Consumer Complaint Behavior

What happens when consumers experience dissatisfaction? There are several negative outcomes possible. First, consumers may exhibit unfavorable word of mouth communication that is they tell others their problems. In fact, studies show that customers tell twice as many people about bad experience as good ones. Such behavior can severely damage a company’s image. Second, consumers may not repurchase the brand. Those who are not fully satisfied with a brand are less likely to repurchase it than are the satisfied buyers . A third action for the consumer is to complain. Several generalizations exist from research on consumer complaining

1) Complainers tend to be members of more upscale socio economic groups than non-complainers.
2) The severity of the dissatisfaction problems is positively related to complaint behavior.
3) Complaining is more likely when there is a more positive perception of retailers responsiveness to customers complaints.

A model of consumers complaining behavior (CCB) is shown in Figure. It illustrates the variety of actions possible. For instance consumers may complain not to the seller but to some formal third parties such as the Better Business Bureau a newspaper or the legal system. Second, they may engage in private CCB action such as telling friends and relative about the bad experience and changing their own patronage behavior. Third, they may voice their complaints to the manufacturer or retailer involved or take no action even when dissatisfied if they are loyal to the seller or believe complaining is pointless. Along similar lines one researcher classified dissatisfied consumers into four groupings based on the way they communicate their dissatisfaction passives, voicers, irates and activists . The choice of a response style exhibited by consumers is determined by episode specific variables (such as the probability of obtaining redress, the costs and benefits from complaint actions and the nature of dissatisfying service) and personality variables (such as prior experiences, alienation, and attitudes, toward complaining). It could be that a consumer may consistently use the same response style in different dissatisfaction contexts over time. Table represents characteristics of individual for our response styles . These style differences imply that retailers could (1) assess the distribution of the four groups among their customers over time to see how they are doing (2) institute programs so as to make the voicer style a more attractive option, compared to other styles and (3) focus on corrective strategies for customer alienation because it undermines retailer loyalty and tends to lead to irates and activists.

It is important for marketers to realize that complaints are actually opportunities. Simply listening to complaints tremendously boosts brand loyalty. The key is getting buyers to complain to the company rather than telling the typical nine or ten people about their problem. But for everyone who complains, there are twenty six others who feel the same way but did not voice a complaint.

Two factors deter consumers from complaining to the company. First, it is hard because our culture does not encourage being a whiner. Second, employees don’t encourage it because they view it as a personal attack on their self esteem. Nevertheless when companies invest money on units that handle complaints and inquires the average return is over 100 percent for makers of certain consumer durables.

Thus such companies as GE, Coca-Cola and British Airways are investing millions of dollars to improve complaint handling. Programs include toll free 800 number telephone systems, intensive staff training, liberal refund policies, and even booths where irate customers can complain on videotape.

Auto manufacturers are designing elaborate training procedures and operations manuals for dealerships customers, service managers in an effort to help dealers win back dissatisfied customers. Nissan has found, for example that as many as many as 20 percent of customers said they would not buy from the same dealerships after only six months of ownerships . But when dissatisfied customers are allowed to complain to the dealer or manufacturer nearly 20 percent of them change their minds and buy from that dealership again. Another study found that 54 percent of dissatisfied customers who feel that their complaint has been solved will buy from the offending dealer again.

Source: Consumer Behavior

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