When will customers care about service failures that happened to strangers? The role of personal similarity and regulatory focus and its implication on service evaluation

Lisa C. WAN, Elisa K. Y. CHAN, Lei SU

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

27 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines an interesting research question: how does a service failure that happen to a stranger customer influence an observing customer's service evaluation? Drawing on the defensive attribution theory and regulatory focus theory, we argue that an observing customer will attribute more (vs. less) blame to the company if the customer involved in the undesirable incident is personally similar (vs. not similar) to him/her. These attributions, in turn, will influence the observing customers to form a negative evaluation on service quality of the company. More importantly, a prevention-focused tendency will intensify the negative impact of personal similarity on service evaluation. Results from two experiments confirmed the hypotheses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-220
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Hospitality Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011



  • Attribution
  • Personal similarity
  • Regulatory focus
  • Service failures

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