When public services fail: a research agenda on public service failure

Steven Van de Walle (KU Leuven – Public Governance Institute, Leuven, Belgium)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Publication date: 17 October 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to review the literature on public service failure and develop a research agenda for studying public service failure alongside private service failure. The general services management literature has devoted relatively little attention to public services, whereas developments in the private service management literature have not reached public management.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a conceptual paper drawing on the public management literature. Different failure types and causes are discussed, including service failures that are specific to public sector settings. This is linked to the specific public context within which public services operate. Customer reactions to public service failure are then introduced, as well as service recovery.

Findings

Service failures in a public and a private context are different. There are different failure types and different standards of failure. Public management literature mainly studies collective and political reactions to service failure, whereas the private service management literature tends to focus on individual reactions. Finally, attention for service recovery was found to be very limited in the public services literature.

Social implications

Studying public service failure is important because failure can have dramatic consequences for customers, public organisations, and society. Social inequalities that arise as a result of public service failure need to have a prominent role in future research.

Originality/value

This paper develops the concept of public service failure and sets a novel research agenda for studying processes, causes, and consequences of such failure, as well as public-private differences.

Keywords

Citation

Van de Walle, S. (2016), "When public services fail: a research agenda on public service failure", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 27 No. 5, pp. 831-846. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOSM-04-2016-0092

Download as .RIS

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.