Lowering the line of visibility: Incidental users in service encounters

Ohad Inbar, Noam Tractinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent economic and technological developments have led to the emergence of the services industry and to the important role that information technology (IT) plays in it. The emergence of IT-based services, which has merged people's roles as customers and users, calls for closer collaboration between the domains of human-computer interaction (HCI) and services science. This article offers three contributions within this context. First, we elaborate on the concept of the incidental user-a person involved as a customer in a service encounter that includes exchange of information with an IT system, often mediated by a service representative who is the main user of the system. Second, we suggest that two key design aspects-sharing information with incidental users and increasing their control over the interaction-can improve the service provided by the organisation to its customers. We propose a theoretical model that describes the consequences of such design decisions on the incidental user and on the service encounter. Specifically, we propose that these decisions improve the effectiveness of the service encounter and customers trust in the service-providing organisation. Finally, we suggest and demonstrate design solutions that expand the range of information exchanged between the service representative and the customer-by sharing information and/or by extending the level of interaction available to the customer. By applying established HCI practices and theories, and considering new design solutions, designers of service encounter environments can improve the customer's service experience and the service provider's effectiveness.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)245-260
Number of pages16
JournalBehaviour and Information Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2012


  • effectiveness
  • incidental user
  • information presentation
  • service design
  • services
  • trust

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Social Sciences


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