Advertisement

When pushing back is good: the effectiveness of brand responses to social media complaints

  • Marius Johnen
  • Oliver SchnittkaEmail author
Original Empirical Research
  • 64 Downloads

Abstract

Conventional wisdom suggests that brands should respond in an accommodative way to consumer complaints. However, this research shows that observers of the communication between complainants and brands on social media may prefer a defensive response under specific conditions. Thus, this study helps managers to find optimal responses to social media complaints, thereby minimizing negative consequences. We introduce a previously unexamined key moderator that takes account of the observer perspective: the benefits sought in the context of a complainant–brand interaction (e.g., brand presences in social media). Hence, we differentiate hedonic from utilitarian contexts and we note the distinct observer benefits and corresponding preferences. A field study and a series of experiments show that a defensive response can be superior in hedonic contexts but inferior in utilitarian ones. We also show how response strategy indirectly affects observers’ behavioral consequences and identify complaint reasoning and brand communication style as relevant boundary conditions.

Keywords

Response strategy Social media Brand communication Communication style Consumer complaints Contextual benefits 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Annika Greff, Carolin Haiduk, and Henning Rumpsfeld for their support in data collection and Michel Clement, Harald van Heerde, Dominik Papies, and Henrik Sattler for their helpful comments and suggestions.

Funding

This work was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG), research unit 1452 (SA 550/3-1).

Supplementary material

11747_2019_661_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.1 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1103 kb)

References

  1. Ahluwalia, R. (2000). Examination of psychological processes underlying resistance to persuasion. Journal of Consumer Research, 27(2), 217–232.Google Scholar
  2. Ahluwalia, R., Burnkrant, R. E., & Rao Unnava, H. (2000). Consumer response to negative publicity: the moderating role of commitment. Journal of Marketing Research, 37(2), 203–214.Google Scholar
  3. Babić Rosario, A., Sotgiu, F., de Valck, K., & Bijmolt, T. H. A. (2016). The effect of electronic word of mouth on sales: a meta-analytic review of platform, product, and metric factors. Journal of Marketing Research, 53(3), 297–318.Google Scholar
  4. Babin, B. J., Darden, W., & Griffin, M. (1994). Work and/or fun: measuring hedonic and utilitarian shopping value. Journal of Consumer Research, 20(4), 644–656.Google Scholar
  5. Bagozzi, R. P., Gopinath, M., & Nyer, P. U. (1999). The role of emotions in marketing. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 27(2), 184–206.Google Scholar
  6. Barcelos, R. H., Dantas, D. C., & Sénécal, S. (2018). Watch your tone: how a brand’s tone of voice on social media influences consumer responses. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 41, 60–80.Google Scholar
  7. Benefit (2018). In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/benefit
  8. Cameron, A. C., & Trivedi, P. K. (2013). Regression analysis of count data. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Cesario, J. E., Plaks, J. E., & Higgins, T. (2006). Automatic social behavior as motivated preparation to interact. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(6), 893–910.Google Scholar
  10. Chang, H. H., Tsai, Y.-C., Wong, K. H., Wang, J. W., & Cho, F. J. (2015). The effects of response strategies and severity of failure on consumer attribution with regard to negative word-of-mouth. Decision Support Systems, 71(March), 48–61.Google Scholar
  11. Chitturi, R., Raghunathan, R., & Mahajan, V. (2008). Delight by design: the role of hedonic versus utilitarian benefits. Journal of Marketing, 72(3), 48–63.Google Scholar
  12. Conlon, D. E., & Murray, N. M. (1996). Customer perceptions of corporate responses to product complaints: the role of explanations. Academy of Management Journal, 39(4), 1040–1056.Google Scholar
  13. Coombs, W. T. (2007). Attribution theory as a guide for post-crisis communication research. Public Relations Review, 33, 135–139.Google Scholar
  14. Cotte, J., Chowdhury, T. G., Ratneshwar, S., & Ricci, L. M. (2006). Pleasure or utility? Time planning style and web usage behaviors. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 20(1), 45–57.Google Scholar
  15. Cowley, E. (2005). Views from consumers next in line: the fundamental attribution error in a service setting. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 33(2), 139–152.Google Scholar
  16. Crijns, H., Cauberghe, V., Hudders, L., & Claeys, A.-S. (2017). How to deal with online consumer comments during a crisis? The impact of personalized organizational responses on organizational reputation. Computers in Human Behavior, 75, 619–631.Google Scholar
  17. Davidow, M. (2003). Organizational responses to customer complaints: what works and what doesn’t. Journal of Service Research, 5(3), 225–250.Google Scholar
  18. Dawson, S., Bloch, P. H., & Ridgway, N. (1990). Shopping motives, emotional states, and retail outcomes. Journal of Retailing, 66(4), 408–427.Google Scholar
  19. De Vries, L., Gensler, S., & Leeflang, P. S. H. (2012). Popularity of brand posts on brand fan pages: an investigation of the effects of social media marketing. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26(2), 83–91.Google Scholar
  20. Dens, N., De Pelsmacker, P., & Purnawirawan, N. (2015). ‘We(b)care’: how review set balance moderates the appropriate response strategy to negative online reviews. Journal of Service Management, 26(3), 486–515.Google Scholar
  21. Dimitriu, R., & Guesalaga, R. (2017). Consumers’ social media brand behaviors: uncovering underlying motivators and deriving meaningful consumer segments. Psychology & Marketing, 34(5), 580–592.Google Scholar
  22. Drolet, A., Williams, P., & Lau-Gesk, L. (2007). Age-related differences in response to affective vs. rational ads for hedonic vs. utilitarian products. Marketing Letters, 18(4), 211–221.Google Scholar
  23. Ferrin, D. L., Kim, P. H., Cooper, C. D., & Dirks, K. T. (2007). Silence speaks volumes: the effectiveness of reticence in comparison to apology and denial for responding to integrity- and competence-based trust violations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(4), 893–908.Google Scholar
  24. Fitzsimons, G. M., & Shah, J. Y. (2008). How goal instrumentality shapes relationship evaluations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(2), 319–337.Google Scholar
  25. Fleiss, J. L., & Cuzick, J. (1979). The reliability of dichotomous judgments: unequal numbers of judges per subject. Applied Psychological Measurement, 3(4), 537–512.Google Scholar
  26. Förster, J., Liberman, N., & Friedman, R. S. (2007). Seven principles of goal activation: a systematic approach to distinguishing goal priming from priming of non-goal constructs. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 11(3), 211–233.Google Scholar
  27. Gensler, S., Völckner, F., Liu-Thompkins, Y., & Wiertz, C. (2013). Managing brands in the social media environment. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 27(4), 242–256.Google Scholar
  28. Gretry, A., Horváth, C., Belei, N., & van Riel, A. (2017). ‘Don’t pretend to be my friend!’ When an informal brand communication style backfires on social media. Journal of Business Research, 74, 77–89.Google Scholar
  29. Hartman, J. B., Shim, S., Barber, B., & O’Brien, M. (2006). Adolescents’ utilitarian and hedonic web-consumption behavior: hierarchical influence of personal values and innovativeness. Psychology & Marketing, 23(10), 813–839.Google Scholar
  30. Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional analysis. A regression-based approach. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  31. Hayes, A. F. (2017). Partial, conditional, and moderated moderated mediation: quantification, inference, and interpretation. Communication Monographs, 85(1), 4–40.Google Scholar
  32. Heimbach, I., & Hinz, O. (2018). The impact of sharing mechanism design on content sharing in online social networks. Information Systems Research, 29(3), 592–611.Google Scholar
  33. Hilken, T., de Ruyter, K., Chylinski, M., Mahr, D., & Keeling, D. (2017). Augmenting the eye of the beholder: exploring the strategic potential of augmented reality to enhance online service experiences. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 45(6), 884–905.Google Scholar
  34. Jones, C. L., Stevens, J. L., Breazeale, M., & Spaid, B. I. (2018). Tell it like it is: The effects of differing responses to negative online reviews. Psychology & Marketing, 35(12), 891–901.Google Scholar
  35. Katz, E., Blumler, J. G., & Gurevitch, M. (1974). Utilization of mass communication by the individual. In J. G. Blumler & E. Katz (Eds.), The uses of mass communications: current perspectives on gratifications research (pp. 19–32). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  36. Kelleher, T. (2009). Conversational voice, communicated commitment, and public relations outcomes in interactive online communication. Journal of Communication, 59(1), 172–288.Google Scholar
  37. Khan, U., Dhar, R., & Wertenbroch, K. (2005). A behavioral theoretic perspective on hedonic and utilitarian choice. In S. Ratneshwar & D. G. Mick (Eds.), Inside consumption: Frontiers of research on consumer motives, goals, and desires (pp. 144–165). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. Kim, P. H., Ferrin, D. L., Cooper, C. D., & Dirks, K. T. (2004). Removing the shadow of suspicion: the effects of apology versus denial for repairing competence- versus integrity-based trust violations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(1), 104–218.Google Scholar
  39. Koole, S. L. (2009). The psychology of emotion regulation: an integrative review. Cognition and Emotion, 23(1), 4–41.Google Scholar
  40. Kowalski, R. M. (1996). Complaints and complaining: functions, antecedents, and consequences. Psychological Bulletin, 119(2), 179–196.Google Scholar
  41. Kowalski, R. M., & Erickson, J. R. (1997). Complaining: What’s all the fuss about? In R. M. Kowalski (Ed.), Aversive interpersonal behaviors (pp. 92–111). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  42. Kronrod, A., Grinstein, A., & Wathieu, L. (2012). Enjoy! Hedonic consumption and compliance with assertive messages. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(1), 51–61.Google Scholar
  43. Laczniak, R. N., DeCarlo, T. E., & Ramaswami, S. (2001). Consumers’ responses to negative word-of-mouth communication: an attribution theory perspective. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 11(1), 57–73.Google Scholar
  44. Landis, J. R., & Koch, G. G. (1977). The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics, 33(1), 159–174.Google Scholar
  45. Ma, L., Sun, B., & Kekre, S. (2015). The squeaky wheel gets the grease – an empirical analysis of customer voice and firm intervention on twitter. Marketing Science, 34(5), 627–645.Google Scholar
  46. Marcus, A. A., & Goodman, R. S. (1991). Victims and shareholders: the dilemmas of presenting corporate policy during a crisis. Academy of Management Journal, 34(2), 281–305.Google Scholar
  47. McArthur, T. (1998). Concise Oxford companion to the English language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Murray, K. B., & Bellman, S. (2011). Productive play time: the effect of practice on consumer demand for hedonic experiences. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 39(3), 376–391.Google Scholar
  49. Proserpio, D., & Zervas, G. (2017). Online reputation management: estimating the impact of management responses on consumer reviews. Marketing Science, 36(5), 645–665.Google Scholar
  50. Relling, M., Schnittka, O., Sattler, H., & Johnen, M. (2016). Each can help or hurt: negative and positive word of mouth in social network brand communities. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 33(1), 42–58.Google Scholar
  51. Rieder, B. (2013). Studying Facebook via data extraction: The Netvizz application. Proceedings of the 5th Annual ACM Web Science Conference, pp 346–355.Google Scholar
  52. Rose, M., & Blodgett, J. G. (2016). Should hotels respond to negative online reviews? Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 57(4), 396–410.Google Scholar
  53. Schaefers, T., & Schamari, J. (2016). Service recovery via social media: the social influence effects of virtual presence. Journal of Service Research, 19(2), 192–208.Google Scholar
  54. Sen, S., & Lerman, D. (2007). Why are you telling me this? An examination into negative consumer reviews on the web. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 21(4), 76–94.Google Scholar
  55. Spangenberg, E. R., Voss, K. E., & Crowley, A. E. (1997). Measuring the hedonic and utilitarian dimensions of attitude: a generally applicable scale. Advances in Consumer Research, 24, 235–241.Google Scholar
  56. Summer, E. M., Ruge-Jones, L., & Alcorn, D. (2018). A functional approach to the Facebook like button: an exploration of meaning, interpersonal functionality, and potential alternative response buttons. New Media & Society, 20(4), 1451–1469.Google Scholar
  57. Terza, J. V. (1998). Estimating count data models with endogeneous switching: sample selection and endogeneous treatment effects. Journal of Econometrics, 84(1), 129–154.Google Scholar
  58. Tiggemann, M., Hargreaves, D., Polivy, J., & McFarlane, T. (2004). A word-stem completion task to assess implicit processing of appearance-related information. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57(1), 73–78.Google Scholar
  59. Toubia, O., & Stephen, A. T. (2013). Intrinsic vs. image-related utility in social media: why do people contribute content to twitter? Marketing Science, 32(3), 368–392.Google Scholar
  60. Uhrich, F., Schumann, J. H., & von Wangenheim, F. (2012). The impact of consumption goals on flat-rate choice: can “Hedonizing” a service increase customer’s propensity to choose a flat rate. Journal of Service Research, 16(2), 216–230.Google Scholar
  61. Van Noort, G., & Willemsen, L. M. (2012). Online damage control: the effects of proactive versus reactive Webcare interventions in consumer-generated and brand-generated platforms. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26(3), 131–140.Google Scholar
  62. Wang, Y., & Chaudhry, A. (2018). When and how managers’ responses to online reviews affect subsequent reviews. Journal of Marketing Research, 55(2), 163–177.Google Scholar
  63. Ward, J. C., & Ostrom, A. L. (2006). Complaining to the masses: the role of protest framing in customer-created complaint web sites. Journal of Consumer Research, 33(2), 220–230.Google Scholar
  64. Wegener, D. T., Petty, R. E., & Smith, S. M. (1995). Positive mood can increase or decrease message scrutiny: the hedonic contingency view of mood and message processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(1), 5–15.Google Scholar
  65. Weitzl, W., & Hutzinger, C. (2017). The effects of marketer- and advocate-initiated online service recovery responses on silent bystanders. Journal of Business Research, 80, 164–175.Google Scholar
  66. Wilson, A. E., Gieblhausen, M. D., & Brady, M. K. (2017). Negative word of mouth can be a positive for consumers connected to the brand. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 45(4), 534–547.Google Scholar
  67. Woolridge, J. M. (2010). Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  68. Xia, L. (2013). Effects of Companies’ responses to consumer criticism in social media. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 17(4), 73–100.Google Scholar
  69. Zeithaml, V. A., Berry, L. L., & Parasuraman, A. (1996). The behavioral consequences of service quality. Journal of Marketing, 60(2), 31–46.Google Scholar
  70. Zhao, X., Lynch, J. G., & Chen, Q. (2010). Reconsidering Baron and Kenny: myths and truths about mediation analysis. Journal of Consumer Research, 37(2), 197–206.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Academy of Marketing Science 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of MarketingUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Environmental and Business EconomicsUniversity of Southern DenmarkEsbjergDenmark

Personalised recommendations