Webcare’s effect on constructive and vindictive complainants

Wolfgang Weitzl

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose – This paper aims to demonstrate that online complainants’ reactions to a company’s service recovery attempts (webcare) can significantly
vary across two different types of dissatisfied customers (“vindictives” vs “constructives”), who have dramatically diverging complaint goal
orientations.
Design/methodology/approach – Online multi-country survey among 812 adult consumers who recently had a dissatisfying brand experience and
turned to a marketer-generated social media site to voice an online complaint for achieving their ultimate complaining goals. Scenario-based online
experiment for cross-validating the survey findings.
Findings – Results suggest that “vindictive complainants” – driven dominantly by brand-adverse motives – are immune to any form of webcare,
while “constructive complainants” – interested in restoring the customer-brand relationship – react more sensitively. For the latter, “no-responses”
often trigger detrimental brand-related reactions (e.g. unfavorable brand image), whereas “defensive responses” are likely to stimulate postwebcare
negative word-of-mouth.
Research limitations/implications – This research identifies the gains and harms of (un-)desired webcare. By doing so, it not only sheds light on
the circumstances when marketers have to fear negative effects (e.g. negative word-of-mouth) but also provides insights into the conditions when
such effects are unlikely. While the findings of the cross-sectional survey are validated with an online experiment, findings should be interpreted
with care as other complaining contexts should be further investigated.
Practical implications – Marketers have to expect a serious “backfiring effect” from an unexpected source, namely, consumers who were initially
benevolent toward the involved brand but who received an inappropriate response.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330 - 347
JournalJournal of Product & Brand Management
Volume28
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 211903 Science of management
  • 502019 Marketing
  • 502020 Market research

Keywords

  • complaint handling
  • online complaints
  • service failure
  • service marketing
  • service recovery

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