Advertisement

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Complaint management Complaint handling Complaint behavior 

References

  1. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1993). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions (3rd ed.). Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Ailawadi, K. L., Neslin, S. A., & Gedenk, K. (2001). Pursuing the value-conscious consumer: store brands versus national brand promotions. Journal of Marketing, 65(1), 71–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, N. H. (1981). Foundation of information integration theory. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  4. Andreassen, T. W. (2000). Antecedents to satisfaction with service recovery. European Journal of Marketing, 34(1/2), 156–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Andreassen, T. W. (2001). From disgust to delight: do customers hold a grudge? Journal of Service Research, 4(1), 39–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Armstrong, J. S., & Overton, T. S. (1977). Estimating nonresponse bias in mail surveys. Journal of Marketing Research, 14, 396–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bagozzi, R. P., & Yi, Y. (1988). On the evaluation of structural equation models. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 16(1), 74–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bearden, W. O., & Oliver, R. L. (1985). The role of public and private complaining in satisfaction with problem resolution. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 19(2), 222–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Belsley, D. A., Kuh, E., & Welsch, R. E. (1980). Regression diagnostics: Identifying influentia data and sources of collinearity. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  10. Berry, L. L. (1995). On great service: A framework for action. New York: Free.Google Scholar
  11. Bitner, M. J., Booms, B. H., & Tetreault, M. S. (1990). The service encounter: diagnosing favorable and unfavorable incidents. Journal of Marketing, 54(1), 71–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Blodgett, J. G., Granbois, D. H., & Walters, R. G. (1993). The effects of perceived justice on complainants’ negative word-of-mouth behavior and repatronage intentions. Journal of Retailing, 69(4), 399–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Blodgett, J. G., Hill, D., & Tax, S. S. (1997). The effects of distributive, procedural, and interactional justice on postcomplaint behavior. Journal of Retailing, 73, 185–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bolton, R. N. (1998). A dynamic model of the duration of the customer’s relationship with a continuous service provider: the role of satisfaction. Marketing Science, 17(1), 45–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brown, S. W. (2000). Practicing Best-in-class service recovery. Marketing Management, 9(2), 8–9.Google Scholar
  16. Brown, S. P., & Beltramini, R. F. (1989). Consumer complaining and word of mouth activities: field evidence. Advances in Consumer Research, 16(1), 9–16.Google Scholar
  17. Bryk, A. S., & Raudenbush, S. W. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  18. Bush, R. F., & Busch, P. (1981). The relationship of tenure and age to role clarity and its consequences in the industrial salesforce. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 2(1), 17–23.Google Scholar
  19. Chebat, J.-C., & Kollias, P. (2000). The impact of empowerment on customer contact employees’ roles in service organizations. Journal of Service Research, 3(1), 66–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Chebat, J.-C., Davidow, M., & Codjovi, I. (2005). Silent voices. Why some dissatisfied consumers fail to complain. Journal of Service Research, 7(4), 328–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Clemmer, E. C. (1993). An investigation into the relationship of fairness and customer satisfaction with services. In R. Cropanzano (Ed.), Justice in the workplace: Approaching fairness in human resource management (pp. 193–207). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  22. Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., & Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (3rd ed.). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  23. Conlon, D. E., & Murray, N. M. (1996). Customer perceptions of corporate responses to product complaints: the role of explanations. Academy of Management Journal, 39(4), 1040–1056.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Cummings, W. T., Jackson, D. W., & Olstrom, L. L. (1989). Examining product managers’ job satisfaction and performance using selected organizational behavior variables. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 17(2), 147–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dagger, T. S., Danaher, P. J., & Gibbs, B. J. (2009). How often versus how long: the interplay of contact frequency and relationship duration in customer-reported service relationship strength. Journal of Service Research, 11(4), 371–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Davidow, M. (2003). Organizational responses to customer complaints: what works and what doesn’t. Journal of Service Research, 5(3), 225–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Diehl, K., Kornish, L. J., & Lynch, J. G. (2003). Smart agents: when lower search costs for quality information increase price sensitivity. Journal of Consumer Research, 30, 56–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Folger, R., & Greenberg, J. (1985). Procedural justice: an interpretive analysis of personnel systems. Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, 3, 141–183.Google Scholar
  29. Folkes, V. S. (1984). Consumer reactions to product failure: an attributional approach. Journal of Consumer Research, 10, 398–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fornell, C., & Bookstein, F. L. (1982). A comparative analysis of two structural equation models. In C. Fornell (Ed.), A second generation of multivariate analysis (pp. 289–324). New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  31. Fornell, C., & Larcker, D. F. (1981). Evaluating structural equation models with unobservable variables and measurement error. Journal of Marketing Research, 18, 39–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fornell, C., & Wernerfelt, B. (1987). Defensive marketing strategy by customer complaint management: a theoretical analysis. Journal of Marketing Research, 24, 337–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Fornell, C., Mithas, S., Morgeson, F. V., III, & Krishnan, M. S. (2006). Customer satisfaction and stock prices: high returns, low risk. Journal of Marketing, 70(1), 3–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Friedman, M. L., & Churchill, G. A., Jr. (1987). Using consumer perceptions and a contingency approach to improve health care delivery. Journal of Consumer Research, 13(4), 492–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ganesan, S. (1994). Determinants of long-term orientation in buyer–seller relationships. Journal of Marketing, 58(2), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Gilbert, F. W., & Warren, W. E. (1995). Psychographic constructs and demographic segments. Psychology & Marketing, 12(3), 223–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Gilliland, S. W. (1993). The perceived fairness of selection systems: an organizational justice perspective. Academy of Management Review, 18(4), 694–734.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Gilly, M. C., & Gelb, B. D. (1982). Post-purchase consumer processes and the complaining consumer. Journal of Consumer Research, 9(3), 323–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Goodwin, C., & Ross, I. (1989). Salient dimensions of perceived fairness in resolution of service complaints. Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction, and Complaining Behavior, 2, 87–92.Google Scholar
  40. Goodwin, C., & Ross, I. (1992). Consumer responses to service failures: influence of procedural and interactional fairness perceptions. Journal of Business Research, 25(2), 149–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Grainer, M. (2003). Customer care: The multibillion dollar sinkhole. Alexandria: Customer Care Alliance.Google Scholar
  42. Greenberg, J., & McCarty, C. (1990). The interpersonal aspects of procedural justice: a new perspective in pay fairness. Labor Law Journal, 41, 580–585.Google Scholar
  43. Handy, C. (1994). Understanding organizations (4th ed.). London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  44. Hart, C. W. L., Heskett, J. L., & Sasser, W. E. (1990). The profitable art of service recovery. Harvard Business Review, 68(4), 148–156.Google Scholar
  45. Hartline, M. D., & Ferrell, O. C. (1996). The management of customer-contact service employees: an empirical investigation. Journal of Marketing, 60(4), 52–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hess, R. L., Ganesan, S., & Klein, N. (2003). Service failure and recovery: the impact of relationship factors on customer satisfaction. Journal of Academy of Marketing Science, 31(2), 127–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Homans, G. C. (1961). Social behavior: Its elementary forms. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.Google Scholar
  48. Homburg, C., & Fürst, A. (2005). How organizational complaint handling drives customer loyalty: an analysis of the mechanistic and the organic approach. Journal of Marketing, 69(3), 95–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Homburg, C., & Fürst, A. (2007). See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil: a study of defensive organizational behavior towards customer complaints. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 35(4), 523–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Hunt, J. M., & Kernan, J. B. (1991). Consumer reaction to inequitable exchange: the role of causal inferences. The Journal of Social Psychology, 131(5), 685–696.Google Scholar
  51. Jarvis, C. B., MacKenzie, S. B., & Podsakoff, P. M. (2003). A critical review of construct indicators and measurement model misspecification in marketing and consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research, 30, 199–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Jasso, G. (1980). A new theory of distributive justice. American Sociological Review, 45, 3–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Johnston, R. (2001). Linking complaint management to profit. International Journal of Service Industry Management, 12(1), 60–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Krishnan, S., & Valle, V. A. (1979). Dissatisfaction attributions and consumer complaint behavior. In W. Wilkie (Ed.), Advances in consumer research (4th ed., pp. 445–449). Ann Arbor: Association for Consumer Research.Google Scholar
  55. Kumar, N., Scheer, L. K., & Steenkamp, J.-B. E. M. (1995). The effects of supplier fairness on vulnerable resellers. Journal of Marketing Research, 32(1), 54–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Licata, J. W., Mowen, J. C., Harris, E. G., & Brown, T. J. (2003). On the trait antecedents and outcomes of service worker job resourcefulness. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 31(3), 256–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Lichtenstein, D. R., Ridgway, N. M., & Netemeyer, R. G. (1993). Price perceptions and consumer shopping behavior: a field study. Journal of Marketing Research, 30(2), 234–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lind, E. A., & Tyler, T. R. (1988). The social psychology of procedural justice. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  59. March, J. G., & Simon, H. A. (1993). Organizations (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  60. Mattila, A. S. (2001). The effectiveness of service recovery in a multi-industry setting. Journal of Services Marketing, 15(7), 583–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Maxham, J. G., III, & Netemeyer, R. G. (2003). Firms reap what they sow: the effects of shared values and perceived organizational justice on customers’ evaluations of complaint handling. Journal of Marketing, 67(1), 46–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Maxwell, S. (1999). The social norms of discrete consumer exchange: classification and quantification. American Journal of Economics & Sociology, 58(4), 999–1018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. McColl-Kennedy, J. R., Daus, C. S., & Sparks, B. A. (2003). The role of gender in reactions to service failure and recovery. Journal of Service Research, 6(1), 66–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. McCollough, M. A., Berry, L. L., & Yadav, M. S. (2000). An empirical investigation of customer satisfaction after service failure and recovery. Journal of Service Research, 3, 121–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Narayandas, D., & Kasturi, R. V. (2004). Building and sustaining buyer–seller relationships in mature industrial markets. Journal of Marketing, 68(3), 63–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Neter, J., Kutner, M. H., Nachtsheim, C. J., & Wasserman, W. (1996). Applied linear statistical models (4th ed.). Chicago: Irwin.Google Scholar
  67. Nunnally, J. C. (1978). Psychometric theory (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  68. Oliver, R. (1997). Equity: How consumers interpret fairness. In R. Oliver (Ed.), Satisfaction: A behavioral perspective on the consumer (pp. 193–215). Boston: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  69. Olsen, L. L., & Johnson, M. D. (2003). Service equity, satisfaction, and loyalty: from transaction-specific to cumulative evaluations. Journal of Service Research, 5(3), 184–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Palmatier, R. W., Scheer, L. K., & Steenkamp, J.-B. (2007). Customer loyalty to whom? Managing the benefits and risks of salesperson-owned loyalty. Journal of Marketing Research, 44(2), 185–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Palmer, A., Beggs, R., & Keown-McMullan, C. (2000). Equity and repurchase intention following service failure. Journal of Services Marketing, 14(6), 513–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). Communication and persuasion: Central and peripheral routes to attitude change. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  73. Petty, R. E., Harkins, S. G., & Williams, K. D. (1980). The effects of group diffusion of cognitive effort on attitudes: an information processing view. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38(1), 81–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Phillips, L. W., & Sternthal, B. (1977). Age differences in information processing: a perspective on the aged consumer. Journal of Marketing Research, 14(4), 444–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Raimondo, M. A., Miceli, G., & Costabile, M. (2008). How relationship age moderates loyalty formation: the increasing effect of relational equity on customer loyalty. Journal of Service Research, 11(2), 142–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Rao, A. R., & Bergen, M. E. (1992). Price premium variations as a consequence of buyers’ lack of information. Journal of Consumer Research, 19(3), 412–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Reinartz, W. J., & Kumar, V. (2003). The impact of customer relationship characteristics on profitable lifetime duration. Journal of Marketing, 67, 77–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Richins, M. L. (1983). Negative word-of-mouth by dissatisfied consumers: a pilot study. Journal of Marketing, 47(1), 68–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Roberts, J. K. (2004). An introductory primer on multilevel and hierarchical linear modelling. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal, 2(1), 30–38.Google Scholar
  80. Roberts, J. K., & Monaco, J. P. (2006). Effect size measures for the two-level linear multilevel model. San Francisco: American Educational Research Association.Google Scholar
  81. Shuptrine, K. F., & Wenglorz, G. (1981). Comprehensive identification of consumers’ marketplace problems and what they do about them. In K. B. Monroe (Ed.), Advances in consumer research (8th ed., pp. 687–692). Ann Arbor: Association for Consumer Research.Google Scholar
  82. Simon, H. A. (1997). Administrative behavior (4th ed.). New York: Free.Google Scholar
  83. Singh, J. (1990). A typology of consumer dissatisfaction response styles. Journal of Retailing, 66(1), 57–99.Google Scholar
  84. Slama, M. E., & Tashchian, A. (1985). Selected socioeconomic and demographic characteristics associated with purchasing involvement. Journal of Marketing, 49(1), 72–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Smith, A. K., Bolton, R. N., & Wagner, J. (1999). A model of customer satisfaction with service encounters involving failure and recovery. Journal of Marketing Research, 34, 356–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Snijders, T. A. B., & Bosker, R. J. (1994). Modeled variance in two-level models. Sociological Methods and Research, 22, 342–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Sweeney, P. D., & McFarlin, D. B. (1997). Process and outcome: gender differences in the assessment of justice. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 18(1), 83–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. TARP (Technical Assistance Research Program). (1986). Consumer complaint handling in America: An update study (Part II). Washington: Technical Assistance Research Program Institute and United States Office of Consumer Affairs.Google Scholar
  89. Tax, S. S., & Brown, S. W. (1998). Recovering and learning from service failure. Sloan Management Review, 40(1), 75–88.Google Scholar
  90. Tax, S. S., Brown, S. W., & Chandrashekaran, M. (1998). Customer evaluations of service complaint experiences: implications for relationship marketing. Journal of Marketing, 62, 60–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Tsiros, M., Mittal, V., & Ross, W. (2004). The role of attributions in customer satisfaction: a reexamination. Journal of Consumer Research, 31(2), 476–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Walster, E., Berscheid, E., & Walster, G. W. (1973). New directions in equity research. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 25(2), 151–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Ward, T., & Dagger, T. S. (2007). The complexity of relationship marketing for service customers. Journal of Services Marketing, 21(4), 281–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Webster, F. E. (1978). Management science in industrial marketing. Journal of Marketing, 42(1), 21–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Weitz, B. A. (1981). Effectiveness in sales interactions: a contingency framework. Journal of Marketing, 45(1), 85–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Zajonc, R. B. (1984). On the primacy of affect. American Psychologist, 39, 117–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Zeithaml, V. (1985). The new demographics and market fragmentation. Journal of Marketing, 49(3), 64–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Zeithaml, V. A., Varadarajan, P. R., & Zeithaml, C. P. (1988). The contingency approach: its foundations and relevance to theory building and research in marketing. European Journal of Marketing, 22(7), 37–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations