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EMAC 2020 Annual Conference

“It’s out of stock”: Impact of service failure messages on customer satisfaction in online grocery retailing

Published: May 27, 2020


Reema Singh, Stockholm School of Economics; Magnus Söderlund, Stockholm School of Economics; Sofie Sagfossen, STOCKHOLM SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS


Online grocery retailing; service recovery; customer satisfaction


This study examines the impact on customer satisfaction of two aspects of messages that inform that an item is out of stock in an online grocery setting: humanizing the sender and providing an apology. These two message factors were manipulated in a between-subjects experiment, and the results show that both factors influenced the perceived humanness of the sender of the message, which in turn had a positive impact on customer satisfaction. The net result, however, was that only the humanization of the sender produced a significantly higher level of customer satisfaction. This outcome should be seen in the light of the current interest in replacing human employees with humanized virtual agents powered by artificial intelligence (AI): the present study shows that also simple messages, without any AI content, can be humanized – and that this can have positive downstream effects.