‘Explain, but make no excuses’: service recovery after public service failures

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Public service encounters between employees and citizens are daily fare which, makes the occurrence of service failures rather likely. However, public service failures and their recovery have been given only little attention in public administration research so far. Drawing from organizational justice theory and cognitive appraisal theory, the effects of different explanation strategies, excuses and justifications, are tested using representative population data from two survey experiments. Results show that justifications decrease the client’s frustration and likelihood to complain after service failures, whereas excuses could even worsen the situation. This article aims to promote public service management research by combining psychological theories with practical relevance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Management Review
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)799-817
Publication statusPublished - 4. May 2022


  • Service recovery
  • public service management
  • service failure
  • survey experiment


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