Service industry missteps are inevitable, but not all are created equal. For example, if an airline loses a passenger’s luggage or denies a passenger a seat on an overbooked flight, it’s a serious enough problem that the passenger will probably complain, allowing management to apologize or issue a refund. But for smaller errors — if, say, a seat doesn’t recline fully, or an outlet doesn’t work — passengers might not think it’s worth summoning a flight attendant. As a result, management never gets the chance to register the problem and enhance the airline’s reputation through exemplary customer service.
Over time, the authors of a new study suggest, consumer frustration stemming from what they term microfailures — minor annoyances that tend not to be complained about — builds up, and it has consequences. Consumers can switch providers of services and products without giving the company a chance to redress their grievances,