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Improving donation service design: Expanding choice to increase perceived justice and satisfaction

Journal of Services Marketing

Cornelia Pechmann, Nea North


Circumstances such as pandemics can cause individuals to fall into a state of need, so they turn to donation services for assistance. However, donation services can be designed based on supply-side considerations, e.g. efficiency or inventory control, which restrict consumer choice without necessarily considering how consumer vulnerabilities like low financial or interpersonal power might cause them to react to such restrictions. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to examine service designs that limit the choices consumers are given in terms of either the allowable quantity or assortment variety and examine effects on consumer perceptions of justice and satisfaction. Three experiments are reported, including one manipulating the service design of an actual food pantry. When consumers have low financial or interpersonal power, meaning their initial state of control is low, and they encounter a donation service that provides limited (vs. expanded) choice that drops control even lower, they perceive the situation as unjust and report lower satisfaction. Donation service providers should strive to design services that allow for expanded consumer choice and use interpersonal processes that empower beneficiaries so they perceive the service experience as just and satisfying. Collecting feedback from beneficiaries is also recommended. While researchers have started to look at the service experiences of vulnerable populations, they have focused primarily on financial service designs. The authors look at donation service designs and identify problems with supply-side limits to choice quantity and assortment.

Servicescape Design, Choice, Donation, Power, Vulnerability, Satisfaction, Social Justice


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