Journal of Consumer Behavior

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Journal of Consumer Behaviour, J. Consumer Behav. 11: 21–30 (2012) Published online 20 July 2011 in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/cb.366

Consumer complaints and recovery through guaranteeing self-service technology NICHOLA ROBERTSON1*, LISA MCQUILKEN1 and JAY KANDAMPULLY2 1 Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia 2 Ohio State University, 266 Campbell Hall, 1787 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210, USA ABSTRACT Self-service technologies are shaping the future of consumer behaviour, yet consumers often experience service failure in this context. This conceptual paper focuses on self-service technology failure and recovery. A consumer perspective is taken. Recovering from self-service technology failure is fraught with difficulty, mainly because of the absence of service personnel. The aim of this paper is to present a theoretical framework and associated research propositions in respect to the positive role that service guarantees can play in the context of self-service technology failure and recovery. It contributes to the consumer behaviour domain by unifying the theory pertaining to consumer complaint behaviour, service recovery, specifically consumers’ perceptions of justice, and service guarantees, which are set in a distinctive self-service technology context. It is advanced that service guarantees, specifically multiple attribute-specific guarantees, are associated with consumer voice complaints following self-service technology failure, which is contingent on the attribution of blame in the light of consumers’ production role. Service guarantees are argued to be associated with consumers’ perceptions of just recovery in the selfservice technology context when they promise to fix the problem, compensate only when the problem cannot be remedied, offer a choice of compensation that is contingent on failure severity, afford ease of invocation and collection, and provide a personalised response to failures. Previous classifications of SSTs are used to highlight the applicability of guarantees for different types of SSTs. Managerial implications based on the theoretical framework are presented, along with future research directions. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

INTRODUCTION The growing application of technology in services has transformed the way that organisations interact with consumers (Liljander et al., 2006). Self-service technologies (SSTs) are technological interfaces that enable consumers to generate benefits for themselves, without the presence of the organisation’s personnel (Meuter et al., 2000). They enable consumers to take an active role in the production of their service experience. As SSTs are a major force shaping consumer behaviour (Beatson et al., 2006), the implications for both consumers and organisations need to be considered. The failure of SSTs is commonplace (Forbes, 2008; Robertson and Shaw, 2009). SST failure, or consumers’ perception that one or more aspects of SST delivery have not met their expectations, is attributed to poor service and failing technology (Meuter et al., 2000). Failures are inevitable with all services, especially SSTs that introduce new types of failures, such as consumer failures (Forbes, 2008; Meuter et al., 2000). However, SST recovery, e.g., fixing the problem and providing compensation, is generally reported to be poor (Forbes, 2008). While consumers demand a superior response to SST failure, complaints are largely ineffectively handled in this context (Collier and Bienstock, 2006). This is despite the fact that SST failure intensifies the need for recovery because consumers are often remote from service personnel (Collier and Bienstock, 2006). SST providers have ignored consumers, denied responsibility for failure, blamed consumers for the problem, *Correspondence to: Nichola Robertson, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia. E-mail:...
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