Changing Faces in Services Relationships: Customers’ Roles During Dissatisfactory Service Encounters

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



In this paper, we draw upon Erving Goffman’s role-playing work and conduct narrative analyses of three women’s descriptions of their deteriorating service relationships. The informants describe the nature of their long-term relationships with a hair stylist, a telecommunications company, and a physician. Our analyses focus on understanding how their roles are shaped in service relationships during which they have had some dissatisfactory experiences. Four customer roles emerge from our data: the contented customer, the helping customer, the discontented customer, and the disgusted customer. We discuss customers’ anticipated (back-stage) roles prior to their service encounters and their actual (front-stage) roles enacted during the service encounters. Further, we comment on the multiple roles customers take on during the course of their encounters and the consistency between their roles and cognitions. Finally, we consider how characteristics of the services involved and the service provider interactions may impact the faces customers bring to their service encounters.


Copyright 2001 Association for Consumer Research

Publication Title

Advances in Consumer Research

Published Citation

Ligas, Mark and Robin A. Coulter (2001), “Changing Faces in Services Relationships: Customers’ Roles During Dissatisfactory Service Encounters,” Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 28, Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, eds., Valdosta, GA: Association for Consumer Research, 71-76.