In the eye of the beholder: How self-construal influences service evaluations following observations of others’ service experiences

Shahin Sharifi*, Gerri Spassova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effect of interdependent vs independent self-construal on service satisfaction, following the observation of failure and recovery experienced by a fellow customer.

Design/methodology/approach: Three experiments were conducted to test the research hypotheses.

Findings: After service failure, interdependent observers react less favorably compared to independent observers. After high recovery compensation, interdependent observers react more favorably compared to independent observers. The effects are driven by differences in perceived interactional and distributive justice.

Research limitations/implications: This study uses three scenario-based experiments to test the hypotheses. While providing greater control of the experimental conditions, the external validity of the results is to some extent sacrificed. Moreover, this research does not investigate observers’ reactions to the interactional aspect of recovery.

Practical implications: When handling service failure, firms are required to anticipate and address not only the responses of the target customers involved but also those of potential observers. Providers can accordingly use available customer information to gauge customers’ likely self-construal and to adjust their service delivery and recovery tactics. Providers can influence observing customers’ reactions by creating a servicescape that activates a desired self-construal.

Originality/value: This research is one of a few to examine the effect of service failure and recovery on observing customers, and the first to do so via the lens of self-construal. It contributes to the literature on service failure and recovery and the literature on self-construal and has practical implications for service providers. The value of this research is further highlighted given the increasingly public nature of services and the multicultural context of service delivery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1087-1116
Number of pages30
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number5
Early online date18 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2020


  • Justice
  • Observing customers
  • Self-construal
  • Service failure
  • Service recovery


Dive into the research topics of 'In the eye of the beholder: How self-construal influences service evaluations following observations of others’ service experiences'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this