Distrust in services: how service failures lead to distrust in underserved consumers and distrusting consumers’ strategies to avoid further service failures

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
This study aims to improve understanding of the causes and consequences of distrust in services, as well as how distrustful consumers behave. Firstly, this research indicates that inadequate information and resultant service failures can lead to distrust in consumers. Secondly, it investigates the actions of distrusting consumers to avoid service failures and the strategies they implement to secure adequate service encounters. Distrust has been described as “confident negative expectations regarding another’s conduct” (Lewicki et al., 1998, p.439) and “rationally based expectation that technically competent performance and fiduciary duty will not be forthcoming” (Barber, 1983, as cited in Hsiao, 2003 p. 149). Distrust is helpful to humans because it helps us make defensive and preventative choices (Luhmann, 1979, as cited in Cho, 2006) and reduces uncertainty (Barber, 1983, as cited in Hsiao, 2003). Competence, or the lack of it, has been identified as one key attribute to distrust and reducing it (Cho, 2006). This study was conducted in the context of curly-haired consumers and salon services, specifically in the followers of the Curly Girl hair care method in Finland. Due to the persistent lack of understanding of the needs of consumers with curly hair amongst consumers and service, curly-haired consumers have experienced a variety of disappointing service encounters throughout their lives. For studying service failures and distrust among underserved consumers, the followers of the Curly Girl method provide an excellent context as they expressed frustration with hair care and how their past experiences have damaged their trust in hair services and professionals. There have been no previous studies on the connection between service failure and distrust. This includes the effects of service failures on customers' expectations of the service provider's competency, as well as the long-term impact of service failures. To fill these gaps in research, this study examines how underserved consumers develop distrust as a result of service failures. It also explores the additional labour these consumers must put in to compensate for this distrust. Studying distrust in services is important because refraining from consumption due to distrust can endanger consumer welfare (Darke & Ritchie, 2007) or, as the findings suggest, cause more labour for consumers when avoiding and choosing services. For businesses, effectively identifying and addressing consumers' concerns is essential to successfully attracting new and returning customers, avoiding service mishaps, boosting consumer contentment, and discovering untapped markets for business expansion.
Thesis advisor
Gloukhovtsev, Alexei
Paasonen, Petra
distrust, service failures, underserved consumers, marketing
Other note