Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 265–287 | Cite as

On the importance of complaint handling design: a multi-level analysis of the impact in specific complaint situations

  • Christian Homburg
  • Andreas Fürst
  • Nicole Koschate
Original Empirical Research


Given the large investments required for high-quality complaint handling design, managers need practical guidance in understanding its actual importance for their particular company. However, while prior research emphasizes the general relevance of complaint handling design, it fails to provide a more differentiated perspective on this interesting issue. This study, which is based on an integrative multi-level framework and a dyadic dataset, addresses this important gap in research. Results indicate that the impact of a company’s complaint handling design varies significantly depending on the characteristics of the complaining customers with which the firm has to deal. Further, this paper shows that, contingent on these characteristics, a company’s complaint handling design can shape complainants’ fairness perceptions either considerably or only slightly. Overall, findings suggest that companies should apply an adaptive approach to complaint handling to avoid misallocation of attention, energy, and resources.


Complaint management Complaint handling Complaint behavior 


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Copyright information

© Academy of Marketing Science 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Homburg
    • 1
  • Andreas Fürst
    • 2
  • Nicole Koschate
    • 3
  1. 1.Chair of Marketing IUniversity of MannheimMannheimGermany
  2. 2.Chair of MarketingUniversity of Erlangen-NürnbergNürnbergGermany
  3. 3.GfK Chair of Marketing IntelligenceUniversity of Erlangen-NürnbergNürnbergGermany

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