Can Customers Detect Script Usage in Service Encounters? An Experimental Video Analysis

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Service scripts are predetermined guides for employees to follow when delivering service to customers. Some services require employees to strictly follow a script, whereas others use scripts more flexibly, if at all. Extant research regarding service scripts in the domain of service operations has mainly addressed the topic from more of a process view as a control mechanism for the encounter but minimal research has examined customer perceptions of scripted service. The authors examine a pivotal first question, which is if customers can detect different approaches to script use. To answer the question, the authors conducted a video experiment of face‐to‐face service encounters in the hospitality industry. The results indicate that customers can detect degrees of script use across both standardized and customized encounter types. This work serves as initial empirical evidence that customers are indeed capable of detecting subtleties in scripting approaches in different service situations and supports that script level is an important service design construct for research. Furthermore, the authors highlight the use of a video experiment as an innovative methodology for assessing customer perceptions of intangible aspects to services in a realistic setting. One implication of this study is that managers need to assess the impact that different script levels have on customer perceptions of various service performance measures. Managers should also consider the effect script detection has on customer perceptions of the service experience and service brand to assure their script approach aligns with the organization’s service strategy.

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service scripts; service encounters; service operations; hospitality industry


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Required Publisher Statement: © SAGE. Final version published as: Victorino, L., Verma, R., Bonner, B. L., & Wardell, D. G. (2012). Can customers detect script usage in service encounters? An experimental video analysis. Journal of Service Research, 15(4), 1-11.

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