When consumers complain: A path analysis of the key antecedents of consumer complaint response estimates

  • Jagdip Singh
  • Robert E. Wilkes


When do consumers complain? This study probes this question by developing a conceptual framework that includes multiple theoretical perspectives, empirically testing a portion of the proposed model, and using dissatisfaction/complaint data from three different service industries. The hypothesized model uses multidimensional consumer complaint response estimates including voice, private, and third-party responses as dependent variables. Results support several proposed relationships, provide a high level of explained variance, and indicate a moderating role for dissatisfaction intensity. The complaint response estimates are characterized by disparate influence pathways, and expectancy value judgments emerge as critical determinants with positive and negative crossover effects. Attitude toward complaining is more dominant under low dissatisfaction intensity than it is under the high dissatisfaction condition. Important differences emerge across service categories. Implications of this work for managers and researchers in understanding when consumers complain are enumerated.


Consumer Research Banking Service Service Category Expectancy Value Market Science Fall 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Allison, Neil K. 1978. “A Psychometric Development of a Test for Consumer Alienation From the Marketplace.”Journal of Marketing Research 15 (November): 565–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andreasen, Alan R. 1985. “Consumer Responses to Dissatisfaction in Loose Monopolies.”Journal of Consumer Research 12 (September): 135–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. ————— 1988. “Consumer Complaints and Redress: What We Know and What We Don’t Know.” InThe Frontier of Research in the Consumer Interest. Ed. E. Scott Maynes. Columbia, MO: American Council on Consumer Interests.Google Scholar
  4. Bagozzi, Richard P. 1982. “A Field Investigation of Causal Relations Among Cognitions, Affect, Intentions and Behavior.”Journal of Marketing Research 17 (November): 562–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. ————— 1992. “The Self-Regulation of Attitudes, Intentions and Behavior.”Social Psychology Quarterly 55 (2): 178–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. ————— and Todd F. Heatherton. 1994. “A General Approach to Representing Multifaceted Personality Constructs: Application to State Self Esteem.”Structural Equations Modeling 1 (1): 35–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. ————— and Paul R. Warshaw 1990. “Trying to Consume.”Journal of Consumer Research 17 (September): 127–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bearden, William O. and J. Barry Mason. 1984. “An Investigation of Influences on Consumer Complaint Reports.” InAdvances in Consumer Research. Ed. Thomas Kinnear. Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.Google Scholar
  9. ————— and Jesse E. Teel. 1983. “Selected Determinants of Consumer Satisfaction and Complaint Reports.”Journal of Marketing Research 20 (February): 21–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bentler, P. M. 1989.EQS: Structural Equation Program Manual. Los Angeles: BMDP Statistical Software.Google Scholar
  11. Best, Arthur. 1981.When Consumers Complain. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  12. ————— and Alan R. Andreasen. 1977. “Consumer Responses to Unsatisfactory Purchases: A Survey of Perceiving Defects, Voicing Complaints and Obtaining Redress.”Law and Society Review 11 (Spring): 701–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Blodgett, Jeffery G. and Donald H. Granbois. 1992. “Toward an Integrated Conceptual Model of Consumer Complaining Behavior.”Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior 5: 93–103.Google Scholar
  14. Bollen, Kenneth and Richard Lennox. 1991. “Convertional Wisdom on Measurement: A Structural Equation Perspective.”Psychological Bulletin 110: 305–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. “Consumers Eager to Know Values That Guide Business Decisions.” 1995.Marketing News (November 6): 5.Google Scholar
  16. Dabholkar, P. A. 1994. “Incorporating Choice Into an Attitudinal Framework: Analyzing Models of Mental Comparison Processes.”Journal of Consumer Research 21 (June): 100–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Day, Ralph L. 1984. “Modeling Choices Among Alternative Responses to Dissatisfaction.” InAdvances in Consumer Research. Vol. 11. Ed. Thomas Kinnear. Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Consumer Research, 496–499.Google Scholar
  18. ————— and M. Bodur. 1977. “A Comprehensive Study of Satisfaction With Consumer Services.” InConsumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior. Ed. Ralph L. Day. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 64–70.Google Scholar
  19. —————, K. Gabricke, T. Schaetzle, and F. Staubach. 1981. “The Hidden Agenda of Consumer Complaining.”Journal of Retailing 57 (Fall): 86–106.Google Scholar
  20. Feick, Lawrence. 1987. “Latent Class Models for the Analysis of Behavioral Hierarchies.”Journal of Marketing Research 24 (May): 174–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fishbein, M. and I. Ajzen. 1975.Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behavior: An Introduction to Theory and Research. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  22. Folkes, Valerie S. 1984. “Consumer Reactions to Product Failure: An Attributional Approach.”Journal of Consumer Research 10 (March): 393–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fornell, Claes and Nicholas M. Didow. 1980. “Economic Constraints on Consumer Complaining Behavior.” InAdvances in Consumer Research. Vol. 7. Ed. Jerry Olson. Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Consumer Research, 318–323.Google Scholar
  24. ————— and D. Larcker. 1981. “Evaluating Structural Equations Models With Unobservable Variables and Measurement Error.”Journal of Marketing Research 18 (February): 39–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. ————— and B. Wernerfelt. 1987. “Defensive Marketing Strategy by Customer Complaint Management: A Theoretical Analysis.”Journal of Marketing Research 24 (November): 337–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hirschman, Albert O. 1970.Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations and States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Krishnan S. and Valerie A. Valle. 1979. “Dissatisfaction: Attributions and Consumer Complaint Behavior.” InAdvances in Consumer Research. Vol. 6. Ed. William Wilkie. Miami, FL: Association for Consumer Research, 445–449.Google Scholar
  28. LaBarbera, Pricilla A. and David Mazursky. 1983. “A Longitudinal Assessment of Consumer Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction: The Dynamic Aspect of the Cognitive Process.”Journal of Marketing Research 20 (November): 393–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Landon, E. L., Jr. 1980. “The Direction of Consumer Complaint Research.” InAdvances in Consumer Research. Vol. 7. Ed. Jerry Olson. Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Consumer Research, 335–338.Google Scholar
  30. Loehlin, John C. 1987.Latent Variable Models. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  31. Lundstrom, William and Lawrence Lamont. 1976. “The Development of a Scale to Measure Consumer Discontent.”Journal of Marketing Research 13 (November): 373–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nemeroff, Dinah. 1990. “Comments on the Case of the Complaining Customer.”Harvard Business Review 68 (May–June): 20–21.Google Scholar
  33. Nunnally, Jum. 1978.Psychometric Theory. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  34. Plymire, Jerry. 1991. “Complaints as Opportunities.”Journal of Services Marketing 8 (Spring): 39–43.Google Scholar
  35. Prakash, Ved. 1991. “Intensity of Dissatisfaction and Consumer Complaint Behaviors.”Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior 4: 110–122.Google Scholar
  36. Richins, Marsha. 1983. “Negative Word-of-Mouth by Dissatisfied Consumers: A Pilot Study.”Journal of Marketing 47 (Winter): 68–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. —————. 1987. “A Multivariate Analyses of Responses to Dissatisfaction.”Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 15 (Fall): 24–31.Google Scholar
  38. Scammon, D. and L. Kennard. 1983. “Improving Health Care Strategy Planning Through the Assessment of Perceptions of Consumers, Providers, and Administrators.”Journal of Health Care Marketing 3 (Fall): 9–17.Google Scholar
  39. Sheppard, B. H., J. Hartwick, and P. R. Warshaw. 1988. “The Theory of Reasoned Action: A Meta-Analysis of Past Research With Recommendations for Modifications and Future Research.”Journal of Consumer Research 15 (December): 325–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Singh, Jagdip. 1988. “Consumer Complaint Intentions and Behavior: Definitional and Taxonomical Issues.”Journal of Marketing 52 (January): 93–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. —————. 1990. “Voice, Exit and Negative Word-of-Mouth Behaviors: An Investigation Across Three Service Categories.”Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 18 (1): 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. —————. 1991. “Industry Characteristics and Consumer Dissatisfaction.”Journal of Consumer Affairs 25 (1): 19–56.Google Scholar
  43. ————— and Robert Wilkes. 1991. “A Theoretical Framework for Modeling Consumers’ Response to Marketplace Dissatisfaction.”Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior 4: 1–12.Google Scholar
  44. Slama, Mark E. and Terrel G. Williams. 1991. “Consumer Interaction Styles and Purchase Complaint Intentions.”Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior 4: 167–174.Google Scholar
  45. Zemke, Ron and Dick Schaaf. 1989.The Service Edge: 101 Companies That Profit From Customer Care. New York: New American Library.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Academy of Marketing Science 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jagdip Singh
    • 1
  • Robert E. Wilkes
    • 2
  1. 1.the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Texas Tech UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations