Task-Relationship-Self: A Framework for Understanding Service Encounter Behaviors


Correspondence regarding this article should be sent to: Graham Bradley, Associate Professor, School of Applied Psychology and Behavioural Bases of Health Research Centre, Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Queensland 4222, Australia (g.bradley@griffith.edu.au).


Research conducted over past decades has investigated selected service encounter behaviors from either a customer or service provider perspective. However, a comprehensive, dual-perspective framework is lacking. Such a framework is needed to organize knowledge of these behaviors, and thereby provide structure, clarity, and parsimony to the field. This paper describes a three-tier framework of service encounter behavior that was developed by applying grounded theory principles to interviews with customers, service employees, and other stakeholders. These informants described many ways in which they behave when executing service exchanges, dealing with service difficulties, and managing themselves in the process. Using an iterative inductive approach, a conceptual framework was developed in which specific (Tier 1) behaviors were placed within broader (Tier 2) categories, and these lower classification levels were, in turn, interpreted within a conceptual space defined by the (Tier 3) dimensions of task, relationship, and self. This framework was then elaborated and refined by reference to the psychology and marketing literature, a set of 157 audio-recorded service interactions, and an expert panel study. The paper includes comparisons between the framework and those previously proposed, propositions regarding service encounter processes and outcomes, and implications for future research and practice.