Self-service technology recovery: the importance of psychological need support

Byron Keating, Marjan Aslan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The service recovery literature provides little guidance to firms on how users of self-service technology (SST) perceive assistance provided by human and non-human service agents following a service obstacle. This research responds by addressing two important research questions about SST recovery: (1) how are perceptions of assistance provided following a service obstacle influenced by a customer's psychological needs? and (2) does supporting the psychological needs of customers positively impact continuance intentions following a service obstacle?

Data are collected to address the research questions via five experiments that explore how assistance provided by a non-human (vs human vs no assistance) service agent contributes to perceptions of psychological support and continuance intentions following a service obstacle while volitionally using SST.

The results show that while users of SST would prefer to do so without an obstacle requiring intervention of a service agent, if assistance is required then the psychological need support elicited from a non-human service agent was vital to an effective recovery. Further, the findings highlight some boundary conditions for this relationship, with the impact of customer perceived need support on continuance intentions found to be sensitive to fit between the task and assistance provided and the complexity of the task being completed.

Much of the prior service recovery literature has emphasized the different types of tactics that can be used (e.g. apologizing, monetary compensation and explaining what happened), failing to appreciate the role of different types of service agents or the underlying psychological process that explain the relative merit of such tactics. The present research shows that for these tactics to influence continuance intentions, they must be provided by a relevant service agent and support a customer's psychological need for autonomy, competence and relatedness. The hypothesized impact of psychological need support on continuance intentions was also observed to be contingent upon the fit between the task and the type of assistance provided, where the level of task complexity attenuated this fit.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)725-749
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Service Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2023


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