Understanding complainers and their complains

By Priya Chetty on October 30, 2010

Variety of negative emotions can occur following a service failure, including such feelings as anger, discontent, disappointment, self pity and anxiety. These initial negative responses will affect how customers evaluate the service recovery effort and presumably their ultimate decision to return to the service provider or not. Many customers are very passive about their dissatisfaction, simply saying or doing nothing. It is known that those who do not complain are least likely to return. For companies, customer passivity in the face of dissatisfaction is threat to future success.

Types of complainers

Four categories on how  the customers respond to failures have been identifies:

  1. Passives.
  2. Voicers.
  3. Irate.
  4. Activists.


This group of customers is least likely to take any action       .

  • They are unlikely to say anything to the provider.
  • Less likely than others to spread negative word of mouth, unlikely to complain to third party.
  • They often doubt the effectiveness of complaining, thinking the consequences will not merit the time and the effort they will expend.


These customers actively complain to the service provider.

  • Less likely to spread the negative word of mouth, to switch patronage, or to go to third parties with their complaints.
  • These customers to be viewed as  the service providers friend.
  • Actively complain and give company a second chance.
  • They believe complaining has social benefits and therefore don’t hesitate to voice their opinion.


These customers are more likely to engage in  negative word of mouth to friends and relatives and to switch providers than are others.

  • They feel alienated from the market place.
  • They are angry with the service provider although they do believe that complaining to the service provider can have a social benefits.
  • They are less likely to give the service provide a second chance.


These consumers are characterized by above average propensity to complain on all dimensions.

  • They will complain to the provider, they will tell others and they are more likely than any other group to complain to third parties.
  • They have a very optimistic sense of the potential positive consequences of all types of complaining.

Why do/ don’t customers complain?

The categories just  described suggest that some customers are more likely to complain than others. As individuals, these customers believe that positive consequences may  occur and that there are social benefits of complaining, and their personal norms support their complaining behavior. They believe they will and should be provided compensation for the service failure in some form. They believe that fair treatment and an good service are their due, and that in case of service failure, someone should make good. In some cases they feel a social obligation to complain – to help others avoid similar situations or to punish the service provider. A very small number of consumers have “ complaining” personalities – they just like to complain or cause trouble. Those who are unlikely to take any action hold the opposite beliefs. They often see complaining as a waste of their effort .


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