This article critique examines Liu and Mattila’s (in press) article titled “Apple Pay: coolness and embarrassment in the service encounter.” The topic of the study is very important for a number of reasons: businesses are increasingly adopting cutting-edge technologies such as contactless transactions to attract modern customers and differentiate themselves; Apple Pay accounts for 90% of mobile transactions and is available in over twenty countries; and in the hospitality industry itself, Apple Pay has become increasingly popular as a method of payment (Liu & Mattila, in press, p.1). However, the examination of “coolness” versus “embarrassment” in the service encounter wrongly implies that these are the only possible outcomes of the use of Apple Pay in the service encounter and that these two outcomes are opposites, which they are not.
The authors present a theoretical background in which they concisely describe the service industry as being known for its pioneering in regards to embracing modern technology innovations and provides examples such as the use of service robots and artificial intelligence. The authors also provide a concise description of Apple Pay and its functionality. This description is also appropriate since this is the technology being investigated. The second section of the theoretical background discusses the concept of “coolness” and coolness of Apple Pay. The authors describe “cool” as being an expression that indicates customers like and approve of ideas and products, as well as being a social construct that is more specifically associated with the quality of being innovative, different from the norm, or unique, especially for technology-infused products. The fact that the authors tie in the concept of coolness with technology-infused products gives the theoretical background an appropriateness that would otherwise have been lacking since coolness is not a concept or language that is universal or adopted across all demographic and cultural groups. What is missing from this section is a discussion of the concepts of embarrassment and customer satisfaction since these are included in the conceptual model of the study. The conceptual model was also presented after the introduction; the model should have been placed following the theoretical background.
The hypotheses clearly locate either coolness or embarrassment as the mediators for customer satisfaction. The hypotheses are well-developed and logical. This study is well-designed and utilizes a 2 (success vs. failure) x 2 (Apple Pay vs. card payment) between subjects, factorial design. The study is also completely randomized which allows for high validity and reliability in regard to making statistical inferences from the manipulated factors and minimizing the influences or effects of any nuisance factors.
The discussion section is well-organized and the findings are clearly discussed. Apple Pay affects satisfaction through psychological processes that are based on the outcome of the service encounter and boosts satisfaction through a heightened sense of coolness where an encounter is successful encounter. Embarrassment and diminished satisfaction occur where there is a failed encounter. The recommendation that hospitality organizations create separate pay lines for users of Apple pay where they can stand out to boost their sense of coolness and visibility seems to be catering to psychological processes of coolness and not considering the possibility that some customers may be using the technology for its functionality and safety rather than to simply to appear “cool” to others. In fact, some persons may not feel a need to appear “cool” to others nor would they feel embarrassment when there is a glitch in the technology as it is not of their making. A more practical recommendation provided in the discussion is that the causes of failure should be addressed promptly; customer satisfaction would be improved as they use an efficient and time-saving payment method.
- Liu, S.Q., & Mattila, A.S. (in press). Apple Pay: coolness and embarrassment in the service encounter. International Journal of Hospitality Management.