Complaint handling encounters represent useful opportunities for retailers to rectify problems,
salvage the relationship between the retailer and the customer, and increase customer satisfaction
and customer loyalty. Service recovery (complaint handling) therefore becomes critical “moments
of truth” for organisations in their efforts to satisfy and retain customers.
The purpose of the research was to explore and describe complainants’ evaluations of appliance
retailers’ complaint handling procedures in terms of their perceptions of justice. In addition, the
relationships between perceived justice and emotions and perceive justice and post-complaint
behavioural intentions were explored.
The unit of analysis was consumers who had encountered an appliance failure and had sought
redress from the appliance retailer where the appliance was originally purchased (within a oneyear
recall period). This study used a cross-sectional survey approach to capture real perceptions
of justice, emotions and behavioural intentions. Convenience sampling was employed in Tshwane,
a major metropolitan area of South Africa. Data was collected via a self-administered
questionnaire. A total of 198 usable questionnaires were collected.
The results of the exploratory factor analysis showed that respondents had specific expectations
about retailers’ complaint handling.
Confirmatory factor analysis indicated that the respondents indeed judged complaint handling in
terms of procedural, interactional and distributive justice. They experienced procedural justice
when complaint handling personnel followed company policy and the correct procedures in
handling their complaints, when the employees were competent, when they resolved complaints in
a timely manner and made it easy for the dissatisfied consumers to voice their complaints.
The respondents experienced interactional justice when complaint handling personnel treated
them with respect (were polite), made it easy for them to determine where to lodge their complaints
(i.e. to whom they should complain in the company), communicated clearly (with adequate use of
language), were appropriately concerned about the problem, took great effort in resolving the
complaint, and provided them with an appropriate explanation as to why the appliance has failed.
Verbal communication about where to complain forms part of respondents’ perception of the
fairness of the interpersonal communications used in settling complaints factor, rather than the
procedural justice factor.
The respondents experienced distributive justice when they perceived that the redress (i.e.
compensation: free repairs, product exchange, refund, voucher etc.) offered by the retailers was
more they expected, was fair, was what they deserved or was what they needed.
Respondents perceived that retailers’ were fair concerning procedural justice and distributive
justice, but unfair concerning interactional justice.
The strongest positive emotions that respondents experienced were gratitude, happiness, being
valued and joyfulness, while lower levels of warm feelings and pride were experienced. The
strongest negative emotions that respondents experienced were anger, annoyance, being upset
and being in a bad mood, while lower levels of guilt and sadness were experienced.
Relationships exist between respondents’ perceptions of justice and their emotions, and between
their emotions and post-complaint behavioural intentions (repurchase intentions, word-of-mouth
intentions and third-party complaint intentions).
The study has important practical implications for appliance retailers