The Dark Side of Customer Participation: When Customer Participation in Service Co-Development Leads to Role Stress

Markus Blut, Nima Heirati*, Klaus Schoefer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While numerous studies have examined the benefits of customer participation (CP), understanding of the dark side of involving customers in service firms’ processes is limited. This study proposes that the changing role of customers who actively participate in service co-development can cause role stress and negative feelings, which may, in turn, reduce customer satisfaction and the perceived value of participation. We develop and test a comprehensive role theory-based framework for CP–role stress. Using a video-based experiment, behavioral lab experiment, and field study, we find that greater CP leads to heightened role stress, including role conflict, role overload, and role ambiguity. These adverse effects occur contingent on customers’ prior participation experience and firm-provided support. Furthermore, role stress effects vary across service co-development types depending on (a) the scope of the task (i.e., open task, closed task) and (b) the beneficiary of participation (i.e., customer, general market). Specifically, adverse effects are stronger for open than for closed tasks, and they also tend to be stronger when the beneficiary is the general market rather than the individual customer. These findings emphasize the need for more cross-context theorizing in CP research. Managers should consider these adverse effects and implement measures that reduce role stress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-173
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Service Research
Issue number2
Early online date19 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020

Bibliographical note

© Sage 2019. The final publication is available via Sage at


  • customer participation
  • dark side
  • negative feelings
  • role stress
  • service co-development


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