When something goes wrong and no one is

around: non-internet self-service technology
failure and recovery
Lukas P. Forbes
Gordon Ford College of Business, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA
Abstract
Purpose – This paper aims to focus on non-internet-based self-service technologies through the presentation of failure and recovery strategies
employed by service firms using self-service forms of interaction.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper employs the critical incident technique using 508 customer responses to present nine failures and nine
recovery strategies used by self-service technology firms. It presents data on post-recovery satisfaction levels and propensity to switch behavior. The
paper also compares findings in the non-internet self-service technology context to findings from e-tail and bricks and mortar settings.
Findings – Findings indicate that: non-internet self-service technology customers experience different types of service failure relative to traditional
retail and e-tail settings; non-internet self-service technology firms employ a different series of recovery strategies relative to traditional retail and e-tail
settings; and post-recovery switching by customers can be high even with satisfying experiences.
Originality/value – This paper strengthens the existing failure and recovery literature by presenting data on the largest growing sector of the service
industry, self-service technologies, and the largest sector within self-service technologies (non-internet purchases). These findings will have value to
traditional firms looking to expand to their channels in addition to firms currently experiencing customer dissatisfaction.
Keywords Service failures, Self-service, Internet, Critical incident technique
Paper type Research paper

customers used an SST when flying in 2001, but over 70
percent were using some form of SST by 2004. In 2003 alone,
it is estimated that 10.8 billion transactions occurred at
ATMs, total internet spending reached $100 billion
(Mullaney et al., 2003) and total non-internet self service
technology spending in the USA rose to $128 billion (Holman
et al., 2004).
This incredible growth of SSTs has not occurred without
problems. All forms of SSTs are plagued with concerns
regarding the level of service provided during the course of
these types of transactions. In the SST context of internet
shopping (e-tailing), for instance, market research suggests
that one out of every four online shoppers perceives “major”
problems associated with online shopping, includes problems
such as confusing information, long upload sessions, and
payment difficulty (E-marketer, 2001). Likewise, only 10
percent of self-service banking customers will use an ATM to
deposit money due to fear of a banking error or unforeseen
problem (Bruce, 2003); in other words, these individuals feel
comfortable taking money out of ATMs but are hesitant to
deposit money because of the potential for service failure
mistakes.
In the area of retailing, service failure and recovery has
received considerable academic study. For bricks and mortar
firms, Kelley et al. (1993) presented a typology of service
failures and recoveries and other researchers have studied

An executive summary for managers and executive
readers can be found at the end of this article.
Allen Crocket is a do-it-yourself flier. Though he travels 100,000 miles a
year, [he] rarely talks to an airline employee on the phone or at the airport.
He buys tickets online. He prints boarding passes at home. He gets alerts on
his cellphone if his flight has been delayed. If he doesn’t have an exit-row or
front-of-the-section seat, he checks in at a kiosk at the airport (Yu, 2006).

The emergence of self-service technologies (SSTs) in the past
two decades has introduced interesting changes and
challenges within the retail and services sector. SSTs are
defined as “technological interfaces that enable customers to
produce a service independent of direct service employee
involvement” (Meuter et al., 2000, p. 50). The above example
of today’s air traveler, taken from a recent article in a leading
US newspaper, provides the perfect example of the use of
SSTs, in many forms, to conduct routine service activities;
this flier used the internet, a computer, a cell phone and a
kiosk to conduct his basic travel needs. Other examples of
SSTs include retail activities such as internet purchases, ATM
machines, telephone banking and transportation tokens (e.g.,
subway). Consumer spending in this area has been dramatic;
it is estimated that all SST purchases will exceed $1.3 trillion
by 2007 (Holman et al., 2004), reflecting a growth rate of 88
percent within the last two years. For instance, in the Airline
industry, Northwest Airlines estimated that only 20 percent of
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/0887-6045.htm

Received: March 2006
Revised: July 2006
Accepted: October 2006
This research was funded, in part, through a grant from the Von Allmen
Center at the University of Kentucky. The author would like to thank
Scott Kelley and Traci Freling for their helpful comments on previous
versions of this manuscript.

Journal of Services Marketing
22/4 (2008) 316– 327
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 0887-6045]
[DOI 10.1108/08876040810881713]

316

and customer switching behavior (Keaveney. Gilly et al. types of recovery strategies in specific industries (e.3 percent). With regard to education. SST products Products and services identified by respondents included most major categories of consumer goods available in selfservice form (excluding any internet form) to include banking.g. 2005)). service failure in airlinecustomer relationships (Bejou et al.9 percent). no current research has studied the types of service failures and service recoveries that occur at non-internet SSTs. Nyquist et al. However.. After describing the failure.1 percent) and 238 were female (46. nstead.. 1954. five steps were followed here..1 percent). movie tickets. and interpreted the data for our final report. this research will also compare findings in non-internet SSTs with those for internet shopping (Forbes et al. First. to the best of our knowledge. communication difficulties (Nyquist et al. respondents were told the definition of an SST and then asked to recount a failure they experienced during a purchase from any self-service technology. employee attributions of service failures. and were required to use face-to-face interviews (as opposed to previous studies which allowed phone interviews (e. 1995a.g. e-tail. 1992). b) and the consumer recovery evaluation process (e. one small state public and one private). resulting in a completion rate of 95.. Because a comparison between bricks and mortar. During the interviews. 1991). random calls were placed to respondents following data collection to ensure their participation was valid and methodological procedures were followed. Since it is estimated that non-internet SSTs make up 57 percent of all SST usage by consumers (Holman et al. 2002) and retail consumers in general.9 percent). 1993) settings.7 percent). subway tokens. Kelley et al. In SST settings. and non-internet SSTs is valuable for firms. Finally.8 percent. 1995). 1990.e.7 percent). 1992).1 percent). each student was trained on the CIT and shown examples of researchers using the CIT method. Sundaram et al. 71 had a high school diploma or GED (13. As is usually the case with research using CITs (Flanagan. The demographic profile of our sample indicated that 270 of the respondents were male (53. 2004).. service failure and recovery within an e-tail environment (Forbes et al. Data collection The critical incidents obtained for this study were collected using 106 undergraduate students from three different midwestern universities (one large state public. Second.g. Forbes Volume 22 · Number 4 · 2008 · 316 –327 customer perceptions of general types of service failures across industries (Bitner et al. 61 were between 45 and 54 (12. several steps were taken during the research process. findings on customer satisfaction and loyalty within non-internet SST firms are presented. Additionally. and 87 had graduate level education (17. 1985). studies involving SSTs combine internet (i. 1998). e-commerce or e-tailing) services along with non-internet SSTs (e. 1997. A total of 508 critical incidents were gathered out of a possible 530 (106 students assigned five incidents each). a logical extension is to conduct empirical research that specifically enhances our understanding of non-internet-based SST failures.g. analyzed the data. 46 were between 55 and 64 (9.. Researchers have previously used this methodology to investigate a variety of related issues such as the effect service failures and recovery strategies within the hospitality and retail industries (Hoffman and Chung. age and education level (Pew Internet Study. Tax et al.g. formulated plans and specifications for the collection of critical incidents.. collected the data.6 percent). to validate the sample. In order to address potential bias issues (e. to ensure an adequate sample..g.. focusing on interactions between customers and non-internet SSTs in which the interaction is negative.9 percent). (2000) investigated satisfying and dissatisfying service transactions in the context of SSTs and Forbes et al. 1993). Gremler and Bitner. respondents were then asked to describe the service recovery process (the survey instrument used to gather the information regarding the failure and recovery incidents is included in the Appendix..1 percent).. These constraints were imposed in an effort to obtain a sample more representative of the overall retail customer population. These students were enrolled in either a retailing course or a services marketing course. 141 were between 25 and 34 (27. and the recovery strategies employed by firms. it is important for marketers to understand the differences between internet SSTs and non-internet SSTs. customer complaining behavior (e.3 percent). parking tickets. through the use of data focusing exclusively on non-internet-based SSTs. Hoffman. 127 held bachelor’s degrees (25 percent).. Hoffman and Kelley. we determined the general aim of the activity. the emergence and rapid growth of the non-internet-based services such as ATMs and kiosks.1 percent). therefore. Specifically. Gremler and Bitner. Figure A1). (2005) investigated internet service failures and recoveries. A total of 22 incidents were deemed unusable and were excluded from the analysis.. Interviewers were also trained on SSTs and instructed to only collect SST CITs from consumers in non-internet settings. 1990. 1992. 215 had some college education (42. ATMs). Meuter et al. favorable and unfavorable incidents within the service encounter in general (Bitner et al. Forbes et al.. inappropriate questions to sway answers towards intended outcomes. despite their numerous differences. The study Critical incident technique This study builds upon previous research by examining failures and recovery strategies in non-internet SST settings through the critical incident technique (CIT)... too often. 1996). In the current study. students were given instruction and guidance in conducting interviews and encouraged to take notes during the interviews to seek clarification in the event any questions arose during the interview. Alicke et al.. the CIT highlights service failure and the ensuing recovery process. and the importance of responding to and recovering from service failures in self-service environments. 1999. 1996. each student was instructed to recruit and conduct personal interviews with five participants stratified by age. and 40 were over 64 years old (7. Our data appear to represent the broader population of self-service technology users across the variables of gender. students were required to sample five individuals from at least four of five designated age categories.When something goes wrong and no one is around Journal of Services Marketing Lukas P.. The purpose of this paper. interviewing based on convenience sample. Given existing research focusing primarily on bricks and mortar or internet-based retailing. 78 were between 35 and 44 (15.. 2005). eight had some high school education (1. 138 were between 18 and 24 (27. is to present a typology of service failures and service recoveries occurring in non-internet SSTs. 2005) and traditional retailing shopping (Kelley et al. 1985). prior to collecting the critical incidents. The ages of the respondents were as follows: four were under 18 years old (. 317 . were allowed to use a maximum of one student participant.. Third. unfamiliarity with the study).

postage. 1993) and 11 types of recoveries for e-tail business (Forbes et al. Attention failures 3E.4 33.8 3..) Reliability In order to assess the reliability of the nine failure types and nine recovery strategies identified here.. Forbes Volume 22 · Number 4 · 2008 · 316 –327 vending machines. nine failure categories were identified for SST failures. (1993) and Forbes et al.) .1 – 12. Hold disaster 1H.6 – – – – – 0.. Embarrassments 3D.5 318 . two bricks and mortar strategies and two e-tail recovery strategies identified by Kelley et al. Unsure response Group 3 total Forbes et al.1 4. including one failure unique to the SST setting.5 – 8.0 – – 6. The preliminary sorting and classification resulted in the identification of 15 noninternet SST strategies. Step 1: classification of failure incidents. Mischarged 3B.0 3. After initial sorting and classification. the independent judge was given the definition of each failure type and each recovery strategy. Earlier research on brick and mortar recoveries identified 12 types of recoveries (Kelley et al.5 89.. 2005) see Table I.5 – 15.5 0.9 12.. Previous CIT research provides evidence indicating that brick and mortar retail failures can be classified through 15 unique types of failures (Kelley et al. 2005) guided our content analysis of the critical incidents. These sets of failures were used as a starting point for the classification of the non internet SST incidents. The independent judge was then given all 508 critical incidents in order to sort Table I Retail failures vs e-tail failures vs non-internet self-service technology failures Failure type Group 1. Current study self-service Kelley et al. retail failures and recoveries (Kelley et al. To begin the assessment process. (1993) retail failures (2005) e-tail failures technology failures (non-internet) Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % 14.0 37. Out of stock 1F. Additionally. an independent judge (with expertise in retailing) classified each of the CITs in the sample based on the established failure and recovery typologies.4 18.1 43. Step 3: reduction of recovery strategies.3 4.3 2. 1993) and e-tail recoveries (Forbes et al.0 2.When something goes wrong and no one is around Journal of Services Marketing Lukas P. (2005).8 3.8 4. (2005) did not occur in the non-internet SST context. Slow/unavailable service 1C. 2005). The critical incident sorting process involved the following steps: .9 – 21. Bad information 1J.7 10. Reduction occurred to ensure categories were distinct and to ensure clarification of the recovery type found within each category.. Non-internet SST failure that could not be classified into one of the existing categories were classified through the establishment of new categories..2 3. Step 2: classification of recovery strategies. Product defect 1G.1 – 70.9 6. After reduction.. 1990). Alterations and repairs 1I.9 – 34. Response to customer needs and requests 2A.2 5. 1993) and that e-tail failures can be classified using ten types of failures. Policy failure 1B. These types of recoveries served as a starting point for the sorting and classification of the non-internet SST incidents. Unprompted and unsolicited actions 3A. The classification of both failures and recoveries was based on the primary failure and primary recovery described in the critical incident. Recoveries that could not be classified into one of the .3 – 8. (For a comparison of SST failures to retail failures (Kelley et al.4 2.5 1.2 3. and one of the strategies was unique to SSTs. (For a comparison of non-internet SST recoveries to retail recoveries (Kelley et al. Data analysis Coding schemes from earlier CIT research focusing on general service encounters (Bitner et al. Accused of shoplifting 3C. 2005) see Table II. (1993) and Forbes et al.1 – – 8. Size variation Group 2 total Group 3.1 13.3 4. System pricing 1D.1 10.9 – 9. Special order/request 2B.1 1. Web site system failure Group 1 total Group 2. Response to service delivery system/product failure 1A. library and self-check out lanes for items such as groceries.2 – – 5.1 – 47.. 1993) and e-tail failures (Forbes et al. Customer error 2C. 1993) and e-tail (internet shopping) failures and recoveries (Forbes et al. existing sets of categories were classified through the establishment of new categories. eight of the strategies identified were also included in the earlier work of Kelley et al. Further sorting and re-classification resulted in the reduction of the total number of non-internet SST strategies from 15 to nine.2 2.3 4.4 6. Packaging errors 1E. gas.

9 34. Group 3. The third broad group of failures that was previously identified. Customer error Group 2 total Group 3.4 – – 1. the reliability coefficient Ir was computed (Perreault and Leigh.1 percent of the recovery incidents.0 – 15. System pricing 1C.5 5.3 0.8 3.3 4.1 – 1.61 4.4 1.3 12.918 for the failures and 0.3 2. Out of stock 1D.1 47.55 3.6 5.1 17. 1989).32 3.8 3. the failure classification scheme is discussed.7 – the incidents into appropriate failure and recovery categories. and Forbes et al.1 includes excerpts from our data pertaining to each failure type. followed by the presentation of the types of recovery strategies identified.7 5.8 3.When something goes wrong and no one is around Journal of Services Marketing Lukas P.1 12.b Frequency Frequency % 50 17 42 21 45 175 9. Forbes Volume 22 · Number 4 · 2008 · 316 –327 Table II Retail recovery strategies vs e-tail recovery strategies vs non-internet self-service technology recovery strategies Failure type Discount Correction Manager intervention Correction plus Replacement (via original channel) Apology Refund Customer-initiated correction Store credit Unsatisfactory correction Failure escalation Nothing Replace at brick and mortar Intentional repeat purchase Forbes et al. Kelley et al.9 3.91 31 63 508 6.2 – 6.941 for the recovery strategies. Unsure response Grand total a Magnitude of failurea. Product defect 1E.4 100 6. (1993) retail recovery strategies (2005) e-tail recovery strategies recovery strategies (non-internet) Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % 3.78) . The fact that Unprompted and unsolicited action failures once again occur in our data is interesting but not surprising. In previous research these failures were generally associated with the Results The results of the sorting and classification process for our data are reported below. and the mean respondent rating of the magnitude of each failure.3 1.27 4. The value for Ir was 0.62 5.9 1. Classification of failures The failure sorting and classification resulted in nine unique types of failures for non-internet SSTs. Current study self-service technology Kelley et al. Slow/unavailable service 1B. Response to service delivery system/product failure 1A. their frequency and percentage of occurrence within our sample.2 – – 3.2 26. 1. Response to service delivery system/product failure.4 5.3 8. First. did not occur in data for e-tail settings (Forbes et al.9 51 188 239 10. Standard deviations are reported in parentheses 319 (1. Special order/request 2B. Unprompted and unsolicited actions.3 – 6.8 37. These findings are indicative of high reliability for the classification schemes. In addition. (1990).. Unprompted and unsolicited actions 3A. Group 2.0 12.6 5.0 37. Response to customer needs and requests. Table IV Table III Non-internet self-service technology failures Failure type Group 1.3 2.6 7.2 8.6 – 14.8 5.1 18.1 5. 2005) but does now occur for non-internet SST settings (see Table I). The independent judge correctly classified 91. BAD information Group 1 total Group 2.2 47. Response to customer needs and requests 2A. (1993). (2005): Group 1.1 8.42 6. Embarrassments 3B.6 17.2 percent of the failure incidents and 93. Table III includes the failures identified through our analysis.69 b Note: Magnitude of failure is rated on a scale of 1 (small failure) to 7 (large failure). The following discussion of these failures is organized around two of the three broad groups of failures included in the work of Bitner et al.

Bachelors Degree) Went to car wash. adding monogramming to a purchased item would be considered a special request due to the specific nature of the purchase.27 and represented 4. 25-34.6. Response to customer needs and requests 2A.1 percent of all failures. 1C. 3-4 yrs college) I am still mad about this! I was trying to get money out of machine in Chicago. Kelley et al. 1993). late at night. Bachelors Degree) I paid a parking ticket out of state with their automated phone system. I didn’t do it properly and got a ticket even though I paid to park!! (F.. Told her to return call at non-peak hours (F. I used a monogram machine outside of the mall store. Customers perceived this failure to have a mean 320 . That ticket could still be unpaid and I wouldn’t know it! (F. 18-24. Out of stock These incidents include non-internet SST purchases that were back-ordered or out of stock when purchased by the consumer at the SST.3 percent of all failures. This failure represented 8. and when I pressed the button to order orchestra section it ended up giving me a seat in the far back.. 35-44.g.. HS school degree) I used an automatic parking machine at the campus lot.g. Group 1. Product defect Critical incidents classified as product defects included purchases received by the customer which were damaged in some manner (e. Customers perceived this failure to have a mean magnitude of failure of 3. I was so angry and was very embarrassed. some critical incidents within this category involved situations where the service did not occur on time. placing the order. and this failure represented 3. This failure represented 8. This failure represented 9.9 percent of all failures. 1D. 18-24. 55-64. 25-34. You had to park in a slot. It made a mistake and put the monogram initials in the wrong order (F. 1990...32. Response to service delivery system/product failure 1A. System pricing This category includes involving pricing issues where the customer was mischarged as a result of an SST error. 1B.g. Forbes Volume 22 · Number 4 · 2008 · 316 –327 Table IV Non-internet self service technology failure anecdotes (gender. in the these instances. 1-2 yrs college) The screen I used to order tickets to the musical was hard to read. definitely not orchestra section (M. One guy yelled at me and said “what’s the problem lady.62. or even triple-charged for merchandise purchased (e. Mean failure ratings are reported in the subsequent discussion. damaged in some way). Customers perceived this failure to have a mean magnitude of failure of 5. Bachelors Degree) Used a catalog telephone operating system to order computer product. Bachelors Degree) human element of the service encounter (Bitner et al.When something goes wrong and no one is around Journal of Services Marketing Lukas P.. Slow/unavailable service This category included incidents involving delays in service or purchase for the consumer that eventually resulted in the customer receiving the purchased item. In order to be included in this failure category the customer must have been clearly notified by the SST retailer of the back-ordered or out of stock situation at the time of.90. For instance. Group 2. put in money and the slot. had thought the ATM had locked-up. broken items. Special order/request This category of critical incidents included any specially ordered or requested product or service requiring customization that resulted in a service failure. being charged regular price for items on sale. Customers perceived this failure to have a mean magnitude of failure of 5. 1E. he/she would not have received the service ordered. For example. The machine gave me an incorrect amount of money and then ate my card! I kept trying to fix the problem while everyone in line was yelling at me to hurry up. the third most severe perceived magnitude of failure. There were many people waiting in line for me. 1-2 yrs college) The vending machine was out of the product that I wanted to buy (M. it was apparent that if the customer had not initiated the recovery process. and then walk back to your car and display it on the windshield. but when I received the product it was not working (M. 45-54. nor did they give me a receipt via phone or mail. Consumers perceived this failure to have a mean magnitude of failure of 4. These types of incidents typically occurred in situations where a customer bought a SST service/product. but eventually was delivered without any customer follow-up (e. which is virtually eliminated from the technology-based encounters using the internet but returns when you consider non-internet-based SSTs (Meuter et al. 25-34. The price charged on my credit card was more than the price listed at the car wash for the type of wash I received (M. Bad information These failures included any instance where the customer was provided with misleading information about the product or the product capabilities. Automated service had individual wait for over 15 minutes and then disconnected her due to length of waiting time. but then was disappointed with its performance due to what he/she felt was a misrepresentation of product capabilities. Examples include being double-. Consumers perceived this failure to have a mean magnitude of failure of 5. walk over the machine. a customer waited in line at an ATM an inordinate amount of time. being double-charged for one subway token). take the number down. The system was a joke! I entered all of my information and never received any verification that it was paid. 25-34. missing pieces. or immediately after.3 percent of all failures. age range. 2000). Examples of this failure include incorrect information or poor information. Grad School) I need a monogram for my wedding on the gifts for the groomsmen. Other incidents included delays where the service product was not delivered to the customer until after the customer initiated a follow-up contact with the SST retailer. The magnitude of each failure type was measured on a seven-point scale with anchors of very small (1) and very large (7). can’t you use an ATM machine” and everyone laughed (F. but then received her money (described as a few minutes later)). education level) Slow/unavailable service System pricing Out of stock Product defect Bad information Special order/request Admitted customer error Embarrassments Unsure response Called that national number for Social Security.8 percent of all failures. the lowest failure rating in our typology. being charged tax on non-taxable items.

2. the largest of all failures. Unsure response This category represents critical incidents in which the customer took part in the SST but.42.78 Notes: a Loyalty and satisfaction are rated on a scale of 1 (low loyalty/satisfaction) to 7 (high loyalty/satisfaction) 321 .10 2.49 4. this occurred when an employee sent over to “help” the consumer using the SST caused the consumer to be embarrassed or feel stupid.. the second largest of all failures.51 5. The mean customer satisfaction level for this recovery was 5. 3.8 3. 9. 2005).55.. 2.6 14. the majority of failures in this category were admitted errors (i. Table VI provides critical incident excerpts for each of the recovery strategies identified. 3. by far the largest amount of failures within self-service technologies. Conversely. Manager intervention This category represents corrections in which the store manager (i.61. and represented 6. the next step was to classify the recovery strategies described in the critical incidents. For instance. Forbes et al. These recoveries are presented in Table V. 3B.21.. Incidents involving admitted customer errors included a clear statement within the critical incident indicating a mistake was made during the course of completing the purchase (e. The propensity to switch was measured through a single-item scale asking respondents how likely it would be for them to switch to another retailer “if another retailer using a self-service technology could provide the item purchased just as well. 5.1 2. even after purchase. so they were not sure the bill was actually paid. This recovery represented 1.3 2. Customers perceived this failure to have a mean magnitude of failure of 3. Customer error This category included both admitted and un-admitted customer errors. addition. Customers perceived this failure to have a mean magnitude of failure of 6. typing in one’s credit card incorrectly). 4. In Table V Non-internet self service technology recovery strategies Recovery 1. and represented 12. some consumers paid for a parking ticket (in a large Northeast City) at a kiosk machine but never received a confirmation notice after they made the transaction. was not completely sure they did the right thing.4 1.1 percent of all failures. This recovery represented 3. many consumers paid for parking tickets (to park in a lot) and were not sure they followed the process correctly after buying the ticket. 6..61.64 1. corrected the failure.3 percent of all recoveries. Unprompted and unsolicited actions 3A. it was obvious that an error had been made.1 17. Customers perceived this failure to be a 6. The mean level of customer satisfaction associated with this recovery was 5. to the researchers. a person in a position of leadership) came over to rectify a service failure.e.2 6. and represented 10. Correction This recovery strategy involved recovery incidents in which the retailer approached the consumer using the SST (unprompted).47 1. 8.31 1. For instance. however. Forbes Volume 22 · Number 4 · 2008 · 316 –327 magnitude of failure of 5. 1993.84 2.4 percent of all failures. and a report regarding the propensity to switch following the self-service technology recovery strategy.8 percent of all recoveries. The measures for satisfaction and loyalty were intentionally chosen for this study so that the results presented here could be compared to results to previous typology studies of service failure and recovery for retail and e-tail settings (Kelley et al. corrected the failure.88 3.21 3. a customer having a problem at a self-check out station at Kroger had manager Classification of recoveries After classifying the non-internet SST failures.47 3. or if the customer was using an SST incorrectly in front of other consumers. Or. but did nothing extra for the consumer.3 6. Examples of recoveries classified in this category included fixing a computer screen at a self-check out lane that was malfunctioning or ensuring that the customer received the correct item.93 4. the customer knew they were not doing something right during the process).e. Group. This analysis presents a discussion of the non-internet SST recovery strategies that emerged through the classification process.91 and this failure represented 37. 1. un-admitted errors included incidents where the customer did not admit to making a mistake.25 6.71 1.When something goes wrong and no one is around Journal of Services Marketing Lukas P.0 percent of all failures.g.51 and the mean propensity to switch rating was 2. Discount Incidents in this recovery category included situations in which the retailer approached the consumer using the SST (unprompted).1 percent of all failures. a report of the mean levels of customer satisfaction.30 5. Embarrassments This category of critical incidents includes any situation in which the service failure resulted in embarrassment to the consumer due to SST carelessness.62 3. Discount Correction Manager intervention Apology Customer-initiated correction Unsatisfactory correction Failure escalation Nothing Intentional repeat purchase Frequency Frequency % Switching meana Satisfaction meana 9 17 12 6 32 31 87 242 72 1. however.” This item employed a seven-point scale with anchors of low loyalty/likely to switch (1) and high loyalty/unlikely to switch (7). 7.21 2. For instance. Customer satisfaction was assessed through a seven-point scale with anchors of low satisfaction (1) and high satisfaction (7) and is consistent with other studies assessing the uni-dimensionality of satisfaction using a single-item scale.2 47.25 and the mean propensity to switch rating was 3. and gave the customer a discount on the item purchased.61 3. 2B. Unlike e-tail studies (Forbes et al. 2005).

8. When I called to complain.). For example. and had a switching mean of 3.1 percent of all recoveries. Bachelors Degree) I bought the tram ticket and it was torn so you couldn’t read the scan. discount.47 and the average propensity to switch rating for this recovery was 3. 45-54.2 percent of all recoveries. and this recovery represented 6. the highest satisfaction rating. The consumer believed that there was no one available to help them and that if they did not try to purchase the item again. associated with the recovery process. 1-2 yrs college) They sent me the correct sweater. For example. but the customer still did not receive the item originally purchased. I missed the first tram and had to wait for the next one. Customer-initiated correction This recovery strategy involved failures that were resolved when the customer called over the “nearest” available store employee to help with the purchase process. and then they still made me pay to ship it back and pay for the new sweater shipping (M. 35-44. 5. This recovery was our largest recovery category (47. This recovery was associated with our second-lowest level of mean customer satisfaction reported (2. This problem occurred at a variety of SSTs ranging from soft drinkmachines where the consumer had to insert double pay. The average level of customer satisfaction with this recovery strategy was 4. It also resulted in the second-highest propensity to switch rating indicative of the “recovery” that was second most likely to lead to switching (1. 9. age range. 4. This recovery represented 6. Nothing These incidents involved situations in which the self-service firm did not attempt to resolve the failure or involved situations in which the customer did not pursue a recovery following the failure experience.1 percent of all recoveries. two weeks later. 55-64. 18-24. they just sent over a clerk and he told me he was sorry for the problem but I don’t think he really cared (M. or continue to work 322 .6 percent) in terms of frequency of occurrence. He eventually scanned everything for me and even helped me bag it up (F. Intentional repeat purchase With this type of recovery strategy the customer purchased a second item at the SST after a failure occurred during the first purchase. respectively.21. Grad School) I desperately wanted a drink. 7. Generally.49. education level) Discount Correction Manager intervention Apology Unsatisfactory correction Failure escalation Nothing Intentional repeat purchase No one helped me at the store.88 and 2. 25-34. the lowest switching likelihood. This recovery represented 14. intervention solve her problem..41) and least favorably in terms of loyalty (1. either monetary or non-monetary. etc. after four times. Grad School) The store did nothing. This recovery had a satisfaction of 6.g. 25-34. I couldn’t even find someone to complaint to. I tried a different button and received my drink (M. some Grad School) The store really didn’t do nothing.62. Bachelors Degree) The manager came over to the self-service aisle when he saw I was getting frustrated. [Store did] absolutely nothing (M. Bachelors Degree) their way up the organization chart.31). the third lowest level of loyalty. 35-44. Our respondents rated this recovery strategy least favorably in terms of customer satisfaction (2.30). Instead of using the fast line. it represented 2. The mean customer satisfaction and propensity to switch scores associated with this recovery were 3.2 percent of all recoveries and was our smallest recovery category in terms of frequency of occurrence. upgrade. and I had to call several different numbers. a customer might attempt to return incorrect items purchased but experience difficulty in doing so and be connected to numerous phone agents. 1-Bachelors Degree) I was ordering a sweater with a phone service. I had to wait for the person to help. This recovery represented 1.64).4 percent of all recoveries. these respondents elected not to pursue a recovery with the firm due to the perceived costs. but there was an 800 number to call. a gift. Mean levels of customer satisfaction and propensity to switch associated with this recovery strategy were 4. respectively.When something goes wrong and no one is around Journal of Services Marketing Lukas P. to self-service kiosks in which there was no human-support available at any time. Failure escalation Incidents included in this recovery category involved situations where the customer was required to make multiple contacts with the service firm. Forbes Volume 22 · Number 4 · 2008 · 316 –327 Table VI Non-internet self service technology recovery anecdotes (gender. while the mean propensity to switch level was 1. and I put four $1 bills in the machine because the machine kept on eating my money but never gave me a drink. Unsatisfactory correction Recovery incidents included in this category were incidents in which the customer received the item they had desired but did not receive the items in the manner they expected. The mean level of customer satisfaction associated with this recovery was 3. they would receive no product. 6.93 and 2.47. These incidents included only an apology and the firm did not follow through with any other form of recovery (e. Finally. This recovery represented 17. Apology Incidents included in this category involved situations in which the service/retail firm apologized to the customer. they sent me a discount in the mail for 25 percent off my next purchase as a way to thank me but didn’t do anything about my purchase – I don’t even know if I’ll buy something again anyway (F.84.3 percent of all recoveries. They gave me a new ticket but didn’t even apologize (M.71. in one instance a customer was required to pay for the return shipping of the item ordered. Finally I got the person I needed to talk to (F. I kept getting pushed from one person to another. 25-34.10. in order to get the failure resolved.

propensity to switch and SST recovery efforts The relatively high perceived magnitude of failure means are especially interesting in light of respondent’s reported satisfaction and loyalty/propensity to switch levels. Manager intervention). However. These findings provide further evidence of the importance of considering satisfaction levels and switching levels in combination (Jones and Sasser. Comparison to brick and mortar retail settings and to e-tail environments To assess possible differences between the failure-recovery phenomenon in the non-internet SST arena versus e-tail and bricks and mortar environments. The largest magnitude of failure was associated with two “Unprompted and unsolicited action” categories: Embarrassment (6.. The mean satisfaction levels reported for each recovery strategy seem contradictory in light of the consumer’s low loyalty and high likelihood of switching. mean satisfaction levels associated with each of the recovery strategies are relatively high with two exceptions. At the same time. When a person of authority becomes involved. The mean satisfaction levels reported range from very dissatisfied (1. Intentional repeat purchase) to moderate (3.78. Manager intervention) on the seven-point scale used in our study. Embarrassments. Primarily. As noted previously. It appears as thought consumers realistically expect some problems (i. This situation. Results for this study in the area of Out of stock (3.When something goes wrong and no one is around Journal of Services Marketing Lukas P. there appears to be a gap between the level of expertise on the equipment possessed by the employee (relatively high) as compared to the level of expertise the consumer possesses (relatively low. the mean propensity to switch levels associated with the recovery strategies suggest consumers experiencing failures are highly likely to switch to competing firms. perhaps. In fact. these relationships are nearly impossible to develop in a noninternet SST setting. Unsure response.. Nothing) makes customers very dissatisfied. and the lowest satisfaction levels involved customers receiving no resolution (Nothing) or being forced to pay extra money (Intentional repeat purchase).60) mirrored results in internet-only (Forbes et al. The Manager intervention recovery strategy was the only recovery strategy with a loyalty/propensity to switch mean rating above the mid-point on the seven-point scale used (see Table V). Within the recovery categories. In the case of this study.5). The data also suggest that. can be improved by a firm simply by using equipment which provides direct feedback to the consumer. customers are relatively happy (high satisfaction) but display almost no loyalty despite their satisfaction (high propensity to switch). particularly in a noninternet SST context.e. is directly associated with the self-service firm using equipment that is not “consumer-friendly” and does not let the consumer know that they are purchasing their intended item and that their purchase was made successfully. they are seeking a non-SST. The second most severe failure. which naturally precludes the development of interpersonal relationships with customers. involved a failure and recovery that includes manager intervention. in the case of Customer error (3. while shopping in a traditional store setting) it is not upsetting. it appears that consumers are using the non-internet SSTs but still look for traditional recoveries when a problem occurs. has direct implications for employee training. 2005). That is. Likewise. all of the recovery strategies except two were above the mid-point of the seven-point scale used to measure satisfaction. the most desirable recovery strategies (based on our measures of satisfaction and propensity to switch) involve simply addressing the problem and correcting it. 1999) and commercial friendships (Price and Arnould. 1995. (1993) and Forbes et al. particularly if they are not technologically savvy or new to the specific type of self-service technology). any action that the customer must do themselves (Customer-initiated correction.. Previous research suggests perceptions of these interpersonal encounters are positively influenced by the development of service relationships (Gutek et al. all of the SSTs discussed here involve some level of technology. Regardless of the rationale behind respondent’s perceptions of the SST failures. in many ways. and if the failure occurs in a normal setting as well (i.. service firms need to be made aware that customer are likely to have distinctly unfavorable perceptions of SSTs when something goes wrong during the transaction. Additionally. service failure). Not surprisingly. a mean failure rating above a 3. Forbes et al. This finding suggests that consumers who purchase items using non-internet SSTs have almost no loyalty to that firm and may still expect or desire the interpersonal aspects associated with service encounters taking place in traditional retail settings when a problem emerges. would lead to a higher perception of perceived failure. 2005) and bricks and mortar-only stores (Kelley et al.62. in turn. like Embarrassment. Forbes Volume 22 · Number 4 · 2008 · 316 –327 Discussion Satisfaction. the lowest magnitude of failure is found in the categories of Out of stock and Customer error. there are also interesting patterns that emerge across failure types. and lowest failure level..e. (2005) focusing on 323 . The first issue. Intentional repeat purchase) to highly satisfied (6. regardless of the type of recovery strategy implemented. These two failures pose an interesting challenge to self-service firms due to the nature of this type of shopping. Likewise.49.91).61). Additionally. Intentional repeat purchase. customer satisfaction rises. so they do not view this as a serious failure in any setting (non-internet SST or otherwise). Loyalty/ propensity to switch means ranged from very low (1. this. these results indicate that consumers seem to recognize that out of stock issues can occur with any type of shopping. the customer seems to essentially “blame themselves” for the service failure and therefore not consider the failure to be too serious.42) and Unsure response (6. Employees do not appear to be trained on handling dissatisfied customers using SSTs. In addition to the overall high magnitude of failure associated with all failures. The magnitude of SST failures It is interesting to note that the mean magnitude of failure for all nine of the failure types identified was above the mid-point of the failure magnitude scale (i. the scores are quite large across all categories and raise significant issues for service firms. 1993). customers using a non-internet SST are not likely to repurchase after experiencing a failure at a store using non-internet SSTs.e. we also compared the findings of the current study with the findings of earlier work by Kelley et al. gathering critical incident data pertaining to failures may produce data containing relatively serious failures) it is also possible that the process of using a non-internet SST makes failure obvious to the consumer and immediately noticed (Meuter et al.e. While it is possible that this result may be reflective of the inherent nature of the data collection (i.30. 2000). This high propensity for switching suggests that consumers are likely to consider alternative purchase sources despite a retailer’s best efforts to retain their business after a failure – in many cases. 1999). It is also interesting to note that the highest satisfaction.

All three studies (the current study along with the previous two studies) utilized the CIT methodology. In the e-tail research study. Across the failure categories. These passengers. firms should realize that some failures are inevitable.3 percent) and Policy failure (14. the largest failure for non-internet SSTs was Customer error (37. service firms should focus on having some level of assistance available.1 percent versus 1. management needs to better understand the feeling of “being alone” that consumers experience in the typical non-internet experience (a most common feeling found in this study). the third largest recovery (Intentional repeat purchase. There are also interesting differences found in the area of service recoveries for these three contexts. prove unsuccessful with non-internet SSTs. for instance. this suggests that management recovery strategies for transactions occurring in non-internet SST settings will be quite different than bricks/mortar and e-tail environments. 289) noted the “the similarity of recovery strategies implemented by traditional brick and mortar retailers versus e-tailers. “the similarities” (Forbes et al.5 percent for bricks and mortar and 3.” In non-internet SST settings.6 percent).7 percent of their customers receive no retribution in the event of a service failure. in many ways.2 percent of e-tail failures. However. using customer input to continually modify SST processes) should go a long way in ensuring a decrease in the “do nothing” and “repeat purchase” areas.. hence... at the same time. 2000). any comparison of findings across studies should be interpreted with caution since each used independent samples and were conducted over a ten-year period.1 percent) did not exist in the other two settings. Implications Managerial implications An important insight emanating from this research is that management strategies for traditional retail setting or e-tail settings will not be perceived as successful in non-internet SST settings.g.1 percent). as demonstrated by the airline industry. firms can take steps to ensure that customers have a more enjoyable process when a failure occurs. the US Airline industry has seen a 17 percent reduction in the number of airline employees while. those similarities do not exist. p. service failures and recoveries specific to SST. If firms are going to continue to use SSTs to save money. there are substantial variations in frequency among traditional brick and mortar retail settings (Kelley et al. they need to clearly understand that a problem that might occur in their store will likely be drastically different than a problem that will occur on their online-store or their self-service station. 1993).g. however. Forbes et al.g.. Firms need to find a collective balance through which they save costs (by reducing employees and using SSTs) yet have response systems in place in which “someone” or “something” is available to assist the customer in event of service failure. Product defects only was found in 4. This strategy will prevent management from trying to apply proven strategies from retailing or e-tailing that might. Policy failure was not found for either non-internet SST or e-tail only settings. (2005. By doing so. Conversely. Firms need to develop procedures that offer some form of solution to the customer (e.. By understanding the low loyalty levels associated with all SSTs. For instance.1 percent of non-internet SST failures and only 12. followed parallel procedures in the collection and analysis of data. These findings in the area of failure magnify the significant differences between these three types of retail settings. Previous research has identified the difficulty in recovering associated with technology-based encounters (Meuter et al. Additionally. a complaint forum that will allow the customer to present service failures) while. of the “Do nothing” and “Intentional repeat purchase” areas. and very high frequency rate.4 percent versus not found in the other two settings).When something goes wrong and no one is around Journal of Services Marketing Lukas P. when compared to bricks and mortar firms. one clerk at a grocery store responsible for a dozen self-service stations). Firms need to equip employees and SST stations with the information and tools necessary to engage in more effective recovery strategies to include simple strategies such as phone numbers and contact information for the aggrieved parties. management can develop an inventory of failures specific to their industry and a list of managerial strategies to help the consumer (based on customer perception of that recovery).g. as found in airports at the transportation desk) or an employee responsible for numerous self-service stations (e. even if that assistance is simply a phone connected to customer service (e. Recent studies have demonstrated the drastic increase of reliance on SST equipment while. or more costly strategies such as increased employee training. Another key insight of this research comes from the very low satisfaction. 2005). it has seen a 36 percent increase in the number of passengers (Yu. The largest recovery strategy for non-internet SST settings.. in that over 60 percent of the service recoveries involve a very unsatisfied customer (Do nothing and Intentional repeat purchase) forced to accept their misfortune or repurchase an unneeded second item. In traditional retail settings. However. not the failure. but high satisfaction. Finally. at the same time. As of 2006. On the other hand.. 289) between those two settings. in part. along with more complex changes (e. without taking time up-front to ensure their customers are ready for a change in process. Additionally. upon implementation. too often service firms use SSTs (both noninternet. at the same time. they need to understand that there is still a responsibility to ensure customer satisfaction. Simple changes. and non-internet SST settings. are now using SSTs instead of humans. 2005. These two occurrences actually exacerbate the initial service failure because they offer no solution to the customer. the two largest areas for failure were Product defects (33. As with service failure. previous research comparing brick and mortar to e-tail findings noted. was experienced nearly three times as frequently as the occurrence for bricks and mortar and e-tail settings. and used the same measurement scales. Rather than leave the consumer to work alone at a station. in non-internet purchases. for management. This research. Service firms need to understand this discrepancy and take great lengths to have more of a consistent balance between satisfaction and loyalty. however. demonstrates that the non-internet SST environment demands its own set of procedures for handling 324 . 14. 2006). It is selfdefeating for service firms to have 61. As noted. e-tail only retail settings (Forbes et al. large benefits can be derived by developing procedures that actively track service failures specific to non-internet SSTs and customer responses to the employed recovery strategies.2 percent for e-tail) and Unsure response (12. Likewise. Do nothing (47. not forcing the firm to add additional employees which would take away from many of the benefits of SSTs. Forbes Volume 22 · Number 4 · 2008 · 316 –327 failure and recovery in the brick and mortar retail and e-tail environments. For firms and managers. such as having a “purchase processing/purchase complete” screen. reducing the number of employees. an analysis of the comparison data reveals relatively low loyalty at SST/e-tail settings.. p.and internet-based) simply as a way to save money. the current research suggests that the main problem lies with the recovery.

C. “Dynamics of complaint management in the service organization”.W. (Eds). and Leigh. “Service failure recovery efforts in restaurant dining”. J. 5. AZ. 111-8. and Booms. J. Developments in Marketing Science. “The service encounter: diagnosing favorable and unfavorable incidents”. for instance. 59. Marketing Theory and Applications. 25 No. 325 . points programs at participating partners.W. (2003). Hoffman. Green. In full. Nyquist. Jr (1995). Hoffman. “Complaining behavior in social interaction”. “Hospitality recovery strategies”.bankrate. M. and Davis. and Cherry. Chicago. Booms. April. 63. Bruce.. pp.E. USA Today. 1.. 50-64. Journal of Retailing. encounters”. B. IL. Phoenix. The Journal of Services Marketing. H. 51. pp. (1989). Vol. 429-53. B. p. MA. “Why satisfied customers defect”. October.E. Journal of Marketing. Sederholm. American Marketing Association. Magee. IL. 137-49. May. 346-52.L. Academy of Marketing Science. pp. “Tracking service failures and employee recovery efforts”. S. M. pp.D. Keaveney. J. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research. “North American retail self-checkout systems market study”. February 28. G. W. 35 No. Vol. 3. D. L. and Yale.J. Forbes. and customer training initiatives.. and Tetreault. and Kelley. and Sasser. 26.emarketer. Holman. Vol. C. pp. April. firms and managers need to address the lack of loyalty that is found within SST and develop ways to increase customer loyalty. (1999). 295-322. L. “Customer defection analysis: a critical incident approach”. L. J. L. 9 No. K. pp. Hoffman. 71-84.L. and Bitner. M. G. Kelley. “Distinguishing between service relationships and Further reading Bitner. pp.. “Airline service evolves into do-it-yourself”. Edvardsson.D. Vol.org Price.W. 23 No.H. 1. Pew Internet Study (2002).B.W. Jr (Eds).I.. L. Bejou. Bitner. and Arnould. Forbes Volume 22 · Number 4 · 2008 · 316 –327 improved SST. Vol.S.D.P.C.S. L. 69. available at: www. M. pp.J. Ostrum. E. Gilly. Solomon. B. C. Enterprise. “Self-service technologies: understanding customer satisfaction with technology-based service encounters”. Vol. Gremler. this research serves as a strong base for future SST studies and forms a baseline for future research. 60-8. “A typology of retail failures and recoveries”. S. pp. (1996). M.. 20 No. S. Yu. Journal of Marketing..D. 2004). Journal of Marketing Research. November-December.A. (1995). in Wilson. 60-76. 88-99.. (1954). and Mohr.E. D. and Soulage.com E-marketer (2001). October. “Best loyalty programs on the internet”. Vol.. (1998). and Bitner.J. E-commerce Times. (1997). Glor. (2003). “A critical incident approach to examining the effects of service failures on customer relationships: the case of Swedish and US airlines”.J..J. and Buzek. Journal of Marketing. E. (1999). Researchers might employee web surveys to investigate a variety of aspects of SSTs including failure and recovery. D. Lexington. and Surprenant.A. Vol. L. H. B. “Reliability of nominal data based on qualitative judgments”.M. 95-106. Klotz. K. “Typologies of e-commerce retail failures and recovery strategies”. in Stern. pp. and Webster. American Marketing Association.E. 58.. Winter. The Journal of Consumer Affairs. this study demonstrates that customers display relatively little loyalty to the SST firm regardless of their experience. and Siegel. Journal of Service Marketing. J. (2006). Braun.. K. 2. August 3.D.T. In addition.W. To help develop loyalty. 286-95. 2. firms should develop loyalty programs that are specific to SSTs. H. K.A.H. “Identifying communications difficulties in the service encounter: a critical incidents approach”. Currently. S. Tax. M. M.J. pp. and Hair. Booms. pp. M.D. R. A. J. Vol. and Chung. J.D. pp. Hoffman. (2004). Vol. pp. July. Vol. M. Kelley. Journal of Marketing. K. 280-92. S.When something goes wrong and no one is around Journal of Services Marketing Lukas P. T. pp. Meuter. Miller. 2. Business Week. M. (2004). 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Finally. researchers might develop experimental designs that are run through the interactive SST environment. Gutek. T. (1999). M. 218-33. 64. Kelley. Psychological Bulletin. pp.O. W. (1991).pewinternet. February 20. L. and Rakowski. 19 No. pp. The Service Encounter. C. “The e-biz surprise”. This method resulted in a rich set of findings pertaining to these phenomena that provide researchers with several directions for future investigation of these topics. R. and Rotalsky. and Himelstein. 71-82. Hoffman. Journal of Applied Psychology.. (1995a). et al. B. Vol. September 3. (Eds). Harvard Business Review. “Customer evaluations of service complaint experiences: implications for relationship marketing”. “Online consumers in the US”. 73. W... Sundaram.. “Classifying service encounter satisfaction across industries”.C.D. or cash-based incentives for customers that continually use SST processes (Miller. Perreault. 84 No. sales promotions for repeat customers. Brown. 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especially if a queue is forming in the lane behind them. or e-tail settings. The non-internet SST environment demands its own set of procedures for handling service failures and recoveries Corresponding author Lukas P. The consequent study discovers that management strategies for traditional retail settings.When something goes wrong and no one is around Journal of Services Marketing Lukas P. Forbes Volume 22 · Number 4 · 2008 · 316 –327 Appendix Figure A1 Survey instrument Those unlucky people needing store people to help them out are probably also embarrassed people. Also considering themselves unlucky – or maybe furious – are those people who encounter glitches when using self-service technology for all manner of transactions including movie tickets. Forbes can be contacted at: Lukas. Those with a particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the research undertaken and its results to get the full benefit of the material present. subway tokens. A massive increase in self-service technologies – some internet-based activities and others not involving the internet – has introduced serious changes and challenges within the retail and services sector. not least the challenge of how best to deal with service failures. will not be perceived as successful in non-internet SST settings. Lukas P. When something goes wrong and no one is around: non-internet self-service technology failure and recovery When Barbra Streisand sang “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world” she did not have in mind those people who need people to help them because they cannot get the self check-out equipment at the supermarket to work properly.edu Executive summary and implications for managers This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives a rapid appreciation of the content of the article. parking tickets. and ATMs. 326 . vending machines.Forbes@wku. Although service failure and recovery in bricks-and-mortar retailing has received considerable academic study and there have been studies into internet service failures and recoveries. Forbes believes no current research has focused exclusively on the service failure and recovery aspects of non-internet service technologies.

Simple changes..emeraldinsight. Supplied by Marketing Consultants for Emerald. Another was “repeat purchase” where the customer paid again because the first time they used the service it did not work and there was no one available to help. one clerk at a grocery store responsible for a dozen self-service stations). Firms need to develop procedures that offer some form of solution to the customer (e. such as having a ‘purchase processing/purchase complete’ screen. For firms and managers. Additionally. This strategy will prevent management from trying to apply proven strategies from retailing or e-tailing that might prove unsuccessful with non-internet SSTs. Perhaps unsurprisingly. they recognized that they.g. large benefits can be derived by developing procedures which actively track service failures specific to non-internet SSTs and customer responses to the employed recovery strategies. the lowest magnitude of failure was found in the categories of “Out of stock” and “Customer error”. The first was the service firm not doing anything to attempt to resolve the failure. By doing so.) To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight.com Or visit our web site for further details: www.When something goes wrong and no one is around Journal of Services Marketing Lukas P. at the same time. as customers.g... Forbes Volume 22 · Number 4 · 2008 · 316 –327 specific to self-service technology. a complaint forum that will allow the customer to present service failures) while. Consumers realistically expected. Another severe failure. failures which might occur in a traditional store setting i. Similarly. can be improved simply by using equipment that provides direct feedback to the consumer.e. even if it is simply a phone connected to customer service. is directly associated with the self-service firm using equipment that is not “consumer-friendly” and does not let the consumer know that they are purchasing their intended item and that their purchase was made successfully. Forbes says: “If firms are going to continue to use SSTs to save money they need to understand that there is still a responsibility to ensure customer satisfaction.g. management needs to better understand the feeling of “being alone” that consumers experience in the typical noninternet experience. or an employee responsible for numerous self-service stations (e. service firms need to be made aware that customers are likely to have distinctly unfavorable perceptions of SSTs when something goes wrong during the transaction. not forcing the firm to add additional employees which would take away from many of the benefits of SSTs. service firms should focus on having some level of assistance available. using customer input to continually modify SST processes) should go a long way in ensuring a decrease in the ‘do nothing’ and ‘repeat purchase’ areas. Rather than leave the consumer to work alone at a station. Primarily. Lukas P. and were not upset by. could be the cause of a technological error (perhaps by keying in an incorrect PIN number or not following the instructions correctly). labeled “Unsure Response”. management can develop an inventory of failures specific to their industry and a list of managerial strategies to help the consumer (based on customer perception of that recovery). or when the customer did not pursue a recovery – perhaps thinking it not worth their time or effort. along with more complex changes (e. Two occurrences actually exacerbated the initial service failure by offering no solution to the customer. This situation. they understood that items might be sold out. Firms need to find a collective balance through which they save costs (by reducing employees and using SSTs) yet have response systems in place in which “someone” or “something” is available to assist the customer in the event of a service failure.com/reprints 327 . like embarrassment.” (A pre´cis of the article “When something goes wrong and no one is around: non-internet self-service technology failure and recovery”. Leaving customers embarrassed indicates a lack of training among staff for handling dissatisfied customers.

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