A meta-analysis of organizational complaint handling and customer responses

Service recovery is a crucial success factor for organizations. Thus, many studies have addressed the issue of post-complaint behavior. Conducting a meta-analysis, the authors test the following path model: "organizational responses (compensation, favorable employee behavior, and organizational procedures) → justice perceptions (distributive, interactional, and procedural justice) → post-complaint satisfaction (transaction-specific and cumulative satisfaction) → customer behavioral intentions (loyalty and positive word of mouth [WOM])." The results confirm this model as well as the mediating role of justice perceptions and post-complaint satisfaction. Surprisingly, the results also show that the common contention of distributive justice as the salient driver of service recovery is only true for transaction-specific satisfaction, which in turn reinforces positive WOM. Cumulative satisfaction, however, which is the primary antecedent of customer loyalty, even slightly more depends on interactional justice than on distributive justice. Further, the results show that the relationships between justice perceptions and satisfaction constructs depend on several moderators such as target group, industry, and complaint type. A major managerial implication is the fact that organizations should pay particular attention to distributive justice when complainants are students and to interactional justice when failure is nonmonetary or occurs in service industries. The authors discuss theoretical implications and provide suggestions for future research.


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