Who's Responsible? Representatives' Autonomy Alters Customers' Emotion and Repurchase Intentions toward Organizations


Purpose: This paper aims to present and test a model of how the autonomy of an organization's representative alters the effects of customer experiences on customer emotions and repurchasing intentions toward the organization. Specifically, this paper offers a moderated mediation model whereby representative autonomy alters attributions of organizational responsibility, which moderate the effect of service experience on emotion and emotion mediates the effects of service experiences on repurchasing intentions.

Design/methodology/approach: Study 1 is a laboratory experiment (N = 115), where participants engaged in a multi-round product purchasing task through an online representative of a company. Study 2 is a vignette experiment (N = 393), where participants responded to situations of purchasing either a car, furniture, haircut or vacation package from a representative of a company. In both studies, manipulated representative autonomy information was either low or high and manipulated customer experience was either positive or negative. Measures included responsibility, emotion toward the organization and repurchase intention.

Findings: Structural equation models support the proposed model. In the presence of information about representative autonomy, the link between customer experience and repurchasing intent is amplified and mediated by emotion toward the organization.

Research limitations/implications: Because of the experimental approach, the findings may not be generalizable, but the experimental method allows for a controlled test of the process, ordering and relationship among variables.

Originality/value: Understanding how representatives' autonomy ultimately alters repurchasing and how this process involves responsibility attributions contributes to both practice and theory.


Psychological Science

Research Center/Lab(s)

Intelligent Systems Center


This research was partially supported by the University of Georgia Graduate School Dean’s award to Daniel B. Shank, the University of Missouri System Research Board award to Daniel B. Shank and by awards from the National Science Foundation BCS0729396 and the Army Research Office W911NF1710509, W911NF1510180.

Keywords and Phrases

Attributions; Customer Behaviour; Organizations; Representatives; Responsibility; Service Encounters

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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Publication Date

01 Jan 2019