Service nepotism in the marketplace

Rosenbaum, Mark S. and Walsh, Gianfranco (2012) Service nepotism in the marketplace. British Journal of Management, 23 (2). pp. 241-256. ISSN 1045-3172

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Abstract

This study represents the first empirical examination of a neglected phenomenon – namely, service nepotism. We propose a framework that explains a process in which customers cue service providers of potential shared commonalities, such as sexual orientation and ethnicity, in service settings in which they also represent distinct, alienated or marginalized minorities. By drawing on qualitative evidence from American gay men and ethnic Turks residing in Germany, this research proposes that customers may signal commonalities to like employees by deploying similarity-to-self cues or group markers during exchanges. Driven by ethnocentric ‘tribal’ biases, employees may respond to these cues by providing like customers with relational resources, such as upgrades, monetary discounts and enhanced service quality. We explain how these relational resources influence customers' behaviours and discuss the theoretical and managerial implications of our findings.