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Retrospective: service failure and loyalty: an exploratory empirical study of airline customers


This paper aims to reflect on the paper “Service failure and loyalty: an exploratory empirical study of airline customers” published 18 years ago. It positions it in the evolving literature on relationship marketing and suggests directions for further research and developments in the area.

A review of key contributions of the paper to the study of relationship marketing and the effects of service failures on relationships identifies emerging strands of research.

The concept of a “relationship lifecycle” is now widely used in marketing for identifying customer segments. Different points in the lifecycle are associated with differing sets of relationship expectations and levels of tolerance to service failure. Customer relationship management has tended to morph into customer experience management where principles of relationship lifecycles have been applied to mapping customer “journeys” through a service process.

Practical implications
The original study informed practices of managing relationship expectations and handling failed expectations, depending on a customer’s length of relationship with a company. Although relationship marketing was originally conceived as an integrator of marketing cues, its emphasis on cognitive evaluations may have been too limiting and customer experience management has since introduced additional affective dimensions.

The original paper had been widely cited and generated discussion and important further research. It has value as part of the emerging landscape of services marketing research. This retrospective analysis locates this historical development with reference to currently popular issues of customer experience management.


(2016). Retrospective: service failure and loyalty: an exploratory empirical study of airline customers. Journal of Services Marketing, 480-484.

Acceptance Date Apr 20, 2016
Publication Date Aug 8, 2016
Journal Journal of Services Marketing
Print ISSN 0887-6045
Publisher Emerald
Pages 480-484
Keywords relationship marketing; service failure; customer experience; relationship lifecycle
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