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Assumed empowerment: Consuming professional services in the knowledge economy

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2006
<mark>Journal</mark>European Journal of Marketing
Issue number9-10
Volume40
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)994-1012
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Purpose - This paper considers the notion of consumer empowerment across the financial, legal and medical service sectors in the UK. Although the advent of the internet is generally seen as potentially enabling consumer empowerment, theoretical papers divide on the question of efficacy. On the one hand, it is argued the much-vaunted internet opportunity must not be simply taken as evidence of change in the consumer-producer relationship. On the other the change must not be unquestioningly be taken as advantageous to the consumer. Design/methodology/approach - Empirical data were generated through ten consumer focus groups and eight interviews with professionals. Findings - The paper supports the contention that empowerment is partial and unevenly distributed among consumers. It is argued that characterisations of consumer indifference and producer discipline as preventing effective empowerment are too simplistic. Additionally, any taboo restraining the questioning of professional judgement is largely absent from the assumption of choice and of recognition/respect among the consumers participating in the research. Research limitations/implications - Focus group research does not enable a judgement about the prevalence or distribution of empowerment assumptions among consumers. Practical implications - It is inevitable that in the broader consumer market professionals will be required to respond to a complex of consumer assumptions and these will include an assumption of empowerment. Originality/value - Much of the services research in marketing has been set within the service recovery paradigm; given information, consumer power is an implied function of the market. In this paper, we see consumer empowerment as a process of negotiation partially facilitated by information. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.