Quotation Weitzl, Wolfgang. 2019. Webcare’s effect on constructive and vindictive complainants. Journal of Product & Brand Management. 28 (3), 330-347.




Purpose – This paper aims to demonstrate that online complainants’ reactions to a company’s service recovery attempts (webcare) can significantly vary across two different types of dissatisfied customers (“vindictives” vs “constructives”), who have dramatically diverging complaint goal orientations. Design/methodology/approach – Online multi-country survey among 812 adult consumers who recently had a dissatisfying brand experience and turned to a marketer-generated social media site to voice an online complaint for achieving their ultimate complaining goals. Scenario-based online experiment for cross-validating the survey findings. Findings – Results suggest that “vindictive complainants” – driven dominantly by brand-adverse motives – are immune to any form of webcare, while “constructive complainants” – interested in restoring the customer-brand relationship – react more sensitively. For the latter, “no-responses” often trigger detrimental brand-related reactions (e.g. unfavorable brand image), whereas “defensive responses” are likely to stimulate postwebcare negative word-of-mouth. Research limitations/implications – This research identifies the gains and harms of (un-)desired webcare. By doing so, it not only sheds light on the circumstances when marketers have to fear negative effects (e.g. negative word-of-mouth) but also provides insights into the conditions when such effects are unlikely. While the findings of the cross-sectional survey are validated with an online experiment, findings should be interpreted with care as other complaining contexts should be further investigated. Practical implications – Marketers have to expect a serious “backfiring effect” from an unexpected source, namely, consumers who were initially benevolent toward the involved brand but who received an inappropriate response.


Press 'enter' for creating the tag
  • service failure
  • service marketing
  • online complaints
  • complaint handling
  • service recovery

Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal Journal of Product & Brand Management
Citation Index SSCI
WU-Journal-Rating new MAR-C, STRAT-C
Language English
Title Webcare’s effect on constructive and vindictive complainants
Volume 28
Number 3
Year 2019
Page from 330
Page to 347
Reviewed? Y
DOI https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBM-04-2018-1843
Open Access Y
Open Access Link https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBM-04-2018-1843


Weitzl, Wolfgang (Former researcher)
Marketing DP (Details)
Institute for Retailing & Data Science IN (Details)
Research areas (ÖSTAT Classification 'Statistik Austria')
5300 Economics (Details)
5308 Management sciences (Details)
5320 Marketing (Details)
5338 Science of advertising (Details)
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