IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Timing of apology after service failure: the moderating role of future interaction expectation on customer satisfaction


  • Kyeong Sam Min

    () (University of New Orleans)

  • Jae Min Jung

    () (California State Polytechnic University-Pomona)

  • Kisang Ryu

    () (Sejong University)

  • Curtis Haugtvedt

    () (The Ohio State University)

  • Sathiadev Mahesh

    () (University of New Orleans)

  • John Overton

    () (University of New Orleans)


When there is a service failure, it is often believed that employees should immediately apologize to customers before hearing their complaints. However, we argue that in certain situations, an employee can recover from a service failure more effectively if the employee apologizes after hearing customer complaints. A simple change in the sequential order of apologizing and listening to complaints can significantly impact customer satisfaction. We propose that customer satisfaction increases if an employee’s apology timing is matched with customers’ expectation to interact with the employee in the future. Across two studies, we consistently report that a responsive apology (i.e., listen-and-then-apologize) outperforms a preemptive apology (i.e., apologize-and-then-listen) when customers’ interaction expectation is high. In contrast, the effectiveness of the responsive apology is weaker and even reversed when their interaction expectation is low. We also examine a boundary condition and a potential process likely responsible for this apology time sequence effect.

Suggested Citation

  • Kyeong Sam Min & Jae Min Jung & Kisang Ryu & Curtis Haugtvedt & Sathiadev Mahesh & John Overton, 2020. "Timing of apology after service failure: the moderating role of future interaction expectation on customer satisfaction," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 217-230, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:mktlet:v:31:y:2020:i:2:d:10.1007_s11002-020-09522-y
    DOI: 10.1007/s11002-020-09522-y

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Abstract
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Holger Roschk & Susanne Kaiser, 2013. "The nature of an apology: An experimental study on how to apologize after a service failure," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 293-309, September.
    2. Xinshu Zhao & John G. Lynch & Qimei Chen, 2010. "Reconsidering Baron and Kenny: Myths and Truths about Mediation Analysis," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 37(2), pages 197-206, August.
    3. Moon, Youngme, 2000. "Intimate Exchanges: Using Computers to Elicit Self-Disclosure from Consumers," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(4), pages 323-339, March.
    4. Basil Halperin & Benjamin Ho & John List & Ian Muir, 2018. "Toward an understanding of the economics of apologies: evidence from a large-scale natural field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00644, The Field Experiments Website.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:mktlet:v:31:y:2020:i:2:d:10.1007_s11002-020-09522-y. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Springer Nature Abstracting and Indexing). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.