The many facets of customer complaining behaviour

Handling customer complaints is a critical, yet challenging job. Some customers make their voice heard loudly, while others do so quietly. Some want to talk directly with someone, others prefer remote channels like feedback cards or e-mails. And in this age of social media, minor problems can quickly spiral out of control, so it is important to spot problems quickly.


Given the importance of complaint management, it is no surprise that there is a vast amount of academic and practitioner literature dissecting customer complaining behaviour, and giving advice to managers. This abundance is a blessing if you have the time and disposition to engage with this literature, but a real problem if you have neither. If you are in the latter group, you will find this paper by researchers Doga Istanbulluoglu, Sheena Leek and Isabelle T. Szmigin, from the University of Birmingham, very helpful. I could not find an open access version of paper, but you may be able to request it, directly from the authors, here.


The authors also produced this really helpful table summarising the range of complaining behaviours, and what the firm may do, as a result.

table 1

table 2
Images source


To their recommendations, I would only add that, sometimes, no matter what you do, there is no recovery possible. Be it because of the psychology of complaining, or because the customers are experiencing an intense sense of betrayal, you can not recover some of your unhappy customers. Has this ever happened to you (as a consumer or a manager)?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s