Exploring service failure in a business-to-business context

Zhu, Xia and Zolkiewski, Judy (2015). Exploring service failure in a business-to-business context. Journal of Services Marketing, 29(5) pp. 367–379.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/JSM-02-2014-0055



– This study aims to explore how business-to-business service failures manifest in a manufacturing context.


– The empirical research involved two case studies: case study one included 20 interviews in the metal finishing industry; case study two included 20 interviews in the paint and coatings industry. In both case studies, suppliers and customers’ perceptions were obtained to facilitate a dyadic understanding of the phenomena.


– Business-to-business service failure is a complex, dynamic and interactive process. It varies according to type of service, services supporting the products and services supporting the customers, service quality dimensions and the source of the failure. It can have a more profound impact than service failure in a consumer context because it may cause disruption to customers’ production and have a negative influence of failure on their clients in the network.

Research limitations/implications

– Business customers may play a role in value co-destruction rather than value co-creation by causing service failures due to errors on their part. The consequences of the domino effects revealed in this study need to be given careful consideration by managers. The research is exploratory, and the findings may be influenced by the manufacturing sector in which the case study firms are based.


– Business-to-business service failure has its own distinct characteristics, as it may impact widely in the business-to-business network. Domino effects implicitly dominate business-to-business service failure episodes where negative outcomes cascade downstream and affect service recipients’ customers.

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