Customer Complaint Behavior

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Consumers’ complaint behaviour. Taxonomy, typology and determinants: Towards a unified ontology Received (in revised form): 16th August, 2003

Dominique Crie ´
is Professor of marketing at the University of Sciences and Technologies of Lille, in the Business Administration Department (IAE). He manages the postgraduate degree course: statistical specialisation for marketing databases. He is also a marketing consultant and statistician, member of the Association Francaise de Marketing and of the Societe Francaise de Statistiques. ¸ ´ ´ ¸ His research focuses on the customer relationship, particularly in relation to satisfaction, loyalty and retention.

Abstract Complaint behaviour is a set of consumer dissatisfaction responses. It is an explicit expression of dissatisfaction, but dissatisfaction is only one determinant of this behaviour. Complaint behaviour can be analysed as various types of response but also as a process. This paper proposes an integrated framework of the various theories of complaint behaviour leading toward a unified ontology and to interpreting it from a new perspective.

Dominique Crie ´ IAE de Lille, 104, Avenue du Peuple Belge, 59 043 Lille Cedex, ´ France. Tel: 33 (0)3 20 12 34 64; Fax: 33 (0)3 20 12 34 48; E-mail: DomiCrie@aol.com

INTRODUCTION This paper reviews a concept still relatively rarely considered by companies: consumer complaint behaviour. Within the framework of the relationship paradigm, complaint behaviour is a powerful signal which companies should take into account. On the one hand, it gives an organisation a last chance to retain the customer, if the organisation reacts appropriately, on the other hand it is a legitimate and ethical act toward the consumer. Generally, but not exclusively, complaint behaviour is one of the responses to perceived dissatisfaction in the post-purchase phase. In the first section of the paper, a taxonomy of response styles used by dissatisfied consumers is proposed. Then consumer complaint behaviour (CCB) is defined and situated with regard to these various types of response. Finally, after clustering

‘complainers’ and ‘non-complainers’, this paper tries to track down the main dimensions of the CCB taxonomy through a structuralisation of its determinants within a diachronic approach — the objective being to propose a clarified conceptual and theoretical framework to integrate the large variety of works on the subject. The conclusion highlights a synthesis of this conceptual structure with regard to a unified ontology. A TAXONOMY OF THE TYPES OF RESPONSE TO DISSATISFACTION A dissatisfied consumer may adopt several types of response, classification of which may be delicate. The taxonomy of responses first requires a distinction between the notions of response and of action to be established. Indeed, the term ‘action’ implies a very specific behaviour,

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Database Marketing & Customer Strategy Management

Vol. 11, 1, 60–79

Henry Stewart Publications 1741–2439 (2003)

Consumers’ complaint behaviour

Table 1: A taxonomy of the types of response to dissatisfaction Towards enitity Response type Behavioural Public (Sellers, manufacturers, official organisations, associations, justice) Complaint Legal action Return of the item Request for repair No action, with or without modification of the attitude Forget or forgive Private (Family, friends, relations) Word of mouth Boycott/leaving

Non-behavioural

while the term ‘response’ contains several modalities which are not exclusively behavioural, notably change of attitude or inactivity. This distinction establishes a first dimension. The second is represented by the entities towards which responses are directed: the public one includes sellers, manufacturers and consumer associations or legal action; the private one includes family, friends or relatives. Finally, responses show different intensities according to the two previous dimensions. Responses may vary from inactivity to legal action —...
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