, A. and P. Simpson (2018): Emerging adulthood, sharing utilities and intention to use sharing services, Journal of Services Marketing, 32(2), pp.161-174
Purpose This study aims to test Lamberton and Rose’s (2012) commercial sharing utility model of access-based consumption use in three different contexts: car-sharing, room-sharing and household goods purchases. More importantly, this research extends the model by examining the effects of emerging adulthood as a life-stage on perceived value of social applications that facilitate and promote transaction utility, called shareaids.Design/methodology/approach A questionnaire designed to evaluate the effects of emerging adulthood and sharing utilities on intention to use sharing services was developed and administered to 345 respondents at a Midwestern US university. The data were analyzed using partial least squares structural equation modeling.Findings Results indicate that flexibility utility had the strongest direct impact on intention to use sharing consumption while also having indirect effects in all contexts examined. The emerging adulthood life-stage was found to affect transaction utility and shareaids as predicted, and shareaids positively influenced consumers’ perception of the social utility value of access-based consumption.Research limitations/implications The generalizability of this study is limited by its use of a student sample. Also, the study suffers from inherent limitations linked to self-reported survey research.Practical implications Sharing services that have a strong social component could use shareaids to gain a competitive advantage. Examples of shareaid application include split bills for multiple payments to split fares among friends and social media transaction tools. Shareaid applications can enhance consumers’ perception of social value and the overall shareability value of the sharing service.Originality/value This is the first known study to test the effects of emerging adulthood as a life-stage on perceived value of social applications that facilitate and promote transaction utility, called shareaids.
Meshram, K. and A. O’Cass (2018): Senior citizens’ perspective on the value offerings of third place via customer to customer (C-2-C) engagement, Journal of Services Marketing, 32(2), pp.175-194
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to offer a framework of third-place value offering that explains how specific consumer groups’, senior citizens, customer-to-customer engagement in third places can develop their value experiences.Design/methodology/approach Data were collected for two studies from senior citizen clubs in Australia. Study 1 uses focus group (12) and is analysed with QSR NVivo software following content analysis. Study 2 is based on 324 surveys and is analysed with AMOS version 24 software.Findings Study 1 identifies eight themes based on 29 main codes to develop a framework on the value offerings of third-place value and its consumer-centric effect on seniors’ loyalty and social capital. The themes under social capital and loyalty contributed to a better understanding of how consumers engage with each other in social clubs and develop their social capital. The results of Study 2 support the conceptualisation of third-place value offering as a reflective model and confirm the model’s nomological validity in relation to seniors’ loyalty and social capital outcomes.Research limitations/implications The only limitation of the paper is that it presents findings based on data collected in a regional place in Australia.Practical implications The findings provide three practical implications for managers to consider in relation to service places: improve consumer patronage through community engagement, improve local business practices via consumer–owner friendship and redesign spatial settings to deliver meaningful consumer experiences.Social implications The present study has three social implications; first, it highlights the significant role of third places in bringing isolated groups of community together for regular interaction and socialisation. It also extends understanding on senior citizen customers and their consumption experiences within third places for value creation. The study also contributes to understanding how senior citizen customers develop loyalty towards third places and enhance their social capital through social engagement in the place.Originality/value This paper uses consumption experience to develop the consumer value in third places. It provides a consumer-centric focus to servicescape and incorporates recent works on third places, value, social capital and loyalty.
Ni, W. and H. Sun (2018): The trustworthiness of internet-based quality signals: an interactivity perspective, Journal of Services Marketing, 32(2), pp.195-210
Purpose This study aims to examine the trustworthiness of internet-based quality signals (specifically webpages and before-sale services) from the perspective of interactivity by evaluating the associations between on-line signals of product quality and the off-line perceived quality of actual products.Design/methodology/approach Empirical data are collected from 261 Chinese female university students. Partial least squares structural equation modelling is used to test the conceptual model.Findings Both webpages and before-sale services are positively associated with off-line perceived quality, but only the quality of before-sale service has a direct association with customer satisfaction. Webpages and before-sale services are both trustworthy signals for indicating the quality of physical products; however, these signals provide different levels of trustworthiness.Research limitations/implications The interactivity perspective supplements information-economics theory in examining the trustworthiness of internet-based signals. A signal is a trustworthy indicator only if customers perceive a close relationship between the quality of the signal and the actual product quality.Practical implications On-line sellers should improve the reciprocity and controllability of communications from a buyer’s perspective and should pay more attention to the strategic role of on-line communication for improving customer service.Originality/value Researchers have evaluated the trustworthiness of on-line quality signals from an information-economics perspective. This study extends these previous studies by addressing the perspective of interactivity. Two types of product-quality signals, including webpages and before-sale services, are assessed in terms of their trustworthiness by examining how these signals relate to off-line perceived quality and customer satisfaction.
Newman, C. L., K. Wachter and A. White (2018): Bricks or clicks? Understanding consumer usage of retail mobile apps, Journal of Services Marketing, 32(2), pp.211-222
Purpose Mobile apps represent an emergent self-service technology that has greatly contributed to the rise of mobile shopping. However, the existing services and marketing literature offer little insight on consumer app usage. Further, little is known about how this app usage might affect important outcomes such as consumers’ intentions to use and recommend an app, their channel preferences (in-store vs app), or their purchasing behavior with the app. Thus, the purpose of this research is to examine if, and how, consumers’ actual experiences using retailers’ apps affected these outcomes.Design/methodology/approach Data were collected from a series of online surveys of adult consumers based on their prior experiences with retailers’ apps. The hypothesized relationships were tested using regression analyses.Findings Results highlight perceived ease of use as a critical app attribute that fosters consumers’ personal connections to apps. These connections in turn influence their purchase channel preferences (app vs in-store) and actual purchasing behavior with the app, as well as their future intentions to purchase with the app and recommend it to others. App usage frequency is shown to moderate these effects.Research limitations/implications The findings provide needed managerial insight into consumer usage of brick-and-click retailers’ apps. Specifically, the results inform service providers’ mobile commerce strategies – particularly with respect to app design, channel management and customer segmentation. Future opportunities exist to explore and compare consumer usage of other types of service providers’ apps, such as “pure play” providers that do not have physical stores.Originality/value This research moves beyond initial app adoption to instead focus on consumers’ actual app usage experiences and their implications. Of note, the findings suggest that firms may be paradoxically driving consumers away from their physical stores as they continue to devote considerable resources to creating and providing customers with easy-to-use mobile apps.
Ren, X., L. Xia and J. Du (2018): Delivering warmth by hand: customer responses to different formats of written communication, Journal of Services Marketing, 32(2), pp.223-234
Purpose The effect of different formats of message delivery has received little theoretical and empirical examination. This research focuses on the effect of written relational communication formats used by service providers. This study aims to answer three questions: Do different formats of written communications (i.e. handwriting and print) influence customer perceptions (i.e. feelings of warmth) of service firms? What are the mediators of these influences (i.e. perceived effort and psychological closeness)? And under what conditions do they occur (i.e. what is the contextual factor)?Design/methodology/approach One field study and three laboratory studies were conducted to provide a comprehensive understanding of the role of format in written communication.Findings Handwritten messages are more effective than print messages in building relationships in a service context because they elicit stronger feelings of warmth because of both the perception of greater effort and feelings of greater psychological closeness to the service provider. However, the presence of handwriting fails to deliver feelings of warmth when the quality of core services is low.Practical implications Service providers can effectively use handwritten communication to signal effort and create psychological closeness for relationship building with their key customers only when the quality of core services meets customer expectations.Originality/value First, the research differentiates the formats of written relational communication (handwritten vs print), and links communication formats with feelings of warmth, which is an important factor for impression and relationship formation in the practice of services marketing. Second, based on cognitive-experiential self-theory, this research demonstrates the dual mediators underlying the effect of handwriting (vs print) on warmth: perceived effort and psychological closeness. Third, it identifies the quality of core service as a boundary condition for the effect of handwritten communication.
Li, X., S. Zhang, C. Wang and X. Guo (2018): Understanding customers’ compliance behaviour to frontline employees’ fuzzy requests, Journal of Services Marketing, 32(2), pp.235-246
Purpose Due to interactive fluctuations during service encounters, fuzzy requests frequently occur from either frontline employees or customers. While such requests from customers have been drawn wide attention, there exists a lack of research on frontline employees’ fuzzy requests and possible outcomes (e.g. compliance or refusal). The purpose of this study is thus to identify the underlying mechanism and enacting variables that influence customers’ compliance behaviour (i.e. positive outcome) to fuzzy requests.Design/methodology/approach Data were collected from a sample of ten express service companies in southeast China. The proposed model was empirically tested among 309 customers and further analysed through structural equation modelling.Findings The results indicated that expected technical quality, perceived reasonableness and perceived convenience are positively associated with compliance behaviour, whereas the effects of inertia and negative emotional response on compliance behaviour are significantly negative. The findings also demonstrated that negative emotional response partially mediates the impacts of expected technical quality, perceived reasonableness and inertia on compliance behaviour.Originality/value This study investigates an under-researched phenomenon, namely, frontline employees’ fuzzy requests in the service context. The underlying mechanism of customers’ compliance behaviours to fuzzy requests is articulated through an integration of three beliefs with emotional response. As an early exploration of employees’ fuzzy requests, this study provides important theoretical and managerial implications.