Religious Affiliation: Buffering Negative Reactions to Service Failures

Publication Date


Document Type



Kelly O. Cowart, Edward Ramirez, Michael K. Brady, (2014) "Religious affiliation: buffering negative reactions to service failures", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 28 Issue: 1, pp.1-9, https://doi.org/10.1108/JSM-05-2012-0094


Purpose – This research aims to examine the buffering effect of a firm’s religious association on customer reactions to a service failure.

Design/methodology/approach – Two scenario-driven studies containing religious and non-religious reasons for a store closing were conducted.

Findings – The results from Study 1 suggest that a religious affiliation safeguards against negative reactions to failures related to store policies (see Hoffman et al., 2003). Customers are more likely to forgive transgressing firms when service failures are associated with religion, regardless of attitudes toward the religious group. A follow up study supports the first, even when no specific religion was identified in the scenario, the service failure involved a firm that closed weekly, and a non-student sample was used.

Research limitations/implications – While the results provide support for the buffering effects of a religious affiliation against a particular type of service failure – temporary service interruptions due to the observance of religious holidays and celebrations, future research should test the robustness of this effect on technology failures and rude treatment by employees.

Originality/value – This paper is the first, to the authors’ knowledge, to test the effect of a firm’s religious affiliation on customer perceptions of frontline service encounters in general and service failures in particular.