How can firms stop customer revenge? The effects of direct and indirect revenge on post-complaint responses
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Do customers feel better or worse after enacting revenge? Using a multimethod approach, we show that customers’ post-complaint desire for revenge depends on whether they initially use direct or indirect revenge behaviors (RBs). Specifically, the current research makes three contributions. First, we find that the more customers use direct RBs, the more pronounced is the decrease in their post desire for revenge over time, whereas a strong engagement in indirect RBs is associated with higher post desire for revenge over time. A series of experiments also indicate that direct RBs lead to less post desire for revenge and more positive affect, compared to the indirect RBs condition. Second, we document the process underlying each effect. The beneficial effect of direct RBs is explained by justice restoration, while the deleterious effect of indirect RBs is mainly explained by public exposure. Third, on the basis of our findings, we test different managerial tactics to reduce avengers’ post desire for revenge. For direct avengers, recoveries with full or overcompensation substantially reduce their negative responses because these customers are primarily driven by justice restoration. For indirect avengers, our prescription involves taking initiatives to change their focus from public exposure to justice restoration by using proactive social media tools. This switch makes these latter customers more amenable to most recoveries, even poor ones.
KeywordsCustomer revenge Public exposure Justice theory Negative affect Brand transgression Service failure Service recovery Post-complaint responses
The research was funded by Chair Omer DeSerres of Retailing, RBC Financial Group Chair of E-commerce, and the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC).
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