Consumer Experiences and DIY Service Failures

Matthew Hall, assistant professor of marketing at Oregon State University, talks DIY service failures and discusses the paper, “Service Provider to the Rescue: How Firm Recovery of Do-It-Yourself Service Failure Turns Consumers from Competitors to Satisfied Customers,” he and Jamie D. Hyodo saw published in Journal of Service Research.

Man in cramped attic working of wiring
(Photo: Unsplash)

As do-it-yourself (DIY) continues to gain popularity, consumers sometimes try to bite off a bit more than they can chew. When this happens, consumers often opt to then hire a professional to complete the job. In such cases, these DIYers are not simply naïve customers seeking a service offering. Rather, they are customers who have recently had a personal encounter with the service task. Thus, this research started as a way to understand how consumers’ DIY experiences, specifically DIY failure, carry over to influence their evaluations of subsequent professional offerings.

What made this especially interesting (and personal) was that one of us had a DIY failure experience (trying to fix a leaking drainpipe). After this failed attempt, he hired a plumber to do the job, and was quite satisfied with the plumber’s services. Shortly thereafter, one of our colleagues had a very similar DIY failure experience, but reported not having a great experience with the plumber. The question was, did these two plumbers provide different services? Or was there some difference between the author and their colleague that drove these varied responses to their respective service interactions?

Matthew Hall, left, and Jamie Hyodo

As we explored these DIY failure experiences, we (unsurprisingly) found that people don’t enjoy failing. However, we also found that consumers often use failure as an opportunity to increase their understanding of the task. This is important in the DIY domain, as learning and skill development are critical to peoples’ DIY identities. Thus, when people experience DIY failure, there is tension between frustration with failure (a negative outcome) and learning related to the task (a positive outcome). Interestingly, DIY failure elicits both responses simultaneously, but in varying degrees depending on each consumer’s outlook on ability and skill (i.e., their mindset). Those who believe ability and skill can be improved through effort (i.e., growth-minded consumers) focus more on the learning opportunity their failure provides, leading to a greater appreciation of the provider’s abilities and increased satisfaction with the post-failure service interaction. Alternatively, those who believe skills and ability cannot be easily improved (i.e., fixed-minded individuals) not only fail to learn from failure, but they also dissociate from the failed task and do not carry their DIY experience over to the subsequent service interaction. 

By examining these divergent responses to DIY failure, we highlight how important it is for service providers to understand their customers’ prior experiences with the service task. If the customer has failed the task prior to the service interaction, service providers should validate the customer’s attempt and highlight the positives that can emerge from failure (learning, growth, improvement, etc.). We also highlight how much DIY consumers value learning and how service providers can provide basic instruction during service interactions to educate customers about the task. This firm-provided instruction can foster increased customer appreciation for the service providers’ ability, and ultimately promote customer loyalty to the service provider. 

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Matthew Hall

Dr. Matthew Hall is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Oregon State University. His research focuses on how consumers' interactions with others shape their perceptions of themselves and their marketplace experiences.

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