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The effect of consumer emotions on outcome behaviors following service failure

L. Jean Harrison-Walker (Department of Marketing, University of Houston – Clear Lake, Houston, Texas, USA)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 4 June 2019

Issue publication date: 8 July 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of emotions that consumers experience following service failures and to assess the effects of each of these emotions on important behavioral outcomes.


This paper extends the work of Wetzer et al. (2007) and draws upon the existing literature to test a series of research hypotheses tying emotions to four important behavioral outcomes primarily using stepwise regression.


When a service failure occurs, customers experience any of a variety of negative emotions. The effect on behavioral outcomes depends on the specific emotion experienced by the consumer. The current research, which benefits by using retrospective experience sampling, finds that frustration is the predominant emotion experienced by customers following service failure, but that anger, regret and frustration affect behavioral outcomes. Uncertainty also plays a role.

Research limitations/implications

Future research should investigate the antecedents of propensity for emotions and predisposition toward industries, as well as the consequences of word-of-mouth (WOM) praise and WOM activity. Additionally, emotions could be examined by service stage. Several other moderators could be investigated, including severity, complaining behavior, repeat occurrence, service importance, remedies and forgiveness, product vs process failures, tenure, gender and age.

Practical implications

The current research emphasizes the importance of understanding which emotion is being experienced by a customer following service failure to identify the behavioral outcomes that will be most impacted. The specific managerial implications depend upon the specific emotional response experienced by the customer and are discussed separately for anger, regret and frustration. Service personnel must be trained to recognize and address specific customer emotions rather than to provide a canned or generalized response.


To date, there has been little, if any, systematic research into the effects of multiple discrete negative emotions on multiple desirable behavioral outcomes. The current study examines six discrete emotions. Predominant emotions are differentiated from emotional intensity. The behavioral outcomes of reconciliation and reduced share-of-wallet are added to the traditional outcomes of repatronage intentions and negative WOM. While existing research tends to rely on a scenario approach, this study uses the retrospective experience sampling method. The authors distinguish between mixed emotions and multiple emotions. The relative effects of disappointment and regret are examined for each of the four outcomes. Finally, importance-performance map analysis was applied to the findings to prioritize managerial attention. Numerous managerial and research implications are identified.



Harrison-Walker, L.J. (2019), "The effect of consumer emotions on outcome behaviors following service failure", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 33 No. 3, pp. 285-302.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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