An Attribution Approach to Consumer Evaluations in Logistics Customer Service Failure Situations


  • Acknowledgments: The authors gratefully acknowledge the love and support provided by their families and friends. In addition, the authors benefited from the professional support granted by their respective institutions as well as from the Marketing Group at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and, in particular, Professor Madhu Viswanathan. Finally, the authors are thankful for the many insightful and helpful comments provided by the JSCM reviewers and editors as well as the very amenable assistance offered by the Journal's staff.


The primary goal of this study is to investigate the roles of expectations and purchase criticality on consumers' brand perceptions and attribution behaviors in service delivery failures. The provision of logistics services is often a crucial point in supply chain management that can influence brand perceptions of customers. Indeed, the level and the quality of customer service provided may determine whether the organization will retain existing customers or even attract new ones. As a consequence, a failure in logistics customer service and its effect on overall perceptions of a brand should not be underestimated. Furthermore, the involvement of a third-party logistics (3PL) company in this failure situation can create considerable shifts in the responses of consumers, especially in the attribution behavior for cause of failure. By applying scenario-based experiments, this study demonstrates the dynamics by which customer expectations, purchase criticality and 3PL companies affect consumer brand perceptions and attributions. The results suggest the presence of two expectation-based buffering effects in delivery failures. The first buffering effect is revealed in overall brand evaluation and repurchase intention, while the second buffering effect is observed in consumer brand attribution. The findings indicate that higher expectations may protect the brand and cause more attribution to the third-party service provider. Additionally, it is shown that criticality of the purchase has crucial impacts on brand evaluations and attributions.