The Dark Side of Customer Co-Creation


In this blogpost I will talk about the article “The dark side of customer co-creation: exploring the consequences of failed co-created services” by Heidenreich, Wittkowski, Handrich and Falk (2014).

Co-Creation
Co-creation becomes more and more common. Co-creation can take place in product development and service development. The authors focus in this article on co-creation in services, whereas in services “innovation always starts with customers’ unmet needs” (Ostrom et al. 2010, p. 16). Co-creation is beneficially for both firms – which are able to adapt changes better to customer needs – and customers – who will be more satisfied because of more empowerment. However, more involvement asks for more contact points between the firm and the customer, which in turn leads to higher complexity of the process and service. And as we all know, higher complexity increases the risk of failure.

Whereas current literature emphasizes the positive effects of co-creation, this article highlights potential negative influences of co-created services. The authors conducted four studies to investigate this dark side of customer co-creation. In this blog post I will highlight the outcomes and implications of these four studies, without mentioning all methodological and statistical characteristics.

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Study 1 + Study 2
The authors show that in case of service success, highly involved customers are more satisfied than customers who barely participated in co-creation. However, in case of failure, co-creation triggers a greater imbalance between customers’ expectations of delivery and the actual outcome. As a result, negative disconfirmation is enahnced, leading to a decline in satisfaction.

Service Recovery
After failure of service delivery, a firm must make up for its mistakes. The process of fixing failures is referred to as service recovery. Current literature even shows that sometimes customer satisfaction, customer loyaly, and customer repurchase intentions are higher after successful service recovery than if the service delivery was successful in the first time. The authors now include the degree of customer co-creation.

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Study 3 + Study 4
The outcomes of studies 3 and 4 indicate that consumers who experience a mistake in the service delivery of a highly co-created servicetend t oblame themselves for the flawed outcome and thus feel a sense of guilt. In such cases it is best to have no recovery process at all to restore customer satisfaction.

The outcomes of this study lead to some interesting implications for managers. First it highlights the importance of awareness of the potential negative consequences of offering highly co-created services. However, because of the high potential positive influences, firms might want to offer highly co-created services. Therefor, firms should implement measuring indicators to minimize the change of co-created service failure caused by human mistakes. Because not all failure is inevitable, managers must focus on higher customer satisfaction along with the overall service. This can mitigate negative effects in case of  failures. The importance of a proper recovery system is highlighted in this research.

Finally, even though there exists a dark side in customer co-creation, managers must try to overcome these difficulties and create light in the darkness…

References
Heidenricih, S., Wittkowski, K., Handrick, M. & Falk, T. (2014). ‘The dark side of customer co-creation: exploring the consequences of failed co-created services’. Journal of the Academic Marketing Science.
Ostrom, A. L., Bitner, M. J., Brown, S. W., Burkhard, K. A., Goul, M., Smith-Daniels, V., et al. (2010). ‘Moving forward and making a difference: research priorities for the science of service’. Journal of Service Research, 13 (1), pp. 4 – 36.

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