Consumer cynicism in service failures

Hai Anh Tran, Yuliya Strizhakova, Bryan Usrey, Samuel Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Despite growing corporate commitments to being customer-centric, many customers perceive firms as self-driven and caring only about their own business interests. This sentiment is projected in consumer cynicism, or negative consumer attitudes based on the disbelief in the sincerity of firms' motives and actions. We argue that consumer cynicism emerges in response to negative marketplace situations, such as service and product failures. Across four scenario-based experiments and one video-based experiment, our research examines cynicism as a key mediator, transmitting the effect of double deviation (i.e., a failure in delivery and in subsequent recovery) on negative electronic word-of-mouth and repurchase intention. We further demonstrate that consumer cynicism can be minimized when the provider uses cocreated recovery (i.e., engages consumers in recovery) even if the recovery fails and when the provider offers a strong empathetic apology (either before or after recovery failure). Our research contributes to consumer and service recovery research by highlighting an important but overlooked role of consumer cynicism in the context of double deviation. We also offer managerial insights into cocreation and empathetic apologies as cost-effective recovery strategies to minimize cynicism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)346-359
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology and Marketing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing


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