“If Only…”:Customer Counterfactual Thinking in Failed Recovery


Purpose: This paper aims to examine counterfactual thinking as a key mediator of the effects of failed recovery (vs. failed delivery) on negative electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM). The authors further investigate the effectiveness of using recovery co-creation in minimizing customers’ counterfactual thinking. Design/methodology/approach: This research includes textual analysis of online reviews (Study 1) and three scenario-based experiments (Studies 2, 3a and 3b). In addition to using item-response scales, the authors analyze negative online reviews and participants’ open-ended responses to capture their counterfactual thinking. Findings: Failed recovery (vs failed delivery) increases counterfactual thinking, which, in turn, increases negative eWOM. These mediating effects of counterfactual thinking are consistent across textual analyses and experimental studies, as well as across different measures of counterfactual thinking. Counterfactual thinking also impacts customer anger in experiments; however, anger alone does not explain the effects of failed recovery on negative eWOM. Counterfactual thinking can be minimized by co-created recovery, especially when it is used proactively. Practical implications: The findings demonstrate the detrimental effects of counterfactual thinking and offer managerial insights into co-creation as a strategy to minimize customers’ counterfactual thinking. The authors also highlight the importance and ways of tracking counterfactual thinking in digital outlets. Originality/value: The authors contribute to counterfactual thinking and service recovery research by demonstrating the effects of failed recovery on counterfactual thinking that, in turn, impacts negative eWOM and offering a novel way to measure its expression in online narratives. The authors provide guidance on how to use co-creation in the service recovery process to minimize counterfactual thinking.

Publication DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-12-2019-0883
Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School > Marketing & Strategy
College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School
College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School > Centre for Personal Financial Wellbeing
Additional Information: © 2021 Emerald Publishing. This AAM is deposited under the CC BY-NC 4.0 licence. Any reuse is allowed in accordance with the terms outlined by the licence. To reuse the AAM for commercial purposes, permission should be sought by contacting permissions@emeraldinsight.com.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Co-creation,Compensation,Counterfactual thinking,Double deviation,Service recovery,Word-of-mouth (WOM),eWOM,Marketing
Publication ISSN: 1758-7123
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2024 07:34
Date Deposited: 01 Sep 2021 15:53
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: https://www.eme ... -0883/full/html (Publisher URL)
http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2021-11-23
Published Online Date: 2021-10-06
Accepted Date: 2021-08-31
Authors: Tran, Hai-Anh
Strizhakova, Yuliya
Liu, Hongfei
Golgeci, Ismail


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