While service encounters are known to feature interdependence of provider and client behaviors, little research exists that measures the underlying processes of service satisfaction at the dyadic level of analysis. This research describes and tests a causal model predicting service encounter satisfaction using dyadic data collected from service provider-client exchanges completed in a variety of service industries.
Services are generally characterized as intangible, perishable, co-produced, and heterogeneous (Lovelock, 1981 ). These four characteristics generate information demands on both the provider and user as they seek to determine what the customer needs and how best to deliver a service to meet those needs. This information demand is even greater with complex services because complex services lend themselves to customization and allow the provider flexibility in determining the service output (Lovelock, 1983). This process has been described as a negotiation between service providers and clients. This research proposes that a number of variables influence the communication that takes place during this negotiation. These variables include: include client risk perception, service complexity, and perceived relational messages. The product of the messages shared between provider and client are treated within a coorientational framework (McLeod and Chaffee, 1973). The main purpose of communication, as viewed within this framework, is to achieve a perceived symmetry, or consensus, in the cognitive states of two people regarding some particular object. This model captures the interdependent nature of the service provider-client interaction by viewing each person’s behavior as a function of his/her own cognitions and his/her perceptions of the other’s cognitions. The model assumes that two people communicating are motivated to coorient on the object attributes. It is hypothesized that satisfaction will be greatest when provider and client are cooriented on what the service involves and how it should be delivered.