Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science

, Volume 45, Issue 6, pp 866–883 | Cite as

Unveiling the recovery time zone of tolerance: when time matters in service recovery

  • Jens HogreveEmail author
  • Nicola Bilstein
  • Leonhard Mandl
Original Empirical Research


This article examines the link between recovery time and customer compensation expectations for service failures that cannot be immediately redressed. First, we show that the relationship between recovery time and compensation expectations is nonlinear. Initially, in a recovery time zone of tolerance, compensation expectations do not increase. Beyond this zone, the relationship follows an inverted U-shape, such that compensation expectations first increase but decrease in the long run. Second, our results show that long recovery times are accompanied by additional negative effects, including lower satisfaction with the recovery and negative word of mouth, so postponing service recovery represents a poor option. Third, relationship strength functions as a moderator. First-time customers expect higher compensation earlier; relational customers display a recovery time zone of tolerance but claim considerably higher compensations afterwards. Fourth, communication initiatives like the separate provision of status updates or an explanation may limit increases in compensation expectations over time. Still, their joint usage creates a “too-much-of-a-good-thing” effect, suggesting that if the usage of communication initiatives is taken too far it may lead to negative outcomes such as increasing compensation expectations.


Service recovery Customer relationships Service failure Customer betrayal Customer anger Explanation Equity theory Complaint status updates 



The thank Dwayne D. Gremler and the attendees of the invited Thought Leaders in Service Marketing Strategy Conference for their valuable feedback on prior versions of this article. The authors also thank the Editors and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. Nicola Bilstein thanks the German Research Foundation (DFG) for financial support (grant BI 1763/1-1). This project was a team effort, with all researchers contributing equally.

Supplementary material

11747_2017_544_MOESM1_ESM.docx (59 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 58 kb)


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Copyright information

© Academy of Marketing Science 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ingolstadt School of ManagementCatholic University of Eichstaett-IngolstadtIngolstadtGermany

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