Synthesizing Negative Critical Incidents: Integration of Service Failure–Recovery and Brand Transgression Streams: An Abstract
Research studies on brand transgression (BT), service failure-recovery (SFR), and product-harm crisis (PHC) appear to have a common focus, yet the three streams developed surprisingly independently and with limited reference to one another. This situation is unfortunate because all three fields study a similar phenomenon by using complementary conceptualizations, theories, and methods; we argue that this development in silos represents an unnecessary obstacle to the development of a common discipline.
In response, this review synthesizes the growing BT, SFR, and PHC literatures by systematically reviewing 236 articles across 21 years using an integrative conceptual framework. In doing so, we showcase how the mature field of SFR in concert with the younger but prolific BT and PHC fields can enrich one another while jointly advancing a discipline of critical negative events. Through this process, we provide and explicate seven overarching insights, across three major themes (theory, dynamic aspects, and method), to encourage researchers to contribute to the interface between these three important fields.
First, the current systematic review has brought together diverse academic research (BT, SFR, and PHC). As our analysis indicates, the last two decades have witnessed significant developments in these three areas on our seven integrative dimensions of interest. The analysis reveals that various strengths, weaknesses, and gaps exist in each literature, complementing each other and offering significant opportunities for future research. This review differs from and complements previous syntheses on related areas (Cleeren et al. 2017; Davidow 2003; Fournier and Alvarez 2013; Sayin and Gürhan-Canlı 2015) by specifically bridging the gap between BT, SFR, and PHC and by using a broader perspective on a phenomenon labeled “critical negative events.” In so doing, our first contribution lies in identifying a series of seven priority insights generated from systematic integration of BT, SFR, and PHC and the corresponding future directions that should help researchers in all three streams.
Second, this review advances the idea of a broader science of critical negative events (Fournier and Alvarez 2013), which goes beyond any individual contributions of BT, SFR, and PHC. We hope that our review will spur the development of a general discipline by combining deep insights from SFR, BT, and PHC. Such a “discipline of critical negative events” could systematize our understanding of critical negative events, and it could help the development of not only SFR, BT, and PHC but also other streams studying negative events (e.g., customer deviance, immoral actions, and relationship termination). The current research aims to be a first step toward the development of this discipline by generating a unifying seven-insight framework.