Open Access
Lee, Bo-Youn
Graduate Program:
Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
July 06, 2010
Committee Members:
  • David Allen Cranage, Dissertation Advisor
  • David Allen Cranage, Committee Chair
  • Carolyn U Lambert, Committee Member
  • Daniel John Mount, Committee Member
  • S. Shyam Sundar, Committee Member
  • causal attribution
  • service failures
  • self-service technologies
  • service recovery
Scholars and practitioners’ attentions to causal attribution and recovery strategies in self-service technologies (SSTs) failure encounters have not followed the speed of the increasing use of SSTs. Most challenges in SST service encounters encompass difficulty with building relationships with customers and lack of the recovery strategies. This dissertation investigates customers’ perceived causal attribution, expected recoveries, and evaluations of firms following three different types of service failures. The three different types of service failures include failure by non-Internet SST, failure by employees, and failure by a company’s procedures/policies. This study manipulates scenarios through a 3 x 2 experimental factorial design with three service failure types and two levels of failure severity. The research design consists of two stages, pretest, and main study to examine the proposed hypotheses. The study’s paper-based questionnaire surveys 300 staff members of randomly selected departments at a northeastern university. A total of 182 usable surveys represent a response rate of 62 percent. The result of the data analysis shows that customers encountering a procedure failure considered the service failure to be a repeat problem and assigned the most overall causal attribution to a company. In the results of the effects of failure severity on overall causal attribution, consumers exposed to severer service failures were more likely to assign overall causal attribution to firms than were customers who encountered mild service failures. In terms of recovery strategies, customers expect an apology for service recovery more than any other recovery actions such as refund or intent to complain when the level of causal attributions is high. The results also show positive relationships between causal attributions and overall evaluations such as dissatisfaction, complaint intent, and negative word-of-mouth (WOM). A negative relationship exists between causal attributions and return intent. The findings of this research suggest that, in customers’ perceptions of a company’s management, procedures are the equivalent of the company. Thus, testing the procedure/policy with customers is important to determine whether or not customers like the procedure/policy or to determine if the procedure/policy is acceptable before managers use it. Once established and the procedure/policy becomes a problem, then the perception will always be the existence of a problem. Furthermore, customers do not perceive causal attributions between non-Internet SSTs failure and employee failure to be different. However, with regard to overall causal attribution (overall blame) to a company, an interesting finding is that customers who experienced a non-Internet SST failure placed a higher degree of overall causal attribution (blame and responsibility) on the firm than did those who experienced an employee failure. Consequently, when customers place overall responsibility on the company rather than attributing on each failure type, they are more likely to blame the firm in a service failure by non-Internet SST than in that by an employee.