Whenever I get a craving for a chicken sandwich and waffle fries, it’s invariably on Sunday—the one day a week when Chick-fil-A is closed. Rather than become frustrated by the closure, though, I appreciate that Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, was motivated by his religious beliefs to give his employees a day of rest.
It turns out I’m not the only one. “I am from the South and there is a company called Chick-fil-A, and they are known for their religious affiliation — they even have it posted on their wall,” says Kelly Cowart, assistant professor of marketing at Grand Valley State University. “What does that mean to the people that come there? What does that mean for the employees? What does that mean when a company has a religious affiliation? Nothing had really been done looking at that effect.”
A new study led by Cowart and published in the Journal of Services Marketing shows religious affiliation can safeguard companies against negative reactions to store policies, such as limited hours of operation or a temporary store closing:
Cowart said the current findings indicate that religious affiliations may buffer against some of the negative fallout that ensues in the wake of a service failure, as consumers do not penalize such firms as heavily as those without an affiliation. “More importantly, the findings suggest that a religious affiliation can garner favor even when the religion is not the dominant religion in society,” she said.
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Not only did the findings indicate religious affiliation may serve as a buffer against negative feedback from customers, but also the consumers did not penalize firms as heavily as those without a religious association, according to Cowart.
“When a company had a religious affiliation, the customers were more forgiving that they were closed, even though they weren’t happy,” said Cowart.