- Volume 18 Issue 1
Previous research has presupposed that the evaluation of consumer who received any recovery after experiencing product failure should be better than the evaluation of consumer who did not receive any recovery. The major purposes of this article are to examine impacts of product defect failures rather than service failures, and to explore effects of recovery on postrecovery product attitudes. First, this article deals with the occurrence of severe and unsevere failure and corresponding service recovery toward tangible products rather than intangible services. Contrary to intangible services, purchase and usage are separable for tangible products. This difference makes it clear that executing an recovery strategy toward tangible products is not plausible right after consumers find out product failures. The consumers may think about backgrounds and causes for the unpleasant events during the time gap between product failure and recovery. The deliberation may dilutes positive effects of recovery efforts. The recovery strategies which are provided to consumers experiencing product failures can be classified into three types. A recovery strategy can be implemented to provide consumers with a new product replacing the old defective product, a complimentary product for free, a discount at the time of the failure incident, or a coupon that can be used on the next visit. This strategy is defined as "a rewarding effort." Meanwhile a product failure may arise in exchange for its benefit. Then the product provider can suggest a detail explanation that the defect is hard to escape since it relates highly to the specific advantage to the product. The strategy may be called as "a strengthening effort." Another possible strategy is to recover negative attitude toward own brand by giving prominence to the disadvantages of a competing brand rather than the advantages of its own brand. The strategy is reflected as "a weakening effort." This paper emphasizes that, in order to confirm its effectiveness, a recovery strategy should be compared to being nothing done in response to the product failure. So the three types of recovery efforts is discussed in comparison to the situation involving no recovery effort. The strengthening strategy is to claim high relatedness of the product failure with another advantage, and expects the two-sidedness to ease consumers' complaints. The weakening strategy is to emphasize non-aversiveness of product failure, even if consumers choose another competitive brand. The two strategies can be effective in restoring to the original state, by providing plausible motives to accept the condition of product failure or by informing consumers of non-responsibility in the failure case. However the two may be less effective strategies than the rewarding strategy, since it tries to take care of the rehabilitation needs of consumers. Especially, the relative effect between the strengthening effort and the weakening effort may differ in terms of the severity of the product failure. A consumer who realizes a highly severe failure is likely to attach importance to the property which caused the failure. This implies that the strengthening effort would be less effective under the condition of high product severity. Meanwhile, the failing property is not diagnostic information in the condition of low failure severity. Consumers would not pay attention to non-diagnostic information, and with which they are not likely to change their attitudes. This implies that the strengthening effort would be more effective under the condition of low product severity. A 2 (product failure severity: high or low) X 4 (recovery strategies: rewarding, strengthening, weakening, or doing nothing) between-subjects design was employed. The particular levels of product failure severity and the types of recovery strategies were determined after a series of expert interviews. The dependent variable was product attitude after the recovery effort was provided. Subjects were 284 consumers who had an experience of cosmetics. Subjects were first given a product failure scenario and were asked to rate the comprehensibility of the failure scenario, the probability of raising complaints against the failure, and the subjective severity of the failure. After a recovery scenario was presented, its comprehensibility and overall evaluation were measured. The subjects assigned to the condition of no recovery effort were exposed to a short news article on the cosmetic industry. Next, subjects answered filler questions: 42 items of the need for cognitive closure and 16 items of need-to-evaluate. In the succeeding page a subject's product attitude was measured on an five-item, six-point scale, and a subject's repurchase intention on an three-item, six-point scale. After demographic variables of age and sex were asked, ten items of the subject's objective knowledge was checked. The results showed that the subjects formed more favorable evaluations after receiving rewarding efforts than after receiving either strengthening or weakening efforts. This is consistent with Hoffman, Kelley, and Rotalsky (1995) in that a tangible service recovery could be more effective that intangible efforts. Strengthening and weakening efforts also were effective compared to no recovery effort. So we found that generally any recovery increased products attitudes. The results hint us that a recovery strategy such as strengthening or weakening efforts, although it does not contain a specific reward, may have an effect on consumers experiencing severe unsatisfaction and strong complaint. Meanwhile, strengthening and weakening efforts were not expected to increase product attitudes under the condition of low severity of product failure. We can conclude that only a physical recovery effort may be recognized favorably as a firm's willingness to recover its fault by consumers experiencing low involvements. Results of the present experiment are explained in terms of the attribution theory. This article has a limitation that it utilized fictitious scenarios. Future research deserves to test a realistic effect of recovery for actual consumers. Recovery involves a direct, firsthand experience of ex-users. Recovery does not apply to non-users. The experience of receiving recovery efforts can be relatively more salient and accessible for the ex-users than for non-users. A recovery effort might be more likely to improve product attitude for the ex-users than for non-users. Also the present experiment did not include consumers who did not have an experience of the products and who did not perceive the occurrence of product failure. For the non-users and the ignorant consumers, the recovery efforts might lead to decreased product attitude and purchase intention. This is because the recovery trials may give an opportunity for them to notice the product failure.