New Article


Wolfgang J. Weitzl's article "Webcare's effect on constructive and vindictive complainants" has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Product and Brand Management (Impact factor: 2.757).


Purpose: This research demonstrates 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: (1) 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. (2) Scenario-based online experiment (n = 195) 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 post-webcare negative word-of-mouth.

Research limitations/implications: This research identifies the gains and harms of (un-)desired webcare. By doing so, it 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 that were initially benevolent towards the involved brand but who received an inappropriate response.

Originality/value: This research is one of the first that enables marketers to identify situations when webcare is likely to backfire on the brand after a service failure.