Journal of Service Research vol:17 issue:4 pages:381-398
When they experience service failures, customers look for causes. They seek to understand whether the service firm could have prevented the failure (controllability attribution) and whether the cause of the failure is temporary or constant over time (stability attribution). To understand such attributions we perform a meta-analysis. We find that causal attributions are related to emotional and cognitive reactions in several ways. First, controllability attributions elicit stronger negative emotions than do stability attributions. Second, controllability attributions directly affect only transaction-specific satisfaction, whereas stability attributions directly affect customers’ transaction-specific and overall satisfaction. Third, both attributions affect loyalty and negative word-of-mouth through negative emotions, overall satisfaction, and transaction-specific satisfaction. Finally, contextual (i.e., cultural values), methodological (i.e., participants), and measurement factors (i.e., measurement scale) partly explain studywise variation in the effects of attributions on customer outcomes. We recommend that companies manage reactions to service failure thrice: before customers formulate attributional beliefs, using fast and accurate communication, when the attributional beliefs are formed, offering employee assistance and compensations, and well after the attributional beliefs are established, providing feedback on process improvements by the company.