Purpose – Research on the service recovery paradox (SRP) effect has indicated that after recovery from failures in customer service, customers will commonly rate their satisfaction higher than prior to the service failure. However, thus far there has been little research on the cause of this phenomenon. Accordingly, the purpose of this paper is to explore the effect of “guilt” emotions in the context of consumer service. Design/methodology/approach – Three experiments were conducted to test the hypotheses. Data were collected from 532 undergraduate, graduate students and the general people. Findings – The results of the experiments demonstrate that if customers are compensated for service failures by receiving better than anticipated service, they will commonly experience feelings of “guilt.” In an attempt to alleviate this guilt, customers will project their feelings in evaluating a company, and will rate their customer satisfaction more highly. In doing so, the customer feels relief in reciprocating the kindness of the firm; in this way, the firm wins over the customer’s heart. Originality/value – This is one of the first studies to discuss the effect of guilt in the SRP effect. This research shows that relying on the emotion of “guilt” for receiving exceptional service helps companies to overcome service failures and successfully rebuild their relationships with customers.
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