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Wilfrid Laurier University School of Business & Economics
October 20, 2014
Canadian Excellence

Dr. Grant Packard

Date: Friday Nov. 29, 2013
Time: 1:30 - 3pm
Ernst & Young Boardroom
Dr. Grant Packard
Topics: Putting the Customer Second: Personal Pronoun Use in Customer-Firm Interactions

Grant Packard (Laurier)
Sarah G. Moore (Alberta)
Brent McFerran (Michigan/SFU)

When interacting with customers, should firm agents “put the customer first” by focusing the conversation more on the customer than themselves? While most prior theorizing and a pilot study suggest firm agents believe they should prioritize talking about “you” (the customer) in these interactions, we find that increased usage of pronouns referring to “me” (the firm agent) may be more important. Four studies using a combination of lab and field data reveal improvement in customer satisfaction, behavioral intentions and actual purchases when firm agents are more self-centered (e.g., “me”) in their language, but not for increased use of customer-centered language (e.g., “you”) in customer-firm interactions. Perceived agency and empathy mediate the effect of first-person singular pronoun use (e.g., “I,” “me,” “my”) by firm agents on customer satisfaction and intentions. The findings offer valuable implications for marketers and enhance conceptual understanding of the effects of personal pronoun use on social perception.