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In every existing business, obtaining feedback from customers is absolutely vital. When the service provided to customers has been well delivered or the product sold has met customers' expectations, the company is undoubtedly grateful to be informed about the accomplished success. nonetheless, it is more important for an organisation to hear from its customers when they have either perceived an adverse service or felt dissatisfied about the product purchased.
Despite being a clear representation of customer's dissatisfaction, complaints can also be regarded as a significant opportunity for the company for understanding where and why this dissatisfaction was generated in order to reduce it (Celuch and D'Onofrio, 1993). Therefore, encouraging customers to complain when they feel entitled to is seen as a favourable action for the company, because it helps not to definitely lose the customer, and not to lose future revenue (Folkes and Wernerfelt, 1988). In business, it is widely recognised that consumer complaints are vital pieces of information which help organisations to identify the causes of customer dissatisfaction and thereby they must be fostered and recommended by the management of every company (Nyer, 2000). As a result, research underlines that customers who were explicitly asked to fill in a complain, subsequently showed augmentation in satisfaction in comparison to those who were not (Halstead, 1989).
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the importance of consumer complaining by pointing out the main factors which urge people to complain, those which refrain them from doing it and to reveal how dangerous and unprofitable it is for a company when customers do not voice their complaint. In addition, the aim of this article is to present some strategies and practical steps to take that companies can use as an advantage in their business.
The dilemma of complaining or not complaining
Consumer Complaint Behaviour (CCB) is an action taken by someone who wants to communicate something negative about a service or a product either to the company which manufactures it or to the one which markets it. (Jacoby and Jaccard, 1981). When talking about a complaining action, it would be licit to think that people who are likely to complain are always those customers who do not feel fully satisfied from the organization they have a relationship with. By contrast, this might be awry, in fact dissatisfaction is not the only reason why consumers complain (Jacoby and Jaccard, 1981). Accordingly, complainers can include satisfied consumers who decide to complain about secondary problems, especially when the organisation they are dealing with has an admirable notoriety in feeling concern about consumers' issues (Day and Landon, 1977).
In order for a complaining to occur, there might be several different explications. In light with what discovered by researcher Nyer (2000), consumers are more likely to complain when either a very unpleasant situation takes place or a massive problem where their own benefits have been threatened or denied. Moreover, some studies have also demonstrated that consumers' intention to complain is also related to the evaluation of probability of positive consequences of a favourable outcome by also evaluating the responsiveness of the company (Bolfing, 1989; Day and Landon, 1977; Huang, Huang and Wu, 1996). To be noted is, however, that complaining is a cost activity and it is extremely subjective; in fact, people may take into consideration the material they have to look for in order to complain, how much time they would use to complain and the psychological pressure of fear and embarrassment that complaining would entail. Later, it is remarkable to notice that, all the aspects of complaining may vary drastically according to the purchase categories (Andreasen, 1988).
Furthermore, due to the importance of complaining behaviour, past research has focused on pointing out the main factors which may influence complaining propensity. Indeed, research has shown that demographic factors as age, gender and education are some of the determinants which influence people in taking the decision of complaining (Han et al., 1995; Singh, 1990). Among those aforementioned factors, education is the one which has a higher impact on people's inclination towards complaining, therefore, the more a person is educated, the more likely is to complain because of being more familiar with how and where to complain (Day and Landon, 1977; Han et al., 1995). Previous research also shows that age is another main determinant for complaining, because it has been argued that younger people are more predisposed to complain than older ones (Herrman et al., 1975). Since males are considered to be more aggressive, competitive and self-reliant compared to women, they are more prone to complain due to their nature of wanting things always straight and under their control (Reiboldt, 2002).
Moreover, other variables as personality factors (Davidow and Dacin, 1997), attitudes towards complaining (Jacoby and Jaccard, 1981), product-related factors and situational determinants (Jacoby and Jaccard, 1981; Richins, 1983) have been discussed in past studies. For instance, Day (1984) postulates that consumers ponder about some variables such as cost, benefit and situation of complaining and then they decide whether to complain or not. Additionally, other scholars have attested that, beyond the cost, the benefit and the situation variables, discouragement by other people has an impact on the decision-making process of the consumer (Andreasen, 1988).
Besides, other academics have elucidated that culture can be another crucial requisite in order to push people to complain (Patterson et al., 2006). In effect, some research has been carried out in order to identify the main distinguishing traits which reveal why people from different cultures complain. Emblematic evidence stands out when collectivist societies like Asian countries have been compared to individualist ones such as European countries. The outcome affirmed that, on the one hand, Asian people are less inclined to complain for fear of losing their face, but they would rather express their displease to family and friends therefore generating bad word-of-mouth or even silently boycotting the organisation which caused their dissatisfaction (Foxman et al., 1990; Huang et al, 1996). On the other hand, people of individualist nations are more likely to complain to organisations because they see in the complaining action a way to improve the service or the product for the future (Huang et al., 1996).
Thence, although complaining is a fundamental action encouraged by organisations, there is still a high number of consumers who do not voice their complaint. Researchers have debated that up to two thirds of consumers do not complain (Richins, 1983). As a result, as already said, the majority of dissatisfied consumer switch to other firms, or even worse generate negative word-of-mouth (Richins, 1983; Tschol, 1994). Unfortunately, some organisations do not focus enough on this business aspect. They mistakenly infer that if they do not receive any complaint, the customers are happy and satisfied, but firms fail to understand that it is quite probable that the customers took their business elsewhere, because of habit of non-complaining or perhaps because they perceived it as pointless action (TARP, 1983). In fact, as Reichheld and Sasser (1990) claimed, a restricted amount of complaints or even the total absence of complaints ought to be seen by organisations as a warning signal.
A common issue involving the decision whether to complain or not is evident when people, because of the organisation's poor communication with them, do not know who to complain to. In fact, consumers may feel disoriented and may not be aware of the fact that they ought to complain to the company which sold them the product and not to the one which actually manufactured it. By so doing, the marketing company which established a relationship with their customers, after taking cognizance of consumers' dissatisfaction, in turn, will be able to take all the measures which even include complaining to the manufacturing firm if necessary. As a result, unfortunately, a damaging scenario for the organisation marketing a product or a service takes place when consumers complain directly to the product manufacturer or the service provider, rather than voicing their complaint to the organisation which markets that certain product (Day et al., 1981).
What firms should do to benefit from a complaint
It has been proved that 96 percent of dissatisfied consumers do not complain to the firm which caused them dissatisfaction (TARP, 1979). Regarding this, if organisations want to diminish their customer defection, they need to exert some possible practical strategies. First of all, the staff of a firm or even the managers themselves have to kindly invite consumer to give them feedback. In order to facilitate the process, the company must provide consumers with a mail address, a website and a telephone number for customer service. In addition, organisations have to be active towards their consumers, i.e., do not await them to come to communicate their feedback, but look for them and incite them into doing so. While searching for customers' feedback, organisations have the chance to establish a relationship pattern with them, by conveying the message of paying serious attention to their status and to their potential problems that need to be solved. A vital step to bear in mind lies on the complaint follow-up. In fact, once the firm has received the complaint, it should be able to communicate as good as possible with customers in order to inform them about all the measures adopted to remedy their problem and guarantee them that this will not happen again in the future.
Absolutely vital are the actual steps a salesperson or a manager should adopt in order to remedy customers problems. In effect, when customers feel dissatisfied, depending on personal behaviour, they are likely to address the salesperson with arrogance, displeasure and anger. The salesperson must be able to behave exactly in the opposite way and try to calm down the angry customers by showing care and interest in sorting their problem out. Then, action must be taken in the shortest time possible to reduce the likelihood of customer defection. Despite the real impossibility of solving every problem that customers present, firms have to convey them a positive attitude in committing with the issue and make them feel at the centre of the business; customers have to perceive an extremely friendly and devoted attitude by the firm. A final suggestion to be given is reliant upon the fact that complaints can give insights and ideas about what is the most frequent issue which causes dissatisfaction to their customers and finally control the damage.
Conclusion: Why Consumer Complain Behaviour (CCB) is a benefit in business
Complaints from both satisfied and dissatisfied consumers must be seen as significant opportunities from a business perspective because they allow organisations to take corrective actions and enhance their performance. Thus, organisations that clearly grasp the meaning and the usefulness of Consumer Complain Behaviour (CCB) have the possibility to create efficient complaint resolution strategies (Nyer, 2000) which might be relevant, as previously stated, in improving their performance, customer service, generating higher consumer retention, higher revenues and diminishing negative word-of-mouth (Fornell and Wernerfelt 1987; Bolfing, 1989; Kelley, Hoffman and David, 1993). Accordingly, complaints do not have to be seen in a negative manner; in fact, complaining must take the connotation of being extremely useful for organisations for identifying problems and correct them, retaining the consumer more satisfied for showing concern in trying to sort out the matter, instead of disposing of the problem through banal excuses (Hill et al., 2000).
To sum up then, a complain can be nothing but a gift (Barlow, 1996). Complaints are significantly important, because organisations cannot improve their products or services if they do not know what is wrong with them; plus, usually, dissatisfied consumers tend to talk to third parties, e.g., friends, family other companies and so forth about their negative experience, and research has proven that this sort of actions result in negative outcomes for organisations which did not meet the customer's expectations. For this reason, it is highly recommendable for a firm to personally encourage consumers to complain when they do feel partly or fully dissatisfied (Bolfing 1989; Vavra, 1992). Finally, complaints can be used as sources of ideas for development of new products and services aimed at creating value for the customer, and they also give evaluations and notable information about what people like and what they are likely to spend their money on.