Communication and the service exchange: A coorientational approach to predicting satisfying service encounters

Date of Completion

January 1996


Effective communication during service provider-client exchanges is frequently noted as a key factor in achieving satisfying service encounters. While information exchange and communication have been critical to the study of achieving satisfying service encounters, researchers have yet to include communication theory as a primary explanation of interactant behavior in service settings.^ This dissertation examined the need for communication that results from the service specific characteristics of inseparability of production and consumption, intangibility, heterogeneity of output, and perishability. These service specific characteristics create uncertainty for both provider and client in many service settings and are known to contribute to client perceptions of risk. A causal model predicting satisfying service encounters using interpersonal communication theory was developed and tested using dyadic data collected from service provider-client exchanges completed in service settings across a variety of service industries.^ Many of the hypothesized relationships were supported with the notable exception of the relationships involving perceived risk. In particular, service complexity had no effect on client risk perception. Perceived risk made no significant contribution to predicting perceived client relational cues. The coorientational outcomes of provider accuracy of client and client congruency had a small but significant effect on explaining satisfaction. However, when tested within the specified path model, the coorientation effect was eliminated due to the overwhelming influence of perceived provider relational cues when included as predictors of service satisfaction.^ While indicating room for much improvement, the results of the path analysis indicate that service satisfaction is best explained by client perceptions of provider relational communication cues. The study provides valuable insight into the service provider--client relationship, especially the importance of specific relational communication behaviors enacted by both participants when involved in first time service encounters. ^