Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Why Service Recovery Fails: A Case Study on the Norwegian Coastal Voyage (Hurtigruten)

Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Why Service Recovery Fails: A Case Study on the Norwegian Coastal Voyage (Hurtigruten)

Article excerpt


This paper reports on a service recovery study carried out on the Norwegian Coastal Voyage (NCV) or the Hurtigruten which is the brand name. The empirical context of the study is interesting due to historical-, cultural-, geographical- and tourism reasons. From an historical perspective, the Hurtigruten has united many small coastal settlements along the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkenes for many decades (see map in Appendix 1 for geographical information). However, since the Hurtigruten is the most famous tourist attraction product in Norway, it's the tourism dimension that has brought this research into realisation. Therefore, the Hurtigruten constitutes an interesting arena for studying a set of service management issues, and one topic to examine is the area of service recovery. This topic is interesting from both a theoretical- and a practical perspective as more research on service recovery is called for (Michel et al., 2009), in addition to the fact that the cruise line industry is expanding and progressing economically (Biederman, 2008).

According to Hoffman and Bateson (1997), service failures are an inevitable part of service processes. Hence, service enterprises need to strengthen their knowledge and competencies on how to deliver quality services, with one way of doing this being to effectively deal with dissatisfied and complaining customers. Even so, a threat to service quality is that "research around the world has exposed the fact that most people do not complain" (Lovelock and Wright, 1999:134). For this reason, customers who actually complain are valuable for any service provider because they can provide first-hand information on service breakdowns. Thus, the effective use of this type of customer information may enhance the quality of services over time.

According to Grönroos (1988), service recovery concerns the actions that a company takes as a response to a service failure. The essence of these actions is that if something goes wrong during the different stages of service delivery and consumption, management must initiate actions to recover the customers from the service failures, as a good recovery can turn angry, frustrated and dissatisfied customers into satisfied and loyal ones (Hart et al., 1990; Brown et al., 1994). Consequently, effective service recovery constitutes an important part of total service quality management (Grönroos, 2006).

From a tourist's perspective, the most immediate evidence of service quality occurs in the service encounters or in the "moments of truth" when the tourists interact with the service personnel (Czepiel, 1990; Grönroos, 2006). Because the cruise line industry features a high degree of extensive interactions between the service employees and the tourists, there are many opportunities for service failures to occur during the various stages of service delivery. When service failures take place, as they most probably will, they have to be adequately treated by the service provider with the use of effective service recovery management (Michel et al., 2009; Skaalsvik, 2011 b). However, according to Johnston and Michel (2008), many organisations need to develop their recovery programmes and procedures. As a matter of fact, according to Hoffman and Bateson (1997:335), "an important but often forgotten management tool is the art of service recovery". Thus, to understand why service recovery fails is beneficial for the practice of effective service recovery management (Michel et al., 2009).

The aim of this paper is to examine why service recovery failed in a set of service failure incidents on the Hurtigruten. In order to accomplish this, the paper is organised into six parts. Following this introduction, the second part constitutes a targeted review of the empirical research on services recovery. In part 3, a set of methodology details is outlined and discussed, while part 4 entails the research findings. A discussion of the research findings follows in part 5, and part 6 ends the paper by addressing the implications of the research findings and drawing a series of conclusions. …

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