The Elasticity of Customer Tolerance Toward Service Failure within a Hotel Setting

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Sparks, Beverley

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Butcher, Ken

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The inherent characteristics of service have been acknowledged by many researchers as contributors to inconsistent service outcomes. This inconsistency is subjective in nature and is especially the case because service is delivered by people. The involvement of human interaction positions service as a fragile product and makes failure during service delivery almost unavoidable. Although service customers are generally somewhat forgiving when a service performance is inadequate (Mack, Mueller, & Crott, 2000; Wildes & Seo, 2001), their responses to service failure may give rise to situations of high risk for service firms especially when the unsatisfactory service experience is made public. Therefore, it is essential to understand the degrees of tolerance customers are willing to extend when experiencing a service failure. The service literature has acknowledged the importance of understanding the concept of a “zone of tolerance”, coined by Parasuraman, Berry, and Zeithaml (1991). For example, this concept is useful for understanding that in different circumstances, customers may accept variations of service performance that consequently, may have an effect on their perceptions (Strandvik, 1994). Customer tolerance has been presented as being flexible and dependent on individual and situational factors (Parasuraman, Berry, & Zeithaml, 1991). However, understanding when, how, and why customer tolerance moves or changes has received little attention from researchers. A review of the relevant literature revealed little work on this topic has been undertaken and in particular there is a paucity of research attempting to apply this concept within service failure contexts. Indeed, the lack of research is reflected in that almost no study studies could be found that had been carried out in the past five years. This thesis aimed to investigate the elasticity of customer tolerance in different service failure settings involving type and severity of failure. In the investigation, cultural familiarity was included as one of the independent variables. In a similar manner, the variations in the level of customer satisfaction were also sought. Additionally, this thesis examined the effectiveness of service recovery tactics in regaining customer satisfaction.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Griffith Business School

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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Customer satisfaction

Hotel management

Service provision in hospitality

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