Consumer retention is central to service firm objectives and is often the focus of firm initiated activities. However, consumer-driven processes that operate independently of firm initiated activities also influence retention. By understanding the consumption goals of service consumers, management can encourage behavioural engagement with service offerings and improve retention outcomes. Positional services provide opportunities for social status enhancement (e.g. higher education) and attract consumers seeking the positional benefits offered. Service consumers compete for positional benefits and monitor their success relative to other service consumers via positional comparisons. Envy, an emotion with benign and malicious types, is experienced if the positional comparison with another service consumer is unfavourable and influences behavioural engagement. This study proposes and qualitatively tests a conceptual model linking positional comparison and envy to changes in consumers’ behavioural engagement with a service depending on the type of envy experienced. The findings support benign envy as a motivator for increased behavioural engagement with a service. The study also supports the existence of a ‘positional’ service category in which envy is an endemic emotional theme influencing behavioural engagement in these service environments. A two-tiered approach to the management of envy involving positional goal recognition and appraisal based tactics is recommended.
Service Industries Journal / Vol. 36, No. 7-8, pp.278-298