An empirical study on how webcare mitigates complainants’ failure attributions and negative word-of-mouth

Wolfgang Weitzl, Clemens Hutzinger, Sabine Einwiller

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    35 Citations (Scopus)


    Nowadays, dissatisfied consumers increasingly voice their frustration publicly by complaining on brand-created social media sites (e.g. Facebook). This work argues that webcare (i.e., messages sent in response to an online complaint) can mitigate complainants’ unfavorable failure attributions (i.e., locus, controllability, and stability). However, webcare's ability depends on both prior failure experiences with the same brand and on other consumers’ online comments: Our study of 812 consumers shows that in the case of multiple prior failures, complainants are less sensitive to any kind of marketers’ webcare. In contrast, if complainants have experienced few prior failures, different webcare types vary in their effectiveness. Most importantly, comments of other consumers defending the brand can improve the effectiveness of marketers’ recovery responses. This is only the case when the content of the two responses is congruent. If well-meant advocates’ responses are incongruent to marketers’ complaint handling strategy, unfavorable failure attributions occur. Additionally, our work reveals that webcare's potential to positively shape complainants’ failure attributions is critical for their post-webcare satisfaction and their inclination to engage in negative word-of-mouth.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)316-327
    Number of pages12
    JournalComputers in Human Behavior
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


    • Failure attribution
    • Negative word-of-mouth
    • Online complaining
    • Online service recovery
    • Service failure


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