A voice from the silent masses: An exploratory and comparative analysis of noncomplainers

  • Clay M. Voorhees
  • Michael K. Brady
  • David M. Horowitz


This study used a critical incident survey with both qualitative and quantitative sections to investigate noncomplainers. Noncomplainers are customers who experience service failures but do not voice complaints. The qualitative study (n=149) explored reasons why customers do not complain after experiencing service failures. In the quantitative study (n=530), two kinds of noncomplainers who either (a) received organization-initiated recoveries or(b) exited the encounters without recoveries were compared with three kinds of complaining customers who received (a) satisfactory recoveries, (b) dissatisfactory recoveries, or (c) no recoveries. The five customer groups were compared across repurchase intentions, negative affect, perceived regret, and intentions to engage in negative word of mouth. The results of the comparative analyses challenge existing views of noncomplainers’ repurchase intentions and negative outcome levels.


complaining behavior service recovery dissatisfaction service failure noncomplainers service quality qualitative data 


  1. Aaker, David. 1991.Managing Brand Equity. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  2. Aaker, Jennifer, Susan Fournier, and S. Adam Brasel. 2004. “When Good Brands Do Bad?”Journal of Consumer Research 31 (June): 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adams, J. Stacy. 1963. “Toward an Understanding of Inequity.”Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 67 (5): 422–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Andreasen, Alan R. 1988. “Consumers Complaints and Redress: What We Know and What We Don’t Know.” InThe Frontier of Research in the Consumer Interest. Eds. E. Scott Mayes et al. Columbia, MO: American Council on Consumer Interests, 675–722.Google Scholar
  5. Arndt, Johan. 1967. “Role of Product-Related Conversation in the Diffusion of a New Product.”Journal of Marketing Research 4 (August): 291–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bearden, William O. and Jesse E. Teel. 1980. “An Investigation of Personal Influences on Consumer Complaining.”Journal of Retailing 56 (Fall): 3–20.Google Scholar
  7. Bitner, Mary J., Bernard H. Booms, and Mary S. Tetreault. 1990. “The Service Encounter: Diagnosing Favorable and Unfavorable Incidents.”Journal of Marketing 54 (1): 71–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blodgett, Jeffrey G., Donald H. Granbois, and Rockney G. Walters. 1993. “The Effects of Perceived Justice on Negative Word of Mouth and Repatronage Intentions.”Journal of Retailing 69 (Winter): 399–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bolting, Claire P. 1989. “How Do Customer Express Dissatisfaction and What Can Service Marketers Do About It?”Journal of Services Marketing 3 (2): 5–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Diener, Betty J. and Stephen A. Greyser. 1978. “Consumer Views of Redress Needs.”Journal of Marketing 42 (October): 21–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Firnstahl, Timothy W. 1989. “My Employees Are My Service Guarantee.”Harvard Business Review July–August:28–32.Google Scholar
  12. Flynn, Leisa Reinecke, Ronald E. Goldsmith, and Jacqueline K. Eastman. 1996. “Opinion Leaders and Opinion Seekers: Two New Measurement Scales.”Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 24 (2): 137–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Folkes, Valarie S., Susan Koletsky, and John L. Graham. 1987. “A Field Study of Causal Inferences and Consumer Reaction: The View From the Airport.”Journal of Consumer Research 13 (4): 534–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fornell, Claes and David F. Larcker. 1981. “Evaluating Structural Equation Models With Unobservable Variables and Measurement Error.”Journal of Marketing Research 18 (February): 39–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. — and Birger Wernerfelt. 1987. “Defensive Marketing Strategy by Consumer Complaint Management: A Theoretical Analysis.”Journal of Marketing Research 24 (November): 337–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gilly, Mary C. 1987. “Postcomplaint Processes: From Organizational Response to Repurchase Behavior.”Journal of Consumer Affairs 21 (Winter): 293–313.Google Scholar
  17. Granbois, Donald, John Summers, and Gary Frazier. 1977. “Correlates of Consumer Expectations and Complaining Behavior.” InConsumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior. Ed. Ralph L. Day. Bloomington: Indiana University School of Business, 18–25.Google Scholar
  18. Halstead, Diane. 2002. “Negative Word of Mouth: Substitutes for or Supplement to Consumer Complaints?“Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction, and Complaining Behavior 15:1–12.Google Scholar
  19. — and Thomas J. Page. 1992. “The Effects of Satisfaction and Complaining Behavior on Consumer Repurchase Intentions.”Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior 5:1–11.Google Scholar
  20. Harrison-Walker, L. Jean. 2001. “The Measurement of Word-of-Mouth Communication and an Investigation of Service Quality and Customer Commitment as Potential Antecedents.”Journal of Service Research 4 (1): 60–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Helson, H. 1964.Adaptation-Level Theory: An Experimental and Systematic Approach to Behavior. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  22. Johnston, Robert. 1998. “The Effect of Intensity of Dissatisfaction on Complaining Behavior.”Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction, and Complaining Behavior 11:69–77.Google Scholar
  23. — and Adrian Fern. 1999. “Service Recovery Strategies for Single and Double Deviation Scenarios.”Service Industries Journal 19 (2): 69–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kassarjian, Harold H. 1977. “Content Analysis in Consumer Research.”Journal of Consumer Research 4 (June): 8–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Keaveney, Susan M. 1995. “Customer Switching Behavior in Service Industries: An Exploratory Study.”Journal of Marketing 59 (April): 71–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Keller, Kevin Lane. 1998.Strategic Brand Management. New York: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  27. Kirmani, Amna and Akshay R. Rao. (2000), “No Pain, No Gain: A Critical Review of the Literature on Signaling Unobservable Product Quality.”Journal of Marketing 64 (2): 66–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Landon, E. Laird. 1977. “A Model of Consumer Complaint Behavior.” InConsumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior. Ed. Ralph L. Day. Bloomington: Indiana University School of Business, 31–35.Google Scholar
  29. Lemon, Katherine N., Tiffany B. White, and Russell S. Winer. 2002. “Dynamic Customer Relationship Management: Incorporating Future Considerations Into the Service Retention Decision.”Journal of Marketing 66 (January): 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Maxham, James G. and Richard G. Netemeyer 2002. “A Longitudinal Study of Customer Evaluations of Multiple Service Failures and Recoveries.”Journal of Marketing 66 (October): 57–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Oliver, Richard L. 1997.Satisfaction: A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  32. Phillips, Mark R., Bradley D. McAuliff, Margaret Bull Kovera, and Brian Cutler. 1999. “Double-Blind Photoarray Administration as a Safeguard Against Investigator Bias.”Journal of Applied Psychology 84 (6): 940–951.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Reichheld, Frederick and Earl Sasser. 1990. “Zero Defects: Quality Comes to Services.”Harvard Business Review September-October: 105–111.Google Scholar
  34. Richins, Marsha L. 1983. “Negative Word of Mouth by Dissatisfied Consumers: A Pilot Study.”Journal of Marketing 47 (Winter): 68–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. —. 1987. “A Multivariate Analysis of Responses to Dissatisfaction.”Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 15 (3): 24–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ross, William T., Jr., and Itimar Simonson. 1991. “Evaluations of Pairs of Experiences: A Preference for Happy Endings.”Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 4:273–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rust, Roland T., Valerie A. Zeithaml, and Katherine N. Lemon. 2000.Driving Customer Equity. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  38. Singh, Jagdip. 1990, “Voice, Exit, and Negative Word of Mouth Behaviors: An Investigation Across Three Service Categories.”Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 18:1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. — and Robert E. Wilkes. 1996. “When Consumers Complain: A Path Analysis of the Key Antecedents of Consumer Complaint Response Estimates.”Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 24:350–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Smith, Amy K. and Ruth Bolton. 1998. “An Experimental Investigation of Service Failure and Recovery: Paradox or Peril?”Journal of Service Research 1 (1): 65–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. —,—. and —, and Janet Wagner. 1999. “A Model of Customer Satisfaction With Service Encounters Involving Failure and Recovery.”Journal of Marketing Research 36 (August): 356–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stephens, Nancy and Kevin P. Gwinner. 1998. “Why Don’t Some People Complain? A Cognitive-Emotive Process Model of Consumer Complaint Behavior.”Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 26:172–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tax, Stephen S., Stephen W. Brown, and Murali Chandrashekaran. 1998. “Customer Evaluations of Service Complaint Experiences: Implications for Relationship Marketing.”Journal of Marketing 62 (April): 60–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. —, Murali Chandrashekaran, and Tim Christiansen. 1993. “Word-of-Mouth in Consumer Decision-Making: An Agenda for Research.”Journal of Consumer Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior 6 (January): 74–80.Google Scholar
  45. Technical Assistance Research Program. 1979.Consumer Complaint Handling in America: An Update Study. Washington, DC: White House Office of Consumer Affairs.Google Scholar
  46. Tsiros, Michael and Vikas Mittal. 2000. “Regret: A Model of Its Antecedents and Consequences in Consumer Decision Making.”Journal of Consumer Research 26 (March): 401–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Walchli, Suzanne B. and Janet Landman. 2003. “Effects of Counterfactual Thought on Postpurchase Consumer Affect.”Psychology and Marketing 20 (1): 23–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Westbrook, Robert A. 1987. “Product/Consumption-Based Affective Responses and Postpurchase Processes.”Journal of Marketing Research 24 (3): 258–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. — and Richard L. Oliver. 1991. “The Dimensionality of Consumption Emotion Patterns and Consumer Satisfaction.”Journal of Consumer Research 18 (June): 84–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Zeithaml, Valerie A., Leonard L. Berry, and A. Parasuraman. 1996. “The Behavioral Consequences of Service Quality.”Journal of Marketing 60 (April): 31–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Academy of Marketing Science 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clay M. Voorhees
    • 1
  • Michael K. Brady
    • 2
  • David M. Horowitz
    • 2
  1. 1.Michigan State UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Florida State UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations