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The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11747-017-0544-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
This article examines the link between recovery time and customer compensation expectations for service failures that cannot be immediately redressed. First, we show that the relationship between recovery time and compensation expectations is nonlinear. Initially, in a recovery time zone of tolerance, compensation expectations do not increase. Beyond this zone, the relationship follows an inverted U-shape, such that compensation expectations first increase but decrease in the long run. Second, our results show that long recovery times are accompanied by additional negative effects, including lower satisfaction with the recovery and negative word of mouth, so postponing service recovery represents a poor option. Third, relationship strength functions as a moderator. First-time customers expect higher compensation earlier; relational customers display a recovery time zone of tolerance but claim considerably higher compensations afterwards. Fourth, communication initiatives like the separate provision of status updates or an explanation may limit increases in compensation expectations over time. Still, their joint usage creates a “too-much-of-a-good-thing” effect, suggesting that if the usage of communication initiatives is taken too far it may lead to negative outcomes such as increasing compensation expectations.