Managing the delayed service encounter: The role of employee action and customer prior experience

Dan Sarel, Howard Marmorstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Despite the increased attention being paid to service delivery, lengthy waits for service are still common. This paper provides a conceptual and empirical examination of the effects of perceived employee action and customer prior experience, on reactions to service delays. The results of a field study of customers experiencing actual delays in a major retail bank are then discussed. The findings indicate that events and actions taking place prior to, during, and after the delay, affect consumer response. First, customers' prior experience with that service provider is critical. Contrary to much of the literature on expectations, customers who had frequently experienced delays in the past were even more angered by the current service failure. Second, perceived employee effort during the delay had a tremendous impact on customers' reactions. Irrespective of the length of the delay, when employees are perceived as not making a real effort, customer anger is high. Third, the impact of an apology is more complex. An apology is not a substitute for genuine employee effort. An insincere apology may even backfire, especially when customers experience frequent delays and believe employees are not making a concerted effort to help. Managerial implications for addressing this problem, before, during and after the delay, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-208
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Services Marketing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 1998


  • Banking
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Employee attitudes
  • Service quality
  • Services marketing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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