Evaluation of the Indirect Influence of Courteous Service on Customer Discretionary Behavior



    1. Wendy S. Zabava Ford (Ph.D., University of Maryland, 1992) is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008.
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  • This article is based on her doctoral dissertation. The author extends special thanks to her dissertation advisor, Raymond L. Falcione, and to the editor and anonymous reviewers, whose suggestions were most helpful.


This study determined whether courteous service communication may indirectly influence customer discretionary behavior (CDB). CDB was defined as any behavior a customer voluntarily performs, beyond purchasing products or services, which may be helpful or harmful to an organization. Specifically, it was hypothesized that courteous service would influence customer evaluations and mood, which, in turn, would influence CDBs. Observational and survey data were collected in two grocery stores. Structural equation modeling analyses indicated that courteous service had an indirect influence on customer commitment behaviors. Specifically, as cashiers displayed more courtesy, customers provided more positive evaluations of service and were ultimately more likely to recommend the store to friends and shop at the store if other stores are closer. However, courteous service did not predict customer helpfulness. Courtesy also explained relatively little variation overall in outcome variables. Therefore, efforts to improve customer outcomes should extend beyond improving the courtesy of service. Additional research is proposed to further assess the role of communication in customer service encounters.