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Primacy versus recency effects in extended service encounters

Ina Garnefeld (Marketing Department, University Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany)
Lena Steinhoff (Marketing Department, University of Paderborn, Paderborn, Germany)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 8 March 2013




Customer satisfaction formation represents a dynamic phenomenon, especially in extended service encounters. A single service encounter may have an extended duration and feature several service interactions, which the customer can evaluate independently. This paper aims to offer a dynamic perspective on satisfaction formation, which indicates that what matters is not only the interactions a customer confronts but also when these interactions occur.


Research from social psychology provides a foundation for hypothesizing different effects of positive and negative critical incidents. Negative critical incidents likely are more important for overall satisfaction if they occur at the end of a service encounter. Positive critical incidents should have stronger effects at the beginning. In a 2×2 experimental design, participants considered a five‐day holiday hotel experience.


The data support the predicted dominance of a recency effect for negative critical incidents, such that a negative critical incident has a greater negative impact on customers' overall satisfaction when it occurs at the end of a service encounter instead of at the beginning. For positive critical incidents, no significant differences arose between primacy and recency effects.

Practical implications

The results highlight the importance of process designs of service experiences. Managers should pay particular attention to avoiding service failures at the end of a service encounter.


Unlike research that only assesses satisfaction formation for service encounters from a non‐dynamic perspective, this study posits the importance of the order of interactions within a service encounter.



Garnefeld, I. and Steinhoff, L. (2013), "Primacy versus recency effects in extended service encounters", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 64-81.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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