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Managing Complaints to Improve Customer Profitability

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  • Cambra-Fierro, Jesus
  • Melero, Iguacel
  • Sese, F. Javier

Abstract

In this study, the authors aim to understand whether, to what extent, and under what circumstances, organizational responses to customer complaints improve customer profitability. To do so, they build upon the congruence approach and propose a contingency framework in which the effectiveness of three organizational responses to customer complaints (timeliness, compensation and communications) in improving customer profitability is contingent upon the strength of the relationship and the type of failure. The framework is tested empirically in the financial services industry applying latent class techniques to longitudinal data for a sample of complaining customers. The results reveal that: (1) different complaint-handling initiatives affect customer profitability differently for each of the four segments of complaining customers that are obtained; (2) these heterogeneous responses to complaint handling are explained by differences in the orientation of the relationship and in the failure context; and (3) complaint-handling initiatives are more (less) effective at improving customer profitability when the benefits they offer strongly (poorly) match the benefits sought by customers in each segment to recover from the failure. These results contribute to a better theoretical understanding of customers’ heterogeneous responses to complaint handling and offer managerial recommendations to allocate marketing resources across alternative complaint-handling strategies to improve profitability.

Suggested Citation

  • Cambra-Fierro, Jesus & Melero, Iguacel & Sese, F. Javier, 2015. "Managing Complaints to Improve Customer Profitability," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 109-124.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jouret:v:91:y:2015:i:1:p:109-124
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jretai.2014.09.004
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