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)
Retailing and Marketing 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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