Role of Consumer Face Restoration in Communicative Efforts by Service Firms to Obtain Consumer Forgiveness, Consumer Trust and Consumer Reconciliation


  • Jatinderpreet Kaur Bath University Business School, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India
  • Anupam Bawa University Business School, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India


Service providers covet consumer forgiveness to restore consumer trust and obtain consumer reconciliation post-service failure.  While consumer forgiveness is known to depend upon the quality of the forgiveness-seeking communication employed by service providers, there is no quantitative empirical research that investigates the role of consumer face restoration in a service provider’s communicative efforts to obtain consumer forgiveness. This study aims to fill this gap in the literature by applying the framework of the face negotiation theory to investigate the impact of three types of forgiveness-seeking communicative behaviors of service providers, viz., offer of compensation, expression of empathy and explicit acknowledgement on consumer face restoration and consumer forgiveness, and thereof the effects of consumer forgiveness on consumer trust and reconciliation. The study uses structural equation modelling on data collected from 400 respondents in North-West India using retrospective experience sampling. The results demonstrate that while expression of empathy and explicit acknowledgement are substantial predictors of consumer forgiveness; offer of compensation does not have a significant direct impact on consumer forgiveness. Consumer face restoration is revealed to be a mediator between forgiveness-seeking behaviors and consumer forgiveness and as expected, consumer forgiveness has a significant positive effect on consumer trust and reconciliation.

Author Biographies

Jatinderpreet Kaur Bath, University Business School, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India

Jatinderpreet Kaur Bath has research interests in the fields of Consumer Behaviour and Marketing. Her work on consumer forgiveness has been published in a leading Marketing journal.

Anupam Bawa, University Business School, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India

Dr. (Mrs.) Anupam Bawa is Professor at University Business School, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India. Her research interests are in the area of Marketing Management and Strategic Management. Her research work has been published in some of the leading management journals.   


Anderson, J. C., & Gerbing, D. W. (1988). Structural equation modeling in practice: A review and recommended two-step approach. Psychological bulletin, 103(3), 411-423.

Aquino, K., T. M. Tripp, & R. J. Bies. (2006). Getting even or moving on? Power, procedural justice, and types of offense as predictors of revenge, forgiveness, reconciliation, and avoidance in organizations. Journal of applied psychology, 91(3), 653-668.

Aron, D. (2016). Digital dysfunction: consumer grudgeholding and retaliation in the digital era. The Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, 29, 119-130.

Babin, B. J., Zhuang, W., & Borges, A. (2021). Managing service recovery experience: effects of the forgiveness for older consumers. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 58, 102222.

Bae, G., Lee, S., & Kim, D. Y. (2021). Interactions between service recovery efforts and customer characteristics: Apology, compensation, and empowerment. Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality & Tourism, 22(2), 218-244.

Bagdasarov, Z., Connelly, S., & Johnson, J. F. (2019). Denial and empathy: Partners in employee trust repair? Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1-13.

Basso, K., & Pizzutti, C. (2016). Trust recovery following a double deviation. Journal of Service Research, 19(2), 209-223.

Bath, J. K., & A. Bawa. (2020). Seeking consumer forgiveness: face management by frontline employees. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 28(4), 387-402.

Bolkan, S., & Daly, J. (2008). Organizational responses to consumer complaints: a re-examination of the impact of organizational messages in response to service and product-based failures. The Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, 21, 1- 22.

Celuch, K., Bantham, J. H., & Kasouf, C. J. (2012). Change as a Moderator of Inter-Firm Communication and Conflict Management in Relationship Continuity. The Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, 25, 46-62.

Chebat, E., Roth, Y., & Chebat, J. C. (2020). How culture moderates the effects of justice in service recovery. Review of Marketing Science, 18(1), 21-41.

Du, J., Fan, X., & Feng, T. (2010). An experimental investigation of the role of face in service failure and recovery encounters. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 27(7), 584-593.

Fehr, R., & Gelfand, M. J. (2010). When apologies work: how matching apology components to victims’ self-construals facilitates forgiveness. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 113 (1), 37-50.

Hair, J. F., C. M. Ringle, & M. Sarstedt. (2011). PLS-SEM: Indeed a silver bullet. Journal of Marketing theory and Practice, 19(2),139-152.

Hair, J. F., Ringle, C. M., & Sarstedt, M. (2013). Partial least squares structural equation modeling: Rigorous applications, better results and higher acceptance. Long range planning, 46(1-2), 1-12.

Han, B., & Cai, D. A. (2010). Face goals in apology: A cross-cultural comparison of Chinese and US Americans. Journal of Asian Pacific Communication, 20(1), 101-123.

Hareli, S., & Eisikovits, Z. (2006). The role of communicating social emotions accompanying apologies in forgiveness. Motivation and Emotion, 30(3), 189-197.

Harrison-Walker, L. J. (2019). The critical role of customer forgiveness in successful service recovery. Journal of Business Research, 95, 376-391.

Harrison-Walker, L. J. (2022). Organizational and Customer Moderators of Service Recovery on Consumer Forgiveness in Health Care. The Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, 35, 1-26.

Harun, A., M. Rokonuzzaman, G. Prybutok, & V.R. Prybutok. (2018). How to influence consumer mindset: A perspective from service recovery. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 42, 65-77.

Hayes, A. F. (2009). Beyond Baron and Kenny: Statistical mediation analysis in the new millennium. Communication monographs, 76(4), 408-420.

Hill, K.M. (2013). When are apologies effective? an investigation of the components that increase an apology's efficacy. (Doctoral dissertation, North-eastern University). North-eastern University Theses and Dissertations Archive.

Huang, W. (2008). The impact of other‐customer failure on service satisfaction. International Journal of Service Industry Management, 19(4), 521-536.

Hui, V. K. Y., & Bond, M. H. (2009). Target's face loss, motivations, and forgiveness following relational transgression: Comparing Chinese and US cultures. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26(2-3), 123-140.

Hur, J. C., & Jang, S. S. (2019). Is consumer forgiveness possible? Examining rumination and distraction in hotel service failures. International journal of contemporary hospitality management, 31(4), 1567-1587.

Iglesias, O., Markovic, S., Bagherzadeh, M., & Singh, J. J. (2020). Co-creation: A key link between corporate social responsibility, customer trust, and customer loyalty. Journal of Business Ethics, 163(1), 151-166.

Im, E. O., & Chee, W. (2011). Quota sampling in internet research: practical issues. CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 29 (7),381-385.

Jiang, Z., Henneberg, S. C., & Naudé, P. (2011). The importance of trust vis‐à‐vis reliance in business relationships: some international findings. International Marketing Review, 28(4), 318-339.

Joireman, J., Grégoire, Y., & Tripp, T. M. (2016). Customer forgiveness following service failures. Current Opinion in Psychology,10, 76-82.

Joireman, J., Y. Grégoire, B. Devezer, & T. M. Tripp. (2013). When do customers offer firms a “second chance” following a double deviation? The impact of inferred firm motives on customer revenge and reconciliation. Journal of Retailing, 89(3), 315-337.

Kam, C.C.S., & Bond, H.H. (2008). Role of emotions and behavioural responses in mediating the impact of face loss on relationship deterioration: Are Chinese more face-sensitive than Americans? Asian Journal of Social Psychology 11 (2), 175-184.

Karani, K. S. (2021). Forgiving a Loved Brand in the Face of a Transgression: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, 34, 119-131.

Kelley, D. (1998). The communication of forgiveness. Communication Studies, 49(3), 255-271.

Kelley, D. L., & Waldron, V. R. (2006). Forgiveness: Communicative implications for social relationships. Annals of the International Communication Association, 30(1), 303-341.

Kelley, D.L., & Waldron, V.R. (2005). An investigation of forgiveness-seeking communication and relational outcomes. Communication Quarterly, 53(3), 339-358.

Komiya, A., Ohtsubo, Y., Oishi, S., & Mifune, N. (2018). Providing compensation promotes forgiveness for replaceable, but not irreplaceable, losses. The Journal of Social Psychology, 158(6), 680-693.

Koyama, N. F. (2001). The long‐term effects of reconciliation in Japanese macaques Macaca fuscata. Ethology, 107(11), 975-987.

Lazare, A. (2004). On Apology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lee, Y. L., & Sparks, B. (2007). Appraising tourism and hospitality service failure events: a Chinese perspective. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 31(4), 504-529.

Lee, J. L. M., N. Y. M. Siu, & T. J. F. Zhang. (2020). Face, fate and brand equity: service recovery justice and satisfaction. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 37(7), 843-854.

Lee, Y. L., Sparks, B., & Butcher, K. (2013). Service encounters and face loss: Issues of failures, fairness, and context. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 34, 384-393.

Lewis, J. T., Parra, G. R., & Cohen, R. (2015). Apologies in close relationships: A review of theory and research. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 7(1), 47-61.

Lin, C. Y., & Chou, E. Y. (2022). Investigating the role of customer forgiveness following a double deviation. Journal of Services Marketing. Advance online publication.

Ma, K., Zhong, X., & Hou, G. (2020). Gaining satisfaction: the role of brand equity orientation and failure type in service recovery. European Journal of Marketing, 54(10), 2317-2342.

Market Research Society of India. (2011). Socio Economic Classification-2011: The New SEC System. Retrieved June 25, 2020, from

Mattila, A. S. (2006). The power of explanations in mitigating the ill-effects of service failures. Journal of Services Marketing Vol. 20 (7), 422-428.

McClure, T. A., Killian, G., & Pearson, J. M. (2019). Observer Retaliation: Apology Components Affect on Observing Customers’ Reactions. The Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, 32, 1-15.

Moorman, C., Zaltman, G., & Deshpande, R. (1992). Relationships between providers and users of market research: The dynamics of trust within and between organizations. Journal of marketing research, 29(3), 314-328.

Muhammad, L., & Rana, G. E. (2019). Do service firm employee and customer relations matter for customer forgiveness in service recovery?. Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, 31(4),1216-1232.

Muhammad, L., & Rana, G. E. (2020). Mediating role of customer forgiveness between perceived justice and satisfaction. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 52, 101886.

Nadler, A., & Liviatan, I. (2006). Intergroup reconciliation: Effects of adversary's expressions of empathy, responsibility, and recipients' trust. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(4), 459-470.

Oetzel, J. G., Ting‐Toomey, S., Yokochi, Y., Masumoto, T., & Takai, J. (2000). A typology of facework behaviors in conflicts with best friends and relative strangers. Communication Quarterly, 48(4), 397-419.

Radu, A. G., Arli, D., Surachartkumtonkun, J., Weaven, S., & Wright, O. (2019). Empathy and apology: The effectiveness of recovery strategies. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 37(4), 358-371.

Radu, A., Surachartkumtonkun, J., Weaven, S., & Thaichon, P. (2020). Examining antecedents of reconciliation following service failure and recovery. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 28(5), 417-433.

Riaz, Z., & Khan, M. I. (2016). Impact of service failure severity and agreeableness on consumer switchover intention: Mediating role of consumer forgiveness. Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, 28(3), 420-434.

Rusbult, C. E., P. A. Hannon, S. L. Stocker, & E. J. Finkel. (2005). Forgiveness and relational repair. In Handbook of Forgiveness, ed. E. L. Worthington, 185-205. New York: Routledge.

Sengupta, S., Ray, D., Trendel, O., & Vaerenbergh, Y. V. (2018). The effects of apologies for service failures in the global online retail. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 22(3), 419-445.

Sirdeshmukh, D., Singh, J., & Sabol, B. (2002). Consumer trust, value, and loyalty in relational exchanges. Journal of Marketing, 66 (1), 15-37.

Ting-Toomey, S. (2005). The matrix of face: An updated face-negotiation theory. In Theorizing about intercultural communication, ed. W. B. Gudykunst, 71-92. Thousand Oaks: Sage publications.

Ting-Toomey, S., & Kurogi, A. (1998). Facework competence in intercultural conflict: an updated face-negotiation theory. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Vol 22 (2), 187-225.

Ting-Toomey, S. (1988). Intercultural conflict: A face-negotiation theory. In Kim, Y and W. B. Gudykunst, W.B. (Eds.), Theories in intercultural communication (pp. 213-235). Newbury Park, CA: Sage publishers.

Tsarenko, Y., & Gabbott, M. (2004). Forgiveness in Business Relationships: The Role of Emotion. In H. Spotts (Ed.), Assessing the Different Roles of Marketing Theory and Practice in the Jaws of Economic Uncertainty (pp.83-96). Springer.

Tsarenko, Y., & Tojib, D. (2011). A transactional model of forgiveness in the service failure context: a customer-driven approach. Journal of Services Marketing, 25(5), 381-392.

Tsarenko, Y., & Tojib, D. (2012). The role of personality characteristics and service failure severity in consumer forgiveness and service outcomes. Journal of Marketing Management, 28(9-10), 1217-1239.

Tsarenko, Y., Strizhakova, Y., & Otnes, C. C. (2019). Reclaiming the Future: Understanding Customer Forgiveness of Service Transgressions. Journal of Service Research, 22(2), 139-155.

Van Vaerenbergh, Y., D. Varga, A. De Keyser, & C. Orsingher. (2019). The service recovery journey: Conceptualization, integration, and directions for future research. Journal of Service Research, 22(2), 103-119.

Vrontis, D., Leonidou, E., Christofi, M., Hans, R. K., & Kitchen, P. J. (2020). Intercultural service encounters: a systematic review and a conceptual framework on trust development. EuroMed Journal of Business, 16(3), 306-323.

Wan, L. C., Hui, M. K., & Wyer Jr, R. S. (2011). The role of relationship norms in responses to service failures. Journal of Consumer Research, 38(2), 260-277.

Waldron, V., & Kelley, D. (2008). Communicating forgiveness. Sage publishers.

Wei, C., Liu, M. W., & Keh, H. T. (2020). The road to consumer forgiveness is paved with money or apology? The roles of empathy and power in service recovery. Journal of Business Research, 118, 321-334.

Worthington, E. L. Jr. (2005). More questions about forgiveness: Research agenda for 2005–2015. In Handbook of Forgiveness, ed. E. L. Worthington, 557-574. New York: Routledge.

Xie, Y., & Peng, S. (2009). How to repair customer trust after negative publicity: The roles of competence, integrity, benevolence, and forgiveness. Psychology & Marketing, 26(7), 572-589.

Yim, C. K. B., Gu, F., Chan, K., & Tse, D. (2003). Justice-based service recovery expectations: measurement and antecedents. The Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, 16, 36-52.

Zhang, Q., Oetzel, J.G., Ting-Toomey, S., & Zhang, J. (2019). Making up or getting even? The effects of face concerns, self-construal, and apology on forgiveness, reconciliation, and revenge in the United States and China. Communication Research, 46(4), 503-524.

Zhang, Q., Ting-Toomey, S., Oetzel, J. G., & Zhang, J. (2015). The emotional side of forgiveness: A cross-cultural investigation of the role of anger and compassion and face threat in interpersonal forgiveness and reconciliation. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 8(4), 311-329.