Brand (un-)attached complainants’ thoughts and feelings during the co-created online recovery process

Wolfgang Jonas Weitzl, Clemens Hutzinger, Sabine Einwiller

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingsConference contributionpeer-review


Nowadays, consumers who have experienced a service failure increasingly decide to post an online complaint on social media and to make the incident visible to a multitude of other existing or potential customers. This empirical study investigates how different types of online complaintants (brand-attached vs. brand-unattached) develop discrete complaint desires (revenge vs. reparation) before voicing their discontent online. While this research identifies failure attributions as key sources of both complaint desires, it also shows that the role of negative emotions (i.e., dissatisfaction and anger) as mediators of this effect varies dramatically among complainants’ types. Amongst others, results from a multi-national survey (n=556) show that for brand-attached complainants the desire for revenge is triggered – as expected – by an indirect, emotional route. Here, however, post-failure dissatisfaction has a negative impact on the revenge desire due to the elicitation of inward-directed negative emotions (e.g., guilt). This supports our hypothesis that following a service failure with a beloved brand, attached complainants develop self-directed negative emotions – not because they attribute the cause of the failure to themselves, but they regard themselves being responsible for trusting a faulty brand, exposing them to relational and transactional risks and for being exploited by a close relationship partner. We find that brands can benefit from the mechanism that dissatisfied brand-attached individuals make mental amendments that reduce their desire for revenge. However, brand-unattached complainants do not show such patterns. Further, in respect to the elicitation of the desire of reparation, this study shows that attached complainants ‘coldly’ decide based on their failure attributions how much compensation is desirable – regardless any biasing negative emotions. In contrast, for brand-unattached complainants their emotions play a role.
Additionally, this study sheds light on the spillover effect of the two complaint desires on post- webcare negative word-of-mouth (NWOM) and the moderating role of both satisfaction with (a) marketer-initiated webcare (i.e., a company’s communicative response to an online complaint; MIW) and (b) consumer-initiated webcare (i.e., bystanders’ communicative responses to an online complaint; CIW). Amongst others, empirical findings suggest that among brand-attached complainants, higher levels of MIW satisfaction can even intensify the negative spillover effect of the revenge desire on NWOM. Here, the complainants regard a satisfactory corporate response as a confession of guilt by the firm and as a sign that validates their retaliatory intentions. However, CIW satisfaction mitigates the negative spillover effect from pre-webcare desire for revenge on post-webcare NWOM, which points to the need for co- created online service recoveries by an active brand community. Additionally, satisfactory MIW interacts with the pre-webcare desire for reparation, further reducing NWOM.
This research also sheds light on the effectiveness of MIW and CIW by demonstrating that brand-unattached complainants are completely unaffected by MIW/CIW satisfaction and that the pre-webcare desire for revenge directly spills over to post-webcare NWOM.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBook of Abstracts of the 2020/21 ABC Regional Conference: Europe, Africa, and Middle East
Place of PublicationVienna
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Event2021 ABC Regional Conference: Europe, Africa and Middle East - Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria
Duration: 26 Aug 202128 Aug 2021


Conference2021 ABC Regional Conference: Europe, Africa and Middle East

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