Human staff vs. service robot vs. fellow customer: does it matter who helps your customer following a service failure incident?

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The key to excellent service delivery is to ensure harmonious interactions between service actors. Therefore, in the event of service failure incidents, an understanding of the roles and interactions of these service actors is critical to achieving positive service outcomes. This research addresses the question: How do interactions between customers and these service actors (human staff/automated technological interface/fellow customer) influence their service experience following a service failure? We draw on role theory and answer this question via three experimental studies. Findings show that customers evaluate their service experience less favourably when receiving service recovery from fellow customers rather than firms (human staff and service robots). Furthermore, a firm's instrumental recovery, rather than informational recovery, leads to a more favourable service evaluation, although this effect is absent when service recovery was given by fellow customers. Findings provide insights into the role of each actor in determining customer service evaluation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102501
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Hospitality Management
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Customer-to-customer interaction
  • Firm-to-customer interaction
  • Informational recovery
  • Instrumental recovery
  • Role congruity
  • Service robot

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