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Complaining, Switching, and/or Badmouthing

I recently read an article in the International Journal of Psychological Studies titled, “Drivers of Customers’ Reactions to Service Failures:  The Israeli Experience” authored by Aviv Shoham, Yossi Gavish, and Sigal Segev.  The article touched on three potential outcomes of customer dissatisfaction:  voice (complaining), switching (moving to a different product/supplier), and N-WOM (negative word of mouth or sharing bad impressions with others).  An interesting finding of the study was that the older an individual the more likely he/she were to engage in all three behaviors.  The study also found that each of the three behaviors was a distinct process.

The authors concluded it is important to contain and address dissatisfaction quickly – encouraging customers to come to you directly with complaints prior to spreading ill will or switching to another provider.  This may seem like an intuitive finding, but I think it is one that is important enough to highlight.  In the field of customer listening, we work hard to identify satisfied customers and dissatisfied customers.  Another important piece of the puzzle is providing dissatisfied customers with a complaint process where they feel empowered that their complaints will be heard and change can result.  Companies need to emphasize the benefit of complaining to them directly and first rather than expressing negative word of mouth to the masses.    This may be an area worth evaluating within your customer base.  We often look at timely resolution and effectiveness, but what about a more overall measure of self efficacy – a feeling of empowerment and belief in one’s ability to change the situation as it relates to the outcome of voiding a complaint.

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