A signaling theory approach to relationship recovery

Husni Kharouf, Donald, J Lund, Alexandra Krallman, Chris Pullig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
501 Downloads (Pure)


Drawing on signaling theory, the purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of the strength and framing of firm signals sent to repair relationships following relationship violations.

Three 2 × 2 scenario-based experiments (total n = 527) manipulate signal strength × violation type (Study 1); signal frame × violation type (Study 2); and signal strength × brand familiarity (Study 3) to examine their dynamic impacts on relationship recovery efforts.

Stronger signals are more effective at relationship repair and are especially important following integrity (vs competence) violations. Signals framed as customer gains (vs firm costs) lead to more favorable relationship outcomes. Finally, brands that are less (vs more) familiar see greater benefits from strong signals.

Research limitations/implications
The three experiments were scenario-based, which may not replicate real-life behavior or capture participants’ actual emotions following a violation, thus future research should extend into real-world recovery efforts.

Practical implications
Managers should send strong signals (communicating the level of resources invested in the recovery efforts) framed as benefits to the customer, rather than costs to the firm. Strong signals are especially important when brand familiarity is low or an integrity violation has occurred.

This is the first research to directly apply signaling theory to the relationship recovery process and contributes to theory by examining the role of signal strength; framing of the signal as a customer gain vs firm cost; and the interplay of signal strength and brand familiarity on the relationship recovery effort.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2139-2170
Number of pages32
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number9
Early online date30 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

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  • Brand familiarity
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Relationship repair
  • Relationship violation
  • Signal frame
  • Signal strength
  • Signaling theory
  • Trust
  • Willingness to reconcile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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