In this study, three lines of consumer satisfaction/dissatisfaction and complaint behaviour research were integrated, namely the expectancy disconfirmation model (Churchill&Suprenant, 1982; Bearden&Teel, 1983) (satisfaction/dissatisfaction research), Weiner’s (1986) causal dimensions (attribution theory), and Day and Landon’s (1977) taxonomy of complaint behaviour Traditional thinking concerning the disconfirmation of expectations only recognises a direct link from disconfirmation to satisfaction/dissatisfaction. However, evidence suggests that the disconfirmation of expectations acts as an important causal agent for generating attributional processing. In a consumer behaviour context, the performance failure of major household appliances often brings about a causal search. Consumers' affective reactions (generated by their causal attributions and the underlying properties of locus, stability and controllability) and their expectations for future product failure were found to determine their complaint behaviour The unit of analysis for this study was consumers who had recently purchased major household appliances (within the prior four-year period) and who could recall an unsatisfactory experience concerning the performance of such appliance. Attributes for the demographic variables were: gender, age, level of education, level of income and culture. A convenience sampling technique was employed, with 216 respondents having completed a self-administered questionnaire. This study showed that consumers’ complaint behaviour concerning dissatisfactory major household appliances was directed by a combination of functional and symbolic performance failures. A profile of complainers engaging in private versus public complaint action in terms of differences in gender, age and level of education could not be determined. However, respondents’ race and household monthly income were important factors in their complaint behaviour. Relatively fewer formal complaints (i.e. complaints to retailers or manufacturers) were made than one would expect, based on the expressed levels of dissatisfaction. A large number of respondents engaged in a variety of “hidden” or indirect complaint activities such as adverse word-of-mouth marketing, boycotting the retailer and switching brands. The majority of the respondents avoided more formal complaint actions such as contacting a consumer protection organisation/department or writing a letter – activities which would require more effort and inconvenience. Irrespective of respondents' taking complaint action or not, they attributed the causes for product failure to the manufacturer, retailer or some outside agent in the situation. However, they seemed undecided about the stability and controllability dimensions for the causes of product failure in terms of their complaint action. Anger was a significant predictor of negative word-of-mouth. Deciding whether to take action or not appeared to be determined by consumers' perception of the severity of the product problem. Researchers can gain valuable insights into the reasons for consumers’ specific complaint behaviour by looking at the coping strategies (in terms of the related behaviours and cognitions) that consumers employ to reduce the stress caused by product failures. This study clearly has practical implications for manufacturers, retailers and policy makers.
Thesis (PhD (Interior Merchandise Management))--University of Pretoria, 2008.