Research Insight: The Service Recovery Paradox

We define service recovery as “the actions taken in response to a service failure with the aim of restoring customer confidence and satisfaction” (page 200).  The service recovery paradox (SRP) is the idea that a ‘successful’ recovery will result in post-failure satisfaction being higher than pre-failure satisfaction i.e. if you want really happy customer fail to deliver the first time round but be really great at recovering!  Based on this is is also postulated that ‘recovered customers’ will be more loyal, have higher repurchase intentions, and deliver more positive word-of-mouth about the operator.

It is this paradox that de Matos et al (2007) investigate through their meta-analysis i.e. review of all the previously conducted research into this phenomenon (here).  They found 21 research papers that had tested the SRP empirically, which resulted in 24 data sets that could be re-analysed to test their hypotheses.  The results of this are summarised here:

  • SRP significantly and positively affects satisfaction.
  • SRP does not significantly affect repurchase intention, word-of-mouth or corporate image.
  • the effect of SRP on satisfaction is different across service sectors (hotel, restaurant, and others)
  • the effect of SRP on satisfaction is affected by the specific research design adopted i.e. whether for not the sample was made up of students or non-students, or whether the study was cross-sectional or longitudinal.

Based on this it is probably a really good idea to avoid service failures.

De Matos, C.A. Henrique, J.L. and Rossie, C.A.V. (2007) Service Recovery Paradox: A Meta-Analysis, Journal of Service Research, August

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