How do customers react to service errors

Time costs money: study of the patience of disgruntled customers

Hogreve and his team therefore confronted several hundred test persons with this scenario, among other things: As a passenger, they did not receive their reserved seat, but a less conveniently located seat, but in the same category. They were then informed that after a complaint at the service counter they would receive compensation immediately or after a week or four weeks. The test persons were asked to indicate the amount of compensation that would be satisfactory for them at the time.

The results show that expectations tend to increase the longer compensation lasts. However, there were hardly any differences in the expected amount of compensation between immediate compensation and redress after a week. “Customers understand that companies generally need a certain amount of time to offer solutions. They are more interested in an adequate solution than in a hasty one, ”explains Hogreve. This “time window of tolerance” can be expanded - as further investigations have shown - through targeted communication between companies and their customers: Customers' anger and their expectations are kept within limits if they are given plausible reasons for the delay or the company keep them up to date on the progress of the processing. However, if the company thinks it is too good with communication, by providing customers with an explanation for the waiting time as well as status information, this leads to a “too-much-of-a-good-thing” effect that the compensation expectation will increase over time.

The economists at the KU also examined how new customers differ from regular customers in terms of their expectations: while people who, for example, are traveling with an airline for the first time, quickly expect higher compensation, regular customers have greater patience. “However, when companies go the extra mile, existing customers expect even more compensation. Here, in a sense, 'love' can quickly turn into 'hate', ”explains Hogreve. In addition, the expectations of customers drop again the longer the response to a complaint lasts. However, this is more an expression of frustration, which manifests itself in general dissatisfaction with the company and a tendency not to recommend the company in one's own environment.

“It is advisable for companies to find out more about the industry-specific time that their customers tolerate when processing service errors, for example through surveys,” recommends Hogreve. For research, it is important to find out, among other things, how customers react when the actual amount of compensation and the speed of processing differ from their own expectations. In the experimental studies, as fictitious customers, the test subjects received the desired amount with no ifs or buts.